Recession refers to decline in a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth for two or more consecutive quarters of a year. A recession is also preceded by several quarters of slowing down.

The global economic slowdown started in late 2007 with the emergence of sub-prime losses in the United States. It further tumbled down with the risky loans and over-priced assets. This lead to the crash in stock market, companies shutting down, people losing jobs and therefore led to less spending in the market which spiraled into further downfall of the world economy.

In India the effect came as the sensex crashed while the foreign investment started to withdraw and dwindle. The real estate sector got affected severly. The common man suffered as jobs were lost, exports decreased and the common man’s confidence in the market reduced. Comparitively, India has been one of the few countries least affected by the recession as it’s GDP fell from 9% average of the past four years to only 6.7% in 2008-09.

To summarise the global recession affair, it was the mismatch between the wealth and money. Wealth means an asset or experience which is valuable to us and money is the means to get it. There was more money and less wealth for that money in the market. Due to which, the fluidity of wealth reduced. The transformation of wealth into money and vice-versa reduced.

This phenomenon affected everyone. Let’s see how we can use it to our best.

Pros of Recession

  • Low cost of resources – As the demand of the resources go low, the prices have also contracted. The cost of land, machinery, labour is lower today than a year back. The same amount of productivity can be achieved today with lower investments. The market is full of potential resources waiting for takers who can place them in the right frames. If investment is made today in increasing the morale of one’s workforce, this effort during low times will last a very long time and would ensure loyalty and higher efficiency.
  • Survival of the fittest – When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. A plant that grows in tough terrain under difficult conditions is always much stronger and healthier than the ones which grow under ideal conditions. If a start-up can fight and steer it’s way through the economic slow-down, then it has already been through the toughest battle grounds and has only one path to follow – the one that goes upwards. Recession is the best time to learn from the mistakes that the other organization have made. Also, it is better to fail early to succeed sooner.
  • Adaptability to Change –Today for survival every organization needs to be flexible enough to adapt to any new economic, social, political or technological change. The volatile environment of the economic slowdown ensures that one learns how to bend and twist.
  • Economic Low, Creative High – New constraints which have never been encountered in the past cannot be worked with old  and tried and tested ways. New problems call for new solutions. Therefore, the time is ripe to create new solutions. Newer outlook, perspective, understanding, research methods and solutions.
  • Lean Management – With limited resources to spend, new organizations can perfect the art of lean management. Keeping the expenditures low while getting maximum efficiency and creativity. Better methods of managing resources once learned during recession can be an advantage for future growth against any competition.
  • Customer Loyalty – If one serves the customer during the low times and creates a space for itself in the customer’s minds and hearts, when others are not spending enough energy in doing so, this effort can reap huge benefits in the long run. The bond with customers if created during the times of need, lasts long enough in the good times too.

Cons of Recession

  • Reduced investment of companies in Research and Design – The most common reaction of organisations to the economic slowdown was to cut down on any expenditure which directly did not affect their turnover. The concentration was on survival by making the most sales to get more cash flow.  Research and development investment is rather seen as expenditure by most organizations. In situations like these, the emotional connection with the customer can be lost forever. Any investment made right now to understand the customer and connect to him would repay huge benefits. This necessarily does not translate in heavy investment but in smart investments.
  • Lesser business in the market – With the dwindling consumer confidence, the demand has gone low and thus less movement of goods and services in the market. This is a challenge which the organizations must rise to and test their abilities to innovate.
  • Difficulty in getting finance – The uncertainty of the point of recovery has caused most investors to play safe and invest in businesses which have had a promising past. New innovations are finding it hard to get financed. For this the entrepreneur must take the onus to communicate and convince the investors of the potential of the business idea and it’s future prospects. It is also a chance for the entrepreneur to streamline the workings of his business to reduce the requirement of investment.

Design is the answer

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills.
– Anonymous

Design with it’s inherent nature of understanding the context first and creating something for its future is the ideal solution to the current problem of recession. An analysis of the situation at a systems level today can avoid any future mistakes to cause similar situations. Design arms one with such tools to gauge the system, understand the people in the system and creatively solve the problem. Design also considers the consequences of our actions on our planet and it’s people. Thus, design is emphatic at it’s very core.

With it’s multi-disciplinary approach, design can create new solutions to problems of today and the future. Against the popular misguided notion of design creating more junk than useful things, with design we can reduce any excess production and costs, create better products and services with fewer and better resources, create larger markets through better products and services, streamline processes, motivate the workforce, understand the user and thus lead the economy towards recovery. The reiterative process of design would make sure that constant feedback is included into the system for constant improvements and allows quick adaptability.

Posted on 4th October 2010  |  No Comments  |  

While understanding the lifestyle of people, we might often overlook the small details of their lifestyle to look for opportunities. Customised services and products are preferred in India at almost all social strata of the society. It’s not just the rich who can ask for customised vehicles or hire a famous fashion designer to create an ensemble. The little pleasures of getting things tailor-made as per one’s requirements makes one feel special and value the experience more. Often Indians see better value for money in certain customised offerings, more than mass-produced ones.

Customisation by No FormulaeToday morning, I noticed two people sitting outside my apartment gate, weaving together brooms for people. It was the first time I had seen something like this. Normally, brooms would not be a topic that would be listed under the usual household product-customisation needs, but seeing the response they were getting, it seemed like they had found a very unique niche.  Cost-saving, not enough options in the market, value-for money, the satisfaction of getting a quality product made by supervising the production process, unique household needs could be some of the reasons why some households would prefer using their services.

Customisation by Tailor - No FormulaeCost-effective trendiness is another factor that leads the youngsters to the tailors to get custom-made shirts. Latest trends in the market were either very expensive or didn’t fit well as everyone had different physiques. Also, people considered that a tailor would spend more thought and effort on the clothes and thus it would last longer.

Customisation of Tea - No FormulaeIn the interiors of India, nobody might know about concept of mass-customisation, but they practice it very well nonetheless. When serving tea in the interiors of Gujarat, they also pour a little extra on the saucer. As the tea is pipinig hot when served and people on the go do not have time to wait, the tea on the saucer cools down quickly and by the time it is devoured, the tea in the cup is ready to be sipped.

The little service innovations that are brought about do not always have to be heavy on the pocket. The best things in life, if not free, can be affordable!

Posted on 4th October 2010  |  No Comments  |  

Creativity has definitely a lot to do with exposure and the awareness of endless opportunities. Knowing that there are more than one right answers, and answers that might exist somewhere but not in one’s sphere of reality or awareness.

A recent article published by the Economist states high correlation between one’s stay outside one’s native country and creativity. It also speaks about better negotiation skills of bilingual people.

Considering these factors and India, the relevance of this research seems somehow vague. Being bilingual is pretty natural for most Indians, atleast in the urban areas. Further, with such vast numbers of cultures, languages, customs and geography, each region in India seems like a new country. Would all this mean this makes Indians who live away from their hometown, are more creative? Or are we better at negotiations?

Also, it would be important to consider a country like the United Arab Emirates, where only 19% of the population consists of Emiratis (natives of the country) and the rest are all expatriates. With such a large expat population, the country rarely is talked about for it’s creativity.

We consider kids as creative. Most of them have never lived outside their domestic boundaries.They are creative because of their imagination and free-thinking. Travel and stay abroad might give you these qualities, but it certainly depends on the individual and the system around you.

Posted on 4th October 2010  |  No Comments  |  
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