Publication Name: India Infoline
Date: December 23, 2013
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Narendra Ghate Chief Designer, Tata Elxsi
“Design today is no longer just limited to aesthetics and beauty. The need to design services has been gaining prominence increasingly in the service industry including the banking sector.”
Narendra Ghate Chief Designer, Tata Elxsi, spearheads the Service Design domain. In a career spanning over 15 years, Narendra’s association with Tata Elxsi has been since 1997. At Tata Elxsi, Narendra has diverse experience in managing services delivery teams across a wide spectrum of functions: product & packaging design, automotive styling, led innovation projects (Innovation Labs), graphics, retail & branding. He was also part of the core team that was instrumental in making the Industrial Design division the largest design house in India. During his tenure he also stirred the organization’s engagement with leading auto majors like Ford, Nissan, Tata Motors etc. Narendra holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.E Mumbai University); he did his Product Design from IDC, IIT – Mumbai and Executive General Management from IIM, Bangalore.
Tata Elxsi is a design company that blends technology, creativity and engineering to help customers transform ideas into world-class products and solutions. A part of the US$100bn Tata group, Tata Elxsi addresses the communications, consumer products, defence, healthcare, media & entertainment, semiconductor and transportation sectors. This is supported by a talent pool of over 4000 employees and a network of design studios, development centers and offices worldwide. Key services include embedded product design, industrial design, animation & visual effects and systems integration. Tata Elxsi is a listed company. Headquartered in Bangalore, India, our global network of offices includes Dubai, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, UAE, UK, and USA.
Replying to Anil Mascarenhas of IIFL, Narendra Ghate says, “Design today is no longer just limited to aesthetics and beauty. The need to design services has been gaining prominence increasingly in the service industry including the banking sector.”
Give us a brief overview of the design sector in India?
Design is embedded in the ethos of India since centuries. We have displayed our originality be it through historical monuments, art, or culture. We were using foreign products earlier and gradually tried to understand the design nitty-gritty’s on how to design our own products. Though design industry in general is still at a nascent stage in India, but it is soon gathering momentum which has been fuelled with rapidly changing consumer expectations, technology and the progress of the design discipline. Also with the government of India supporting design institutions like NID, IDC, IIT the education sector is churning out talented students every year.
Today design as a discipline is being used across industries be it FMCG, Retail, Automotive, Health or Consumer Electronics companies understand the importance. Design today is no longer just limited to aesthetics and beauty but companies have started incorporating it as a strategic function to help brands and businesses grow. Be it established organizations or relatively new companies, everyone are laying more emphasis on the role of design.
For Instance Tata Nano, Hindustan Unilever Limited “Pureit” - its world’s most advanced in-home water purification system are some of the great design successes of India.
What are the changing trends among design companies such as yours witnessed especially over the last decade?
The biggest trend that we have seen in the recent past is the increasing importance of design across industries which are gradually moving from just being an aesthetic function to becoming a more strategic function across organizations. Like I mentioned before, organizations are thinking of design as a strategic tool to gain more ROI.
It is being used across sectors be it toys, FMCG, Banking, Hospitality, CE amongst others. Also a visible trend in emerging markets, including India, is that people are being exposed to varied cultures, traditions and innovations. The Technological advancements, social practices, behavioral practices, and of all people have the curiosity to try and adapt to new developments this is pushing innovation.
Tata Elxsi being in the field of design, we extensively do consumer research to understand the needs of consumers and companies. We keep studying consumer needs and trends. We're not just focused on emerging markets, but we study consumer needs across the world.
What are some of the challenges in combining technology, creativity and engineering?
Technology is changing rapidly today. So the creative process has to keep pace and allow for planned upgrades, so that the design can evolve with changing technology. Engineering enables realization of this process and impacts time-to-market. The challenge, therefore, is to balance the three to ensure that the idea goes from the drawing board to the consumers' hands, while the technology is still relevant.
Explain to us the concept of Service Design for Innovative Banking experience?
Worldwide, services account for 64% of GDP; while it varies between 60 and 70% of GDP of developed nations. In India, the service sector accounts for about 60% the GDP. Services, today, play a significant part of business and the industry is constantly growing, egged on by rising expectations of evolving customers.
Service design is a relatively new discipline that asks some fundamental questions: what should the customer experience be like? What should the employee experience be like? How does a company remain true to its brand, to its core business assets and stay relevant to customers? It's no longer enough to just have well designed products and experiences; it ought to be relevant, memorable and delivered efficiently. Service delivery is today the Holy Grail of a memorable customer experience.
It’s a popular perception that design is limited to only physical goods and products. However today, the need to design services has been gaining prominence increasingly in the service industry. This principle holds true in the banking sector, as the bank plays a role in most important life events; first job, university course, starting a business, buying a house, retirement etc. Bank is one of the few services we use on a day to day basis and where instant customer satisfaction and convenience is the key priority. Therefore banking institutions strive to create more dynamic and engaging user experiences based on real needs both emotional and practical of their customer needs.
Today service design as a concept is increasingly being applied to banking services to generate better results. It is self-explanatory that customer satisfaction is a crucial parameter for this industry to retain their customers. Banking services stops not only with the websites. It is among those sectors which have different delivery channels from In-person dealing to Internet banking, Mobile banking, ATM etc. Here the key emphasis relies on designing branches, online banking systems as well as customer experiences. New technology and renewed IT landscapes play an essential role in enabling service design in retail banking. A great service management model is built on a thorough understanding of what creates value for the customer and how the organization can engage its employees in the delivery process. Therefore banks and other financial institutions are increasingly seeking design strategies to accelerate innovation in their service offerings and provide distinct experiences that meet customers' expectations. This principle holds true across various sectors, be it banking, retail, lifestyle, consumer goods or healthcare.
How can incorporating Service Design strategies offer differentiated offerings for the rapidly evolving Banking sector?
The customer is quickly becoming the driving force of change in the financial services industry. A future where the customer is met with products and services designed to fit their unique needs and a consistent, positive experience at all touch points. By undertaking these strategies, banks will gain the competitive advantage they need to withstand the evolving financial services landscape, and remain top of wallet with their customers.
Convergence around the customer experience drives many of the new offerings today. Banks are adding convenience in electronic payments and managing finances for those customers that live their lives digitally.Brand loyalty is built not just in the branches today, but from understanding the customer and adapting to their needs to conduct their business when and where the customer chooses, just like retailers that are both on and offline. The product of telecommunications, connecting people from afar, is nearly commoditized, so providers differentiate themselves with pricing, packaging, and addition of value-add services. Financial services providers face similar challenges, though they’re in a unique position to connect customers closer to their financial goals. Analyzing usage trends and customer patterns will help banks adapt to how their customers choose to engage them.
Simulate us with what an ideal customer experience should be like in the banking sector? How far away are we from this?
An ideal customer experience would be where the entire process is so simple that any customer is able to go through the experience seamlessly, quickly and efficiently. Importantly, this experience is consistent each time. A great customer experience requires not only a happy customer but also happy staff.
Technology has made banking accessible and convenient to many more people today. But despite the large number of branches and ATMs, crowds remain. A diverse set of customers co-exist across the country, not to mention multiple languages that impact every interaction touchpoint. With so many banks trying to reach out to customers, they are spoilt for choice, but left confused.
That said, banking today has come a long way from where it was merely a decade ago. We need to enhance these interactions and experiences.
Is there enough attention being paid to design at present?
Design as a discipline is evolving in India but it is definitely moving on an upward curve. Being in the field of Design, an interesting thing that Tata Elxsi has witnessed is an increasing importance of design being paid by regional and relatively newer brands / segments across industries.
To site some examples of the work which Tata Elxsi did:
We worked with a leading medical equipment manufacturer on the India Entry Strategy and helped them understand the different market segments and requirements of doctors across geographies.
For a leading construction equipment company we have worked with on the design and development of an “E-sales book” on a tablet. Tata Elxsi designed this for the company’s sales team. Since construction equipment is not the easiest product to sell, Tata Elxsi designed a multilingual touch enabled application that showcased the product features and benefits. The “E-sales book” provided extremely intuitive and rich user experience, using 3-D animations to demonstrate the physical features and offered data visualization that effectively resulted in achieving higher ROI.
Ocean Herbal, a relatively new entrant in the ayurvedic and healthcare segment wanted to create a premium brand that would generate instant traction amongst consumers. Tata Elxsi developed the complete brand & design strategy to create a distinct identity for the brand.
What role does design play in helping companies remain true to its brand, to its core business assets and stay relevant to customers?
The role of design in building brands and transforming businesses by using technology cannot be underestimated. As markets grow more competitive, design is the one powerful tool knit into the company’s DNA that can help improve profitability, change brand or product perceptions and of course enhance businesses. Design helps a company in reinventing the existing product while throwing a fresh perspective on the overall business strategy across a range of functions, taking examples of Tata Nano, Samsung TV’s or Apple’s latest product–iphone 5/iPad 3.
Though organizational scalability and sustenance are critical elements for companies’ existence, relying on these alone will not deliver a decent ROI. Therefore, for any company that chooses to innovate, the foremost challenge is to understand that the real value creation today comes from using “design”.
Design is a foremost competitive weapon used to devise solutions that solve real problems; an aspect that is frequently overlooked. When it comes to satisfying customers and increasing sales, self-indulgent egocentric design has no place. In other words, although aesthetics are an important aspect, design has to perform the fundamental function of a problem solver. Especially in culturally diverse markets like India, design has to perform the core function of meeting multiple needs and resolving a broader range of problems. Design and Service Design in particular uses creative insight and inspiration to help organizations develop innovative services. Leading brands increasingly see Service Design as a strategic asset.
What has been the experience of service design in banking sector globally?
Service design has been used extensively in the area of digital and virtual banking abroad. With the rise in online engagements, apps have been playing a major role in creating new interaction touchpoints with customers.
In India why has it not picked up?
India being culturally diverse and different in geographical positions should be given more importance while designing customer service based systems. Designing service delivery systems involves issues such as facility design and layout for effective customer and work flow, procedures and job definitions for service providers, measures of quality, extent of customer involvement, technology/equipment selection and service capacity. This kind of attention to Service Design and customer service is still picking up India and there is still a long way to go. The understanding of emergence of service design that defines a service delivery system is partial.
In the banking context to best explain the lack of required technology deployed, Indian banking websites are way behind than online portals of different industries. None of the banks have set an example of good UX in any medium of their services and speaking from customer’s point of view “we want an experience a lot more human”. All the above concerns might seem trivial but it is high time that the banks starts looking at their online and other channels as an engagement platform and not as transactional or functional platform.
Agreed, the customers are task oriented and banks are into serious business, but there are some best UX practices in transactional platforms, bill payments, services, sales that one must follow in order to get these issues sorted. Presenting the Human-ness in a simple user’s language, focusing on user context and ready to use interface better entices the customers.
But having said that, technology in the banks is presently catching up with a high level of development around the world and Indian Banking Sector is catching up with its Western counterparts. The gaps between the Indian banks and their counterparts in the technologically advanced countries are gradually narrowing down. Hence in the current Indian Banking scenario we now see rapid deployment of technology in the Indian Banking sector to enable offering of core banking solutions like ATM, telebanking, internet banking, card banking and other multiple delivery channels to all customers allowing banks to offer a multitude customer-centric services on a 24 x 7 basis from a single location, supporting retail as well as corporate banking activities.
ATMs are springing up all over the country. To what extent can design change its utility value?
Applying the principles of design thinking enables one to create better and more-innovative customer experiences, which applies particularly to ATMs. Design change using persuasive technology, an integral part of service design, has an ability to create concepts, solutions, and future service experiences that are usable and desirable for users and efficient and distinctive for service providers.
An interactive user-friendly UX design will persuade the user to use the system or platform in a designed way. Design patterns such as interlocking, where tasks are required to be done in a certain way or order. Like in an ATM machine requires one to take back the ATM card before getting the money, so that one does not leave it behind accidentally.
Globally what is the behavior among people using ATMs? Do ergonomics really matter for a brief transaction
Nowadays, many users do not realize that the ATM is a complex piece of computer-based technology. Rather they perceive these devices as very simple tools, providing the convenient and familiar functionality of basic financial information and dispensing cash.
For years the ATM has been the cornerstone of convenience and service; but globally consumers are redefining the meaning of this by increasingly demanding the functionality of cutting edge technologies in all aspects of their daily life. The proliferation of smart phones over the past several years has yielded a consumer who is looking for technology that is cool, simple and connected. Banks globally made rapid advancements to keep pace with these demands. If a consumer makes an on-screen selection, the ATM responds and carries out a specific task. The leading ATM platforms put users in the driver's seat of transactions and increase the available information financial institutions can retrieve and respond to, creating a win-win and better service all around.
With careful planning, new ATM interactions can deepen consumer loyalty with a measurable return on investment. Manufacturers, such as NCR Corp., are dedicating resources to research and develop product advancements that have a user-centric focus. Working directly with financial institutions to identify and implement ways to create more engaging experiences that meet consumers' changing expectations is all part of the process.
Comment on some noteworthy design strategy approach Tata Elxsi has offered clients.
Brands today need to go beyond the traditional channels that talk to consumers and create innovative and engaging platforms to connect with consumers. We recently engaged with LG Electronics to help them provide a better retail experience to consumers. LG Electronics who has always been at the forefront of innovation wanted to promote its products through a dynamic medium to attract consumers’ attention. LG which is currently perceived as a brand for the middle class wanted to uplift the brand to the upper middle class and elite class segment.
In an attempt to upgrade this positioning and fuel the brand recall, LG wanted to provide a luxurious and firsthand experience to consumers’ on how they could beautify their homes with LG's world-class products. It therefore wanted to launch LG Lifestyle & Service on Wheels – a premium display vehicle that would showcase its range of products in a luxury home environment.
The bus, used for product demonstrations and interactive sessions with consumers, would help LG reach out to potential consumers and allow them to experience the brand and its offering. Tata Elxsi developed the design of a customized bus and its interiors, including the display of the various products and its overall experience. Drawing inspiration from modern studio apartments and subtle design motifs that were in line with LG’s brand’s identity, we worked to give the bus a simple yet elegant look. The entire bus was designed to showcase LG’s technology & offerings and offer a memorable experience to their consumers. Tata Elxsi was chosen as the design partner by LG to execute this novel project for them.
Since the project involved cross functional expertise, we created a team of experts in retail and transportation design backed by engineers to implement this world-class premium product display/ promotional vehicle. The vehicle was launched on December 1, 2011 in Bangalore and it truly embodies technology and style. Currently, the display vehicle has completed the desired objectives in states like Karnataka and Kerala. Based on the success, LG plans to roll out several mores display vehicles and spread its campaign to 50 cities across India.
With the launch of LG home on wheels, Tata Elxsi has enabled LG to move beyond the traditional promotional tools to market its products.
What is the best design transformation you have come across so far?
IndusInd Bank, recently announced ‘My account My number’ for their customers. Here, customers are able to choose their own account number. This comes on the heels of various initiatives where banks have been reaching out to customers to offer more personalized or customized products and services. This example stands out as it is a seemingly simple idea or offering from the banks perspective, but has a significant impact on the customer. It is like the way you can choose your mobile number. This feature creates positive, innovative and flexible aura for the Bank. If the A/C number is easily remembered it prompts the users to use the bank's services more often and be more confident. Service design can therefore impact customer experience and interactions in very simple ways.