Sunil Sudhakaran, Cofounder of Bangalore based Icarus Design and long suffering classmate of mine, forwarded me an email today that he’d received through the DesignIndia group on Yahoo!. It was a link to Bruce Nussbaum‘s blog post "India is hot in innovation and design etc" . This led to a very enlightening and analytical discussion over Skype, where Sunil shared with me some insights on where Indian product manufacturers and developers, i.e. his clients, perceive themselves in the tripartite global playing field that has been in the news of late.
This simple two by two matrix, Sunil explained, was used by one of Icarus’ industrial design clients to articulate their vision of India’s role in industry. The horizontal axis denotes technology – advances, innovation et al – and vertical, volume – could be sales or market share. He wasn’t sure because the terminology used locally was simply Volume and Technology. In this context, he said, the United States was firmly in the "High Tech/ High Volume" quadrant, focused on the development the latest technological advances in high volume consumer goods, an example of which shouldn’t even need to be mentioned, the ubiquitious iPod. China, on the other hand, had the "Low Tech/High Volume" sector firmly in it’s grasp, exporting large numbers of low cost products around the world.
This leaves two quadrants for Indian industry – High Tech/Low Volume and Low Tech/Low Volume. Of these, the High Tech/Low Volume segment was considered the most advantageous position according to Sunil’s client. An example could be the design and development of super specialized high tech medical equipment – Indian doctors and engineers need no introduction – coupled with user centered design, leading to low volumes in terms of worldwide sales, to be sure, but high unit value.
It certainly made sense to me, though I could see possibilities in combining Indian expertise in high volume markets as well, the BoP, or bottom of the pyramid comes to mind. This matrix was developed by one particular forward looking manufacturer in Bangalore for their particular needs. But it seems as though there is greater potential therein, not only for other industries but also in the context of competition vs coexistence.
Rather than the conventional view, derived from decades of applying Sun Tzu’s laws to business, that the market is a battlefield for limited resources, why not consider the market a playground? Here cooperation, co existence and collaboration reign and the focus is towards the common goal of improving the quality of life across the board.