Designers w/o Borders

World Trade Centre, Rotterdam, 25th September 2009. Indo-Dutch collaboration summit focused on Industrial Design. Hmmm … (Design Crossover).

Why they invited me to speak is still somewhat of a mystery considering I dropped off the Industrial Design radar towards the end of the last millennium. I guess it could’ve been because my company, Ideafarms, has been able to maintain a growing relationship between India and Europe over the last 8 years through projects and partnerships with Dutch and German corporations.

I’ve never been a champion of networking – I’ve actually often criticised some of my friends for using networking to get ahead – but am quite overwhelmed having been in the midst of some of the most ‘conscious’ designers of today. Jeroen Raijmakers of Philips and Jos Oberdorf of NPK Design are inspiring to say the least. I’m grateful to Ruchita Puri for the opportunity to meet them at the event.

From whatever was presented, it looks like good design can be really good business. There’s a case to be made out for a design collaboration without borders. Couple of good reasons here …

1. European design reflects high quality, the idiom being minimalistic and functional. Whereas India’s design sensibilities are more embellished. Their combination will raise the aesthetic appeal without compromising design values.

2. Pure economic tenets come into play when we see the sheer number of people both on the supply side (design talent is plenty in India) and the demand side (India is emerging as one of the largest markets). Leveraging the ‘great Indian talent pool’ is an opportunity.

3. The life sensibilities of India’s cultural make-up have always been in the mould of sustainability, something the world has woken up to only recently. Add to this the rich craft-based traditions and you have a universal design paradigm that’s as powerful as Buddhism.

Jump into this conversation folks. You don’t want to be left out. Really!

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7 years on and still a startup

Contact IdeafarmsThis post is based on a true story. The story of  Ideafarms. We started among  equally uncertain settings in the wake of the dotcom bust and 9/11. We had no funds. We had no product ideas. We didn’t know who we would sell to. All we had was passion and deep down conviction that we would make things work for us. Today we’re almost 7 years old and alive and kicking. Ready to take on the current gloom with renewed energy. We’re back to our start-up ways.

The most important thing then was – and I say this with the benefit of hindsight – that we had no past to weigh us down; nothing of a reputation either individually or collectively that needed to be protected. Both of which we have today. So we’ve decided to shrug the baggage off our shoulders. Continue reading “7 years on and still a startup”

Innovation 101 – Death of the VC

Thingamy’s Sigurd Rinde’s great post here. From the post – Goodbye VCs, it’s been a pleasure

Betting on markets is not business building, it’s not innovation, it’s financial crap shooting.

Many of the reasons I did not choose to have Ideafarms funded by Vulture Capitalists are so lucidly captured in his post.

1. On exit strategies

And my favourite – Andy Grove and the “payday” mentioned above: 

What really infuriates him is the concept of the “exit strategy.” “Intel never had an exit strategy,” Grove says. “These days, people cobble something together. No capital. No technology. They measure eyeballs and sell advertising. Then they get rid of it. You can’t build an empire out of this kind of concoction. You don’t even try.”

Did Microsoft, Google, Intel, Dell and Amazon spend time on “exit strategies”? Doubt it.

Exit strategy is something to pooh pooh at. Makes a money lender holding your home to ransom look like a saint! The VC community cannot even imagine the damage they have done to genuine entrepreneurship. Some of it will not be undone for generations.

2. On the role of the VC and the ‘passenger’  investor

I love Sig’s allusion to the investor being the passenger. How irritating to have a passenger sit in the back seat while you’re driving, giving you instructions about when to step on the gas when he has never even learnt to drive.

I’m not against delivering the best possible value to the venture investors, quite on the contrary, but there should not be any doubt that the best shareholder values delivered over time have consistently been delivered by those who can create a great value for their customers while keeping a good margin.
And the customer is the start-up, the VC is the vehicle and the investor is the passenger. The passengers are always much better off if the driver keeps his eyes peeled on the road.

I join Sig in wishing VCs farewell and hope they will never return. RIP