By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
India’s education sector, serving 1.3 billion learners and 10 million teachers, has been a beacon of progress and innovation. As we approach the 2024 budget, there is eager anticipation about its potential to further elevate India’s global educational standing. In the ever-evolving landscape of India’s educational and industrial sectors, the role of design has taken center stage. The significance of creative thinking and innovation, integral to design, has become irreplaceable. Design has transcended its conventional boundaries, emerging as a crucial value-adding activity across diverse industries.
Design Intervention in Manufacturing: A Key Player in “Make in India”
India’s “Make in India” initiative aims for self-reliance and a robust manufacturing sector. Design intervention holds the potential to drive this initiative to success.
Product Development: Design intervention can significantly contribute to the development of innovative products tailored to the needs and preferences of Indian consumers and/or exports. Employing user-centered design methods ensures that products are not only innovative but also resonate with the target market.
Cost Efficiency: Inefficiencies in the manufacturing process can be identified and eliminated through design thinking methods, specifically value stream mapping. Streamlining processes will not only reduce costs but also contribute to increased profitability for manufacturing companies.
Branding and Marketing: Design intervention plays a pivotal role in shaping a strong brand image for Indian manufactured goods. Through strategic design elements such as packaging, branding, and overall visual appeal, Indian products can stand out in a crowded market. The rebranding of the Indian Railways serves as an apt example of successful design intervention, leading to increased ridership and an improved customer experience.
Sustainability: Eco-friendly materials and processes can be incorporated into manufacturing, aligning with global trends towards sustainable practices. Design intervention can lead the way in making Indian manufacturing more environmentally friendly, contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.
The Imperative Role of Design Research
Design education and research stand as a critical force for economic and social development in India. The potential impact spans various domains, each with its own unique challenges and opportunities.
Design research, for example, can revolutionize healthcare delivery by addressing challenges such as a shortage of facilities and trained personnel in remote areas. Solutions like mobile clinics, telemedicine systems, and ergonomic medical equipment can be developed through thoughtful design research, making a substantial difference in healthcare accessibility.
In new product design and development, research holds the key to enhancing the competitiveness of Indian manufacturers. By understanding and catering to local consumer needs, design research can lead to the creation of products that align more closely with the preferences of the Indian market. Drawing parallels with successful efforts in countries like China, where design research has improved the functionality of traditional products, underscores the transformative potential of such endeavors.
Design research is also a powerful tool for addressing environmental challenges, including pollution, deforestation, and climate change. Sustainable design solutions, such as energy-efficient buildings, eco-friendly products, and sustainable transportation systems, can be developed through dedicated research efforts.
Government Interventions: Fostering Growth in Design Education and Research
The National Design Research Fund: The establishment of a fund dedicated to supporting the development of new design technologies and methods is a pressing need. Disseminating this fund through R&D support schemes across various ministries can catalyze innovation. Expanding the scope of research from STEM to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) ensures a holistic approach. A prescribed annual budget outlay is essential for sustaining momentum and fostering overall quality in design education. Recognizing the current lack of infrastructure, a one-time provision for infrastructure and faculty development is paramount to encouraging institutions to invest in elevating the standards of design education.
Design-Faculty Development Measures: The extreme shortage of qualified design faculty members is a major roadblock in the progress of design, and its address is crucial. In the short term, steps need to be taken to bring in foreign faculty members, and incentivizing institutions to hire them for a limited period can be transformative. Establishing a foreign faculty hiring fund to support their recruitment is crucial, as is providing financial assistance for travel and living expenses. Streamlining visa and immigration processes and offering tax incentives on salaries for foreign faculty members will simplify hiring processes and attract top-tier international educators.
In the long term, the faculty shortage can be addressed by making masters and doctoral education accessible and financially attractive. Scholarship support, cheap education loans, and grants can all be activated for this sector. Institutions of eminence can be roped in to run continuous faculty development programs for the next 5 years.
Encouraging Industry Collaboration: Collaboration between design education institutions and industries is another imperative for making design education industry-relevant and simultaneously enhancing students’ employability. Introducing CSR-like tax incentives for companies investing in design education will serve as a catalyst for private sector partnerships, providing financial support and invaluable industry connections.
Enhanced Scholarships and Grants: Acknowledging the financial challenges associated with quality design education, an increase in scholarships and grants is vital. Making design education more accessible for individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those with financial constraints, is essential to ensuring that students from low-income families do not miss out on the transformative power of good design education.
A comprehensive approach to design education, research, and intervention in manufacturing is essential for India to position itself as a global leader in innovation and creativity. The upcoming budget presents a significant opportunity for the government to invest strategically in these areas, fostering a culture of design-driven excellence that will benefit both education and industry. As the government finalizes the Union Budget, it is crucial to remember that the designers of today are the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, and investing in this intrepid breed of dreamers is key to achieving our collective dream of a $5 trillion economy.
The Author is the Vice-Chancellor of the World University of Design (WUD).
[Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, and views of ABP Network Pvt. Ltd.]
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