Last week, Ticket Design, an industrial design and product design consultancy firm in Pune, won a silver at the 20th International Excellence in Design Awards 2007 given away by Appliance Design magazine.
'Advanced Telematics', a vehicle tracking system fitted into Tata Motor's Novus heavyduty trucks, beat competition from the likes of Fujitsu Lifebook A6010 Notebook Computer and Globalstar GSP 1700 Satellite Phone.
This is not the first time an Indian design has won global recognition. In 2005, 'Solemates' disposable footwear crafted from recycled paper by Design Directions, another Pune firm, won a bronze in the Industrial Design Excellence Award. Over the years, Neil Foley Designs in Bangalore has been feted internationally.
Awards and recognition are all very well, but Indian design firms are bagging international clients as well. Ticket Design has worked for GE, Siemens, Polaroid before, and Balkrishna Mahajan, co-founder of the company, is really excited about a recent project - creating of a single, distinct visual language across all product ranges of a consumer-durables major for the European and American markets.
Domestically too, manufacturers attitudes to design have changed, feels Mahajan. "There's been a distinct change, pre- and post-liberalization.
Consumers are more aware, they have access to a wider range of products. So companies are using design as a strategic tool to differentiate their products, especially the small-scale sector.
Also, the focus has shifted from just selling a product to ensuring 'user experience'. Earlier, only the top management had an understanding of design, now it has percolated down to the middle rungs."
The company which was formed seven years ago and had been growing annually at a steady rate of 60 per cent, doubled its turnover last year.
No wonder international players have turned their attention to the sector in India. Just last week, Landor Associates, another WPP company that's into the design space, set up shop in India.
In October last year, WPP got a majority stake in Ray and Keshavan, a leading brand identity and design agency; and Mahajan reports that he is talks with overseas players for a joint venture but the talks were at an early stage.
The government too has been active lately in giving a fillip to the design sector in India. A National Design Policy was announced earlier this year, which aimed to build a "'design enabled Indian industry' and facilitate "making 'Designed in India' a by-word for quality and utility in conjunction with 'Made in India' and 'Served from India'".
Worthy aim, no doubt, and the policy backs it up with the setting up of specialised design hubs, establishing more NIDs, a Chartered Society of Designers and an Indian Design Council. The design fraternity too has become more proactive by forming groups like the Pune Design Foundation.
But, as with any fledgling industry, there are problems. Dr Darlie O Koshy, director, NID feels that says that these are just baby steps and in fact, that there is no industry since a whole range of industries fall outside the classification of "industry".
"The total industrial and product design industry in India today stands at just Rs 200 crore, taking into account the billings of the top agencies, and growing at 20-25 per cent a year. Firms will need to invest in design research, feels Koshy, if revenues are to really take off.