Taking up engineering is nothing short of a tradition in India irrespective of what your interests or inclinations are, because it is considered the most natural thing to do !
Het Patel, our next pathbreaker, Industrial Designer at IFB Appliances, works on IFB’s diverse portfolio of home appliances, tasked with designing products that not only solve problems in the most efficient way, but also enhancing customer experience.
Het talks to to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about completing his graduation in Mechatronics Engineering and gathering the courage to pursue his interests in the creative field through a post graduation in Product Design.
For students, choose a path that defines you rather than following the herd ! That way, you also give hope to others to defy convention !
Het, a little bit about your background?
I come from a background most people reading this can relate to. An average student, with satisfactory grades, who found it difficult to focus on one thing. However, creativity is a constant attribute that I have been invariably associated with. My mom has always been crafty and frugal. She would make it a point to indulge me with her creative tasks. I believe that is where I started to enjoy being creative.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I completed my graduation as a Mechatronics Engineer, which simply put, combines two core disciplines of Mechanical Engineering and Electronics Engineering to achieve automation. From the more conventional world of engineering, I took some time to gather the courage to pursue my interests in the creative field. I found myself naturally inclined towards products and pursued a post graduation in Product Design from the National Institute of Design, India.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
As I mentioned earlier, it was my mother who played a key role in igniting that creative spark in me. I would find myself sitting at the last bench in school and doodling cartoons and god figurines, being frugal with decorations at home, taking charge of decorating for college events/festivals, etc. I have found myself applying my creative faculties on different occasions. Importantly, I have been blessed with teachers who reinforced this feeling and guided me towards the path I find myself on today.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
My final semester project was with Bajaj Electricals. It was to design the “Future of Fans”. This was my first experience working in the industry and I had the most amazing time because everything I had learned in college was coming to fruition and I was getting to apply the knowledge and skills acquired to fulfil a purpose. Next, my internship with Samsung Electronics gave me a platform to work with and learn from some amazingly talented people. It exposed me to industrial design, product styling, product storytelling, and detailing in a completely new way.
While I was there, I got a chance to work on the initial concept directions of one of their appliances which was to be launched in the future for the Indian market. For a global brand designing for a country as culturally and demographically diverse as India, the sensitivity to certain design decisions and the understanding of the target customer you are designing for becomes very crucial and as a designer you are humbled. Bidding adieu to Samsung, I was now aspiring to, and building my competency for a global platform.
How did you get your first break?
I think I have been lucky in a way that I realized early on in my design career what I wanted to do, which is to design everyday products that humans can use and be delighted every time they use them. So, since early on, I have been directing my attention, energy, knowledge, skills, etc. towards doing that. One project at a time, I kept building my portfolio, and eventually, those who were looking found me.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Challenge 1: Being in the field of design, there is so much one can do. So, for me, the biggest challenge was to narrow down on what kind of a designer I want to become and what I want to do. Lucky for me, I knew that early on. But until that point, I was very confused. I might still be confused, but now I at least know where I should be spending my time and directing my energy.
Challenge 2: Finding the right guidance is very important. Because design has no specific curriculum and hence no boundaries as such, it becomes crucial to be surrounded by the right people. Especially ones that you can resonate with and learn from.
Challenge 3: Living on the threshold of your comfort zone. Among other things, the field of design demands you to be constantly updated, acquire new skills, and always be observant of what’s happening around you. These things require a change in mindset and once you make that change, you are forever a student. You cannot be settled in your comfort zone since the world around you is always changing.
Where do you currently work and what do you do?
Currently, I am working with the IFB Home Appliances Design team. The most exciting part about this job is that I get to work on products that I am a customer of. We work on IFB’s diverse portfolio of home appliances: Washing machines, Washer Dryers, Microwave, AC, and small appliances. As a team, our goal is to design products that not only solve the problem in the most efficient way, but also to enhance customer experience when they use our products. Among other things, we do local and global market research, we study the technology behind them, we study trends, and with all this information, we work on how we can improvise and implement these new advancements for our products that cater to the Indian Market.
How does your work benefit society?
Our work benefits the society in the same way that cars benefit the society. People will still get from point A to point B, but cars will make the journey a much more pleasurable experience.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
During one of our elaborate design courses, we (a group of 4) studied the system of Organ Donation in India. The intent was to understand everything we can about Organ Donation in India, identify opportunities for improvements and come up with solutions. We worked closely with the Civil hospital management, NGOs, interviewed patients, and conducted workshops with all these stakeholders. We even organised a workshop with an NGO where our friends signed up for organ donation. The whole experience was very inclusive and getting up and close with those people and their experiences has been one of my most fulfilling projects to date.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Spirituality. It is something I was introduced to a few years ago, and it has been transformative. It brings clarity to my life and helps put things in perspective. In this age of distraction, I cannot stress enough on how important it is to become an individual. And spirituality is something that can help you get there.
When it comes to me being a Product Designer, as I mentioned earlier, I want to be at the edge of my comfort zone. Right now, I am working for a home appliances company. In the future I want to explore the space of consumer electronics, wearables, automotive interiors, and even retail spaces. The list is long, and I endeavour to wake up with a smile on my face, learn something new every day and get a taste of everything that comes my way.