One of the hardest questions to answer as a product manager in a multinational software company is, treat “Can you build great products in India?”. Most of us will instinctively respond, pharm “of course, yes”. The follow up question is, “Really? How can you build great products in India when you are surrounded by filth, your workspace is not fabulous, your country does not value design, your atmosphere is poisonous and you have years of training in putting up with unfinished shit?”.
Essentially, they are saying, “Unless you have good design around you, you will not notice bad design and thus build products that are not really ready for an affluent user base that values design”. Thus, all new products must be built where there is a better appreciation and presence of design.
All these arguments are true to a certain extent. As a well traveled Indian living in a metropolitan city I can see why foreigners think this way. India is not clean. Functionality trumps design and has for a long long time. Government project remain unfinished forever or get done to a really low level of quality. Most people are not willing to pay the premium for good design. And, we really do put up with more shit than most.
This perception is an issue because often, important executives think this way and throttle career advancement opportunities for promising folks in India. And, I do think that this is a real problem.
What’s interesting is that these issues are kinda beyond the control of the individuals being penalized. We are trying our best to experience good design and learn and retrain ourselves and our teams.
What’s also interesting is that this intrinsic lack appreciation for design is going away in India. This is largely thanks to the startup boom due to VC investments in India. We are experiencing really good design via mobile apps and responsive web sites. Most software developers have easy access to what is considered good design. We are training a lot of experience designers who are building well designed websites like cleartrip.com. And today, other that good data scientists, XD is the hardest function to recruit for in software.
We are also beginning use data to improve experiences and drive users through funnels J All this is forcing us to develop world class sensibilities and software right from here. Example: zomato.com It’s a well design service that’s giving yelp a run for its money. Flipkart is competing head on with Amazon.com and Snapdeal.com is competing with Flipkart. Similar things can be said for Practo and Bookmyshow. These are well designed apps too.
Uber is forcing taxiforsure and ola and Meru to up their game. Some of these crappy apps have grown to become good copies of Uber even though they had really humble, functionality driven beginnings.
So yes, things are changing. Hope we change this perception by shipping lots of great shit out of India, fast and often!