Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Product Design: You can not escape, my love.

Automobile in India is now moving (or has already moved if I am late) from one being part of basic needs onto a luxury for the middle class. And when anything becomes a luxury, it doesn't just have to fulfil the basic requirements of that product (like for an automobile, to ferry people around) but have to satisfy the ego or even shoot up the status (in his or her own mind) of the owner. So for an automobile product to be bought it has to satisfy many criteria. And the top most of them would be the looks or the design of the product.

If we observe the automobile products launched in India over last decade, by having only a (and first) look at the product you can easily tell whether the product is going to be successful or not. Or you can even write obituary of the product at first look if looks are not very striking. In my mind I wrote the same for three Suzuki two wheeler products and two Honda products (Unicorn and Shine). In retrospect, I think I am fairly correct (no braggin or boasting) on those counts as these launches have not been so successful for their respective companies.

Today when a consumer in India (Indian consumer is mostly going to be a young person) buys a product he (mostly the automobile buyer is "definitely male") sees the look of the product as the most important thing. Yamaha has not been able to make any presence in Indian two wheeler market simply because none (except the latest launch FZ. Oooh! that's the best bike in India so far by looks) of their product have been worth looking at. The same could be the case of Suzuki two wheeler as well, since all three products launched so far are not at all good at design. Yamaha and Suzuki are well known world over for their superb two-wheeler technology still they are failing in Indian market. I am sure the only reason is that they do not have great product designers in their studios. Superb technology only gets appreciation when it's presented in best designed box. Even Honda is not able to make much of an impact in two wheeler because of the same reason. Bajaj would not be successful or worthy competition to Hero Honda until they hire some top-notch designers. Right now their products looks like underfed dogs or foxes. Pulsar had been successful mainly, because the category which it sells in, did not have worthy competition so far. By the way now Pulsar design has improved considerably but still not the best and has a long way to go. In this category the two new entrants TVS Apache and Yamaha FZ are going to be the scorching hot products, if they have good enough technology.

Obviously when a product's design is great second most important thing should be the underlying technology. Hero Honda has got these two things right in the same order in most of their products and we can see the results.

Same could be said of the passenger car market as well. Unknown (at start) Hyundai is successful in Indian market whereas the mighty GM and Ford are still struggling here for precisely the same reason.

I always wonder why can the management of Yamaha, Suzuki, Bajaj etc not see this point? A business magazine "Businessworld" (oooh, my favourite) carried a cover story on product design Check Spellingcouple of years back but probably CEOs of these above companies did not read that issue and paying price now. Had they paid Rs 5 for that issue they would have made a few thousand crores for their companies and we Indian consumers would have had even superior product marquees to choose from.

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