Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi of Variance.AI on “Design First” panel at T-HUB dates 21st June 2017
Ajay Jain @T-HUB: THUB is an awesome place. Kaladhar pointed doors here are not well designed. I agree and everything else in thub is great. I have a portfolio of 15 companies. This space is India’s largest incubator. Reactor is coming up and is world’s largest.
Early stage Startups, don’t get right pricing from UX experts. We need to make Startups understand value of design thinking.
Q) Why is DesignFirst key for Startups?
Bapu @UXIndia: Nitin addressed design as VP. If you don’t do design first thinking, you will be in trouble. You csn be disrupted. Even startup can be disrupted. DesignFirst helps you validate with users.
Now I am done with traffic designated now I like promotrs to UX.
Look and feel (UD, UX)
DesignFirst is combination of design thinking and design doing. Doing is easy. Thinking with strategy and VP with users is the key. Making a product beautiful is easier.
Nitin @Quickr: Figure out whether it makes sense for user or not. Keep testing at various stages (low fidelity and high fidelity). Get consumer feedback often, go out as designers and product managers to talk to the user of the product. Lot of apps don’t even work on 3G! How much GB space you have defines hoe many apps you can have. If you won’t test it out and think you know it all like an enterprise, sew what happened to Orcut and Yahoo mail.
Ajay: We have Headspin lab to test apps at various parts of the world at various speeds. This helps you test usability. It is imperative that Startups think customer is king. India gives access to lots of customers but it puts you in false hope that you are doing something good. Good reaction doesnot mean you are design ready. Catching up with design at growth time is too late.
Q) Challenges of Startups?
Ajay: I see indian Startups mimic the west to solve indian problems. Indian for India. Patient capital in India is very less. Investors get impatient due to their opportunity cost as waiting for years is key I’m investments. Startups don’t die soon and they don’t end the journey early if things don’t work.
Bapu: Everyone talks about AI, ML, IOT and Blockchain. Noone thinks about what should I do for “user”. User must be the first worry than the technology. Building an AI product versus for whom are you building this. People are not aware about design thinking. Do you know how to implement to the DNA of the culture. Startups say design is expensive but I see that as way to escape. Enterprises don’t invite their designers to their board room. Developers and designed work in silos. They don’t go out. Studio is not the same as customer environment.
Design thinker is different from designer. Go out and rat your ideas. To think we are good is ignorance.
Nitin: Availability of the talent is a key chalenge. Even if they are available, hoe to empower them is a chalenge. Accepting failure is a chalenge. Involve the designer and give him control.
Q) can you share how you handle DesignFirst challenge?
Bapu: I consult with financial gaints now. I get surprised that people are unaware of design. Even at Microsoft. It took one year to win their hearts. They thought about firing me as I wasn’t doing PPTs. After an year I got a Goldstar award!
Onboarding a million dollar customer for a bank:
They had a legacy system that takes 38 days for them to onboard this HNI individual. First role collects the information and application interacts with 13 diffeent products. Once given the address it does background check and so on. Second role does verification. It was so tough to track information across these systems. Once it is done, customer signs. Finally the third role approves Onboarding. Them this product works in diffeent time zones.
Complexity is an invitation for me as I can improve it. I started interviewing people. Don’t ask users what he wants. Only probr and make notes. Make journey maps. When you present to the management, they don’t know these pain points such as communication, address change system that takes loops and hoops of approvals just for that and they even use sticky notes! Now the system has old address and sticky notes got new address!
In the end I created a total platform and it takes just 2 says for Onboarding! I eliminated one of.thr three roles as system tells the status. 13 diffeent products are in one single screen. Now they call this product as heaven. This people have been working with this for 18 years and they used to it so much and the nightmare is if someone leaves!
Nitin: I worked for Naukri. When you post your resume, there is CTC field. We always felt it never catered to top management. Here is where LinkedIn makes the difference. Naukri got a technology issue where someone who makes 2 crores will still come under 50+ lakhs. Simple glitch. These small things have bottlenecks. They are loosing market share to headhunters and LinkedIn for their rigid-ness in changing.
Yatra, number two player always does the catch up job. Yatra people used to come for booking tickets but none knew holiday bookings. Goibibo spent a lot of marketing dollars to take up second slot. We changed it to make integrated product offerings with overall life cycle and loyalty program.
Ajay: Kids are amazing at DT. People who haven’t used any technology get extremely comfortable in  minutes. My own daughter when she created a cardboard to fold clothes, it is amazing. Education industry needs this DesignFirst principles.
Q) Lessons learnt in DesignFirst 
Nitin: Start early, start first, fail fast, keep testing., don’t assume. Keep innovating. Product or service or physical product or a platform! Do these.
Bapu: Apart from all these things, one thing is important. Creative confidence comes out of the mindset barrier. Unless you change your mindset, knowing that concepts is not enough. Believing in yourself that you are creative. That is creative confidence. As a kid you must have done lots of design or art work. We don’t do this now as we got the mindset we are not creative. Come out of the barrier.
Ajay: I come from family business. We are very close to customer very early. DF gives the framework. Banana seller does what an MBA does. He shall think of daily loans, festival seasons and so on. We moved in the pay two decades closer to the customers. MBAs have excels. Embrace Design Thinking framework. Startups need to embrrace them. When investors and ecosystem players insist on DesignFirst complaint startup, it happens.
Q) Everyone has his own DT perspective and getting to consensus is a hassle. All want it done in two weeks and very fast. We have come up with faster prototype. We as services firm, we need advice.
Nitin: Have real time case study. Show how your clients competitor took advantage. For some look is only design. Iterations save cost. Clients look at another website and every new idea brings more idea. Convergence is key.
Alok: DT is right brain and it needs objectivity and decision making of left brain.
Bapu: Design centric companies and their stock performance shows how they performed better. If your product fails, there is no user in your decision making of UX. Series you let it go and let it fail. If you fail fast, they learn. Else they say design is taking too long. Cordis, enterprise product software got management install a design lab. Development team resisted that design team unnecessarily extend the time. We got tester room,with hidden cameras and screen capture. From the observer room (sound proof) you can see the tester. If real user(tester) is supposed to think and do as the designer or Developer thought, developer express their frustration. Viewing the trouble of the user live males the design and develop team see through the pain of the real user.
20 years ago IBM said investing a dollar in design early us equal to making thousands.
Sketch (invision) gives quick prototyping. We go to war street and offer $10 for someone to go through and we just observe. It looks like a developed product but it nothing but click-throughs.
Q) When we talk about design, in our organization, they think designer is a photoshop guy. How do you break that perspective?
Bapu: We call them now product designer. 15 years ago, we called usability engineer. Now product designer. Title may not matter. Today we have information architect, interaction designer and so on. Previously all of this is done by one and now we have roles. Visual designer scales to UX in India as a perception. Visual designer see proud and he doesn’t want to do information architect work (wire frames)! If you keep legacy as monster, someone out there will kill it.
Q) We want designers treated as surgeons with respect. We are not colors and fonts. How do we address the importance?
Bapu: Designers are highly paid and respected. Now is the time for designers. I had tough fights with one of colleagues who was leading development and we had bug tussles in the past. He is now with a company and invites give a talk on Design. He said “I am sorry” after 15 Years! I never cared to respect you then and he invited me to the CTO of Backset (rival to Bloomberg) of his company. He game me a big account to handle. Have faith in you that you bring the change. Your opponent development teams become your sales reps eventually. You versus us is a sad problem. See that it is a design problem you want to solve inside your corporate.
Q) In a product development with prototype and testing how much of DesignFirst is important?
Research | Ideation | Prototyping | Testing
Bapu: DesignFirst is about Design Thinking and Design Doing. Prototype and Testing are part of design doing.
Q) How do we set milestones in product development life cycle?
Bapu: You know MVP. I call it MLP (minimal lovable product). Milestones or timelines change. You know Scrum. It comes after design first.


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