...to be 'truly sustainable' we should be able to PRESERVE what good we have!

Transplantation is a technical procedure often recommended to give a new lease of life, to something 'who's time to perish has not come!' Successful transplantation can give a new lease of life to things as diverse as cultures and eco-systems. Its a powerful tool to activate life and bring instant maturity and context to new situations.    

The story of the Banyan from NH8, located along a dusty hamlet on the Delhi - Jaipur Highway [NH-8] was an eye-opener for all, on possibilities of simple steps and co-ordinated action. The Banyan of Pipav is approximately 200++ years old. The total action, from spotting of the tree to its eventual transplantation took less than 3 months and about Rs 150,000. Both time consumed and money seem insignificant when compared with the impact such actions can have on community and conservation. Millions of such trees can be saved across the country if only we are willing to make a little effort. 

 Jal Tarang's Banyan transplantation experiment inspired many more!

 Transplantation of 400 year old Chinar's in Shrinagar was attempted and all old trees from the historic Dala Ram Bagh in Amber town slated for 'termination' were relocated to a new home.  

The story of 'Banyan from NH8'

onlineVsoffLine

Whats ailing brick and mortar Retail in India?

… its definitely not the Online explosion!!

Why is the great Indian retailer sleeping through the biggest retail boom India has ever seen? Imagine the work and time it took to achieve the valuations achieved by online retailers. Then think: why are traditional retailers unable to compete with the new kids on the block? What’s happening in India as a result of online shopping is no different than what’s already happened in developed markets. What happened in the U.S. was an unexpected tsunami; what’s happening in India is different. We knew about the tsunami. We know about its consequences. Why, then, is the traditional retailer watching his space gradually being taken over? Why is he sitting still, hoping that he will be left untouched while others will be washed away with the tide?

Maybe it’s not that dramatic. Maybe traditional retailers do have some aces up their sleeves. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything. The online space is hot, with investments pouring in, valuations rising exponentially, bubbles being made and busted every day. It’s exciting. Look all around: from the Economic Times to Business TV programming, retail is being taken over by the new kids!

high-street-coffee-house.jpg

That makes me think: is it just that? New Kids vs the Old Block? I think it is. It appears that old-school retail is unable to formulate a new operating concept. It is trapped within a “scarcity of ideas” around the old format and customer perspective. Why can’t brick-and-mortar stores — combined with fantastic high street locations and great online offerings — manage their inventories though faster logistics and simultaneously offer an amazing in-store experience to customers, something an online retailer would die for? Why aren’t we seeing a hybrid retail model emerging across formats and segments? Why can’t the two retail worlds be merged to create the ultimate retail experience for consumers?

Of course, it will not be not a cakewalk, what with franchise agreements, long leases on stores, trapped dealerships and logistics agreements. But I’m sure it is possible if there is a rainbow on the horizon. Otherwise, what’s the alternative? The bricks-and-mortar store will lose considerable market share and be relegated to niche segments, while online stores will take over sales of most day-to-day goods. This will shake up not only traditional retailers, but also real estate and city infrastructure.

What if stores could become “experience centres”, rather than just sellers of goods? They do that today, but the retailer might lose the end conversion if the customer experiences the product in the store and buys it online! The retailer loses the customer at his point of sale and ends up footing the rent bill, while the online store captures the market generated by the bricks-and-mortar store. In order to sell to every customer who experiences the in-store products, the store needs to become a Intelligent Store — a space that’s clever, smart and simultaneously online and offline.

 Interconnected Online and Brick & Mortar working to each others advantage!

Interconnected Online and Brick & Mortar working to each others advantage!

"It’s a brand-new idea: a format that can take advantage of the best of both worlds and lead the way. After all, nothing is more precious than the experience of a real product before buying. If only the store price was the same as the online price, or the product was available for me to buy at 11 p.m. or 4 a.m. — whenever I’m in the mood to buy!"

There are many tech solutions available today. If bricks-and-mortar retailers had new blood, they would have generated this new format organically. We don’t see it happening because there is a lack of innovation in the physical space. Meanwhile, the online champions are making their killer moves. As a result, physical stores are bleeding from their top and bottom lines.

This opportunity exists for every retailer. But positive results will only come after they forge a fresh new approach. They have to first junk their advertising formats, stop the bizarre marketing expenses, and trim and retain the retail format at the store level. This will be the most difficult part, as their old-school staff must be untrained and retrained in the new ways. Monitoring the stores will have to move from turnovers benchmarking to customers that they were able to successfully pass the experience. Clever sale models have to be developed to monitor conversions from in-store experiences to online sales, and customer care and support must be reinforced. That’s the Achilles heel of online players. While the physical stores are superbly poised to deal with the issue, they do a sad job of it. Lastly, it would require a new kind of branding for stores that position themselves as the cutting edge of the retail experience. They must offer a sensory overdose that can never be had while interfacing with a glowing screen.

The challenges thrown up by the online explosion are twofold. On one side, we have the new buying model that’s being exploited by the online retailers. While on the other side we have a new kind of customer awareness, and a new marketplace for a differently conceived product ranges across all segments, from food to tech to fashion. That’s the space where a conventional retailer cannot only thrive, but also lead. This changing perception and need is an emerging trend. It requires positive reinforcement to become a seeded idea. This positive reinforcement can be best provided by a physical player. Once successful, it will very quickly move to the online format. Once the positive reinforcement has been absorbed and accepted by consumers, they can move their consumption practices to the online platform. Since the retailer exists across both platforms, they stand to benefit from the entire lifecycle of new product innovation and consumption, thereby creating a market — and holding on to it.

I see a great opportunity in this union. India stands at the crossroads where both worlds still exist. If this new model can be invented, it can flow to the rest of the world.

Story about a Bench

Between 2009-11 Vistaap furniture produced series of wooden benches inspired from the incredible color texture of Indian Rosewood Tree [ Sheesham ] Its a tree fast disappearing from the landscape.   

The Bench Story is a result of Vistaap Furniture’s experiments with Sustainable and ethical milling of timber, working towards 100% utilization of the wood cuts. The product while minimizing wastage's to Zero also sends a strong message that only ‘nature’ can create beauty of timeless quality. the resulting natural forms and textures are unique to each bench and makes every bench a unique product much like in nature each tree has its own personality, when its dead - the Bench Story allows it to live with its personality. 

2-Seater-Bench-reworked.jpg

The Bench Story is also celebrates great carpentry traditions of ‘Rajasthani Carpenters’ showcasing exquisite nailless wooden joinery and fine sanded natural linseed oil finish. So no ethanols, nitrates or PU lacquer, pure edible oil and a timeless finish.

Simple dusting from time to time, the more you clean it the better it would become - needs all the love and touch of human hand. Once in a year a gentle coat of Linseed Oil would recharge your bench.

4-Seater-Bench.jpg

Ikea of India: Just an Idea, is a evolving story strip, created in parts for easy reading. Its by no means connected with the IKEA brand in any way whatsoever. What it does try and question is the idea of "Global Lifestyle" and how real or imaginary is this idea of Global Lifestyle!!

Ikea of India: Part01

Ikea of India Part 02

.... to de continued!

 

Presentation Extracts from the Deconstructing Design Workshop, held on 6th Nov 2013 organised by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development [MHRD] along with India's premier education institutions.  

can India use the instrument of Design and Innovation as a instrument of foreign policy, America has used Design and Innovation to push foreign policy successfully for last 50 years
— Dr. Sam Pitroda
   Workshop:  Deconstructing D  esign     Workshop  Program   Organised by:  MHRD,  IIT Hyderabad,   IDC (IIT Bombay)

Workshop: Deconstructing Design

Workshop Program

Organised by:

MHRD, IIT Hyderabad, IDC (IIT Bombay)

...we need our own model, India is too big to depend on external [imported] models, can we ‘not’ look to west but look ‘inside’ for design solutions...
— Dr Sam Pitroda

Three takeaway’s from the Session:

1.     The need for design as a driver of growth is still grossly misunderstood at institutional level.

Design is not an add-on to functionality but inseparable from functionality. Any thing built for human use, whether a machine or an object, needs design to be simultaneously imbedded with functionality, hence aesthetic and function are completely connected and not sequential. If we are strong in one aspect but weak in the other, picture is incomplete.

2.     Govt. has put together a great infrastructure push to make change happen across barriers but good intentions have not yet resulted into on-ground action.

Dr Pitroda’s talk along with the Q & A session, made it clear that Govt. has rolled out an enormous carpet for information infrastructure but its not being fully utilized and virtualization of education, as well as processes is yet to take roots. We are still building brick and mortar institutions at enormous costs while not utilizing the massive scale and flexibility offered by new age of information and technology networks.

3.     Nation’s needs for design talent is mostly being fulfilled from ‘imported’ talent and content across all major disciplines.

From auto sector to media to lifestyle and architecture, today India only looks at developed nations for ideas and inspirations, little or none of us look within for inspiration. This has created a redundancy of all things ethnic, traditional and local. Market place is filled with products designed for other cultures and are forced into our system without any or little modifications. This transition to a ‘design’ import tradition will soon render ‘us’ completely dependent on external supply of ideas and content.

 

 

Three action items:

 

1.     We need to approach design from a completely fresh perspective, clean slate, bottoms-up, rebuild our nations agenda for its Identity.

I feel it’s a uphill task to break or connect silos build over decades by individual institutions and professionals, instead a completely ‘disruptive’ approach to start from an empty slate would be a faster way to arrive at an appropriate solution. By working beyond the institutional boundaries we would be able to create a more open-ended program and involve a larger global talent pool to contribute.

 

2.     May be a new virtual entity is required for this, and this definitely need not be another brick and mortar institution, but instead a virtual network connecting everyone, thinkers and actioneers across India and world.

Its absolutely needed that we have a cohesive new thought pool to guide our cultural consciousness, something that’s completely connected with our evolutionary needs of ‘today’ and ‘our future’. For ‘us’ to survive in the globalised world we need a strong identity of our own, we need cultural anchorages in our modern environment. In order for India to find an assertive language of expression, of its culture, its future, a new agenda is needed. Agenda that’s made in 21st Cent and can guide us to our future. The agenda that we set for ‘us’ in 1950’s and 60’s has run it’s course, we need a new agenda, not just a new revision!

 

3.     Training our existing human resource for design capabilities is the most urgent requirement.

A vast talent pool is already in the workforce and at leadership positions across India with inadequate exposure to design and its true powers. A national program if well conceived and executed can lead to rapid build up of talent and knowledge. It can equip our young educated population with the strength of design and cultural rootedness. It would enable us to leapfrog into another era, faster than in any other method. All our existing institutions can play a leading role in making this happen. The returns of such initiative would be instant as this talent pool goes to work every day and can start changing things at all levels, leading to a systemic shift. So training through unique programs of learning, both active and passive, through competitions and celebrations, anything to engage the young and working India. If we are able to sensitize this population with the power of design, we can change the tide.

true sustainablity!