Only by admitting what we are can we get what we want.
We confess our affliction — We are designers. It is also the cure.
But that confession doesn’t apply to Indian Startups and it’s a systemic symptom that has gotten hold of the ecosystem. Everyone is chasing unicorns and rainbows and none of them have a product, not that it matters when it comes to Series A round funding.
We had a tsunami of E-commerce startups and everything from mobiles to underwear pictures with bunch of categories were uploaded online and nobody bothered about the product, nobody stopped for a moment to ask a question, not even in so called unicorn startups — do we have to have categories? do people wakeup in the morning and start doing things by categories? do they have categories when they decide to call up their girlfriend or have a coffee or pick a dress for that matter? Perhaps, not. The point is they are doing a lot of things but do they have a product and do they have customers or they just want the GMVs (gross merchandise value)? To court a customer, they will have to offer an experience at some point that by definition is coherent with the needs, aspirations and buying frequency of the customer. There is no wishing away that fact. And It is not that difficult to design but you will have to start asking the right questions.
And then came the wave of online lifestyle startups from furniture to clothing. The next one they called Hyperlocal startups which in English means college kids working as food delivery boys with the help of some other back office delivery boys, managing orders off an excel sheet. The point is you have to decide, are you a furniture company that just sells furniture online instead of a physical shop or a product company that is solving a real business, consumer, technology or Economic problem? And much of the blame also goes to the so called startup incubators and accelerators. The irony of it all is, the startups do not need mentoring or some market guru, they need a designer as someone who can set the definitions straight, who can define a product that matches people’s aspiration and market dynamics. That is why we came up with this Idea of Design Capital where we help early stage startups define, shape and design products and business models by design-led thinking.
We can’t afford to just copy Silicon Valley, contrary to the popular wisdom. We’re different people and We’re a different market. All this Unicorn romance has to stop…we need to stop playing games and do the groundwork or else by end of 2017, VCs will be on the precipice of declaring bankruptcy.
There is one more thing, we are not just startup guys, we are also visionaries, the people who are supposed to see the future, the progressives, the Avant-Garde, the people who take the human development to the next level. We are not going to deny that this flux of startups selling undies online, doing your dirty laundry, delivering everything from Chinese to condoms in 30 mins of less, has not disturbed us as thinkers who are so romantic about pinnacle of human development. Were we really supposed to do this? There has to be a place for romanticism even in this hard cold delivery game. And only way to start getting those answers, as in what it could be…and why would you just want to be an E-com company when you can be so much more is through Design. So, let’s do design.