Indian design is no longer just ethnic; in fact it is now more global than ethnic. Latest news from the offshore outsourcing world indicates that India is fast emerging as a new age design hub for global consumer electronics manufacturers and FMCG giants.
Offshoring to India --- which started off with call centres and back-office jobs like accounting --- has spread to include high-end product design work and even packaging and graphic designs. As manufacturers look at reducing costs and product development cycles, outsourcing their deign jobs to India seems the perfect answer. The result: MNCs like Whirlpool, GE, LG, Philips and Bosch are setting up research and design centres in India. And some others like Reckitt Benckiser are offshoring design work to Indian design houses.
Those in the business, like Anuj Prasad, chief designer at Delhi-based Desmania Design are of the opinion that outsourcing of design jobs are going to hit Indian shores in a big way. Prasad says, "Outsourcing design jobs to India started in a small way, but is going to be big. This is the latest trend in the world of manufacturing. A product is today conceived in the US, designed in India, manufactured in China and sold in markets across the globe".
While consumer electronics manufacturers and FMCG firms lead the pack in outsourcing design work to India, Prasad says a growing number of multinationals are fast waking up to the potential of this market.
The expertise of Indian designers in 3D modeling and plant engineering in sectors like aerospace, automotive and industrial design has already caught the attention of leading companies from both Europe and America.
The only stumbling block, industry insiders foresee, is the low number of skilled industrial and product designers in the country today. As compared to the UK --- which boasts of over 150,000 designers --- or China and Taiwan, which have a population of over 1 lakh designers each, India still has only around 1,500-2, 000 skilled designers.
"It's an offshoot of the IT boom we witnessed a few years ago," says Darlie O Koshy, executive director of National Institute of Design. "It is already growing at a good pace. And once the industry manages to tide over this issue of low number of skilled designers, the design outsourcing business will only grow at a much faster pace."
The benefits of shifting product design to India are manifold --- the time difference with the western world, which ensures a 24x7 workday for MNCs. The high level of engineering skills in India also helps companies face the growing competitive pressure to create new products and bring them to market faster, or add new features and functionality to existing ones.
Even the cost benefits are enormous, as designers in India don't charge by the time as opposed to the charge-by the-hour system in the developed world. The cost of automotive design in Europe, for instance, ranges as high as $800 per hour, and is even higher in the US.
In comparison, costs (when put on an hourly basis) are as low as $60 per hour in India for equivalent quality. No wonder then global auto makers are increasingly steering into India for sourcing a wide range of needs that even include designing models meant only for global markets.
"Even though the conceptualisation of a design is done by the companies themselves, they look to the Indian designers to use their engineering background and take the idea through the entire process of development," says Sandhya Raman, director at Desmania Design.
The growing number of outsourcing jobs, industry insiders say, is now prompting Indian design houses to set up representative offices in US and Europe in order to be close to their existing clients, and also expand their client base. And as their orderbooks swell, this Rs 300 crore design outsourcing industry seems all set to replicate the success of software services.