Modern Technologies need to be well complemented by innovative design thinking in order to develop products that deeply resonate with end customers !

Parth Sharma, our next pathbreaker, Industrial Designer at Havells India, works on a multitude of problems that concern industrial products like switches/motors as well as consumer electronics products like chargers, video doorbells etc.

Parth talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about exploring the world of industrial and transportation design driven by his keen interest in technology and arts !

For students, never be afraid of your imagination, but always have a backup plan. The first step is the hardest to take, so don’t be hesitant to take that first step towards your professional goals.

Parth, your background?

I was born in a very small town of Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh, but I grew up in Delhi since my father’s home is situated here. Since childhood I was a very curious boy and because of this curiosity my toys never lasted more than a month. I always found joy in disassembling them and understanding their function. 

Physics and astronomy always interested me, and at one point like every other kid, I also wanted to be an astronaut. I used to daydream a lot about other worlds, different scenarios and speculating the future, something that I still do whenever I am lost in my thoughts. I can say that I was above average in studies (never liked geography if I’m being honest) and was adequately skilled in fine arts and enjoyed plying outdoor games during school time. Most of my evenings however were spent indoors. As I was born in a joint family, I never lacked any company while being at home but used to seek solace once in a while to be with my thoughts.

Both my parents are working professionals, my father being a government employee and my mother being a teacher. I believe most of my learning came from my family. 

The holistic view about life that I gained from being born in an open-minded family and curiosity to explore things resulted in a jack of all trades personality that I currently possess. This inclination towards observing people, science and imagination as an artist carved my path to the career that I’m pursuing. 

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

My initial interest in science and arts took me on the path of pursuing mechanical engineering for graduation and transportation design for post-graduation. 

What were some of the key influences that led you to such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

Being from a middle-class family and due to a lack of awareness about design at an early stage of schooling, my fondness was more towards engineering and architecture. 

Though I had already set my eyes on mechanical engineering, it was during my engineering entrance exams that I got to know about design as a career. In my first year, I set a goal for myself, which was to crack exams like NID DAT and CEED to pursue a career in design. 

During my engineering days, I worked on developing 3 full scale student vehicle projects that included a Go-Kart, an off-road Baja vehicle and a human/electric hybrid 3-wheeler. These projects helped me to strengthen my love for automobiles, which later on fuelled my desire to study Transportation Design. I assume that because of the open-minded personality which I developed during the duration of these projects, I was able to confidently get admission into National Institute of Design. I also gained a lot of experience about team dynamics and working efficiently with others through my participation in these events. These experiences also helped me to think practically while solving real life problems. 

I owe all my achievements to my friends, colleagues and family members. I believe that every person you meet on the path to your goals has something exceptional to give, given that you are willing to receive it and learn from their experiences. Up to this chapter of my life, I’ve learned a lot from the experiences of people around me. 

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

When I was a graduating student, I had a very focused goal to pursue post-graduation in the field of Transportation Design. By nature I’m a person who always keeps a backup plan, therefore I always kept Industrial Design as the second priority. I believe when you are aiming for a career that can transform your life, it’s better to have a fallback plan. So my fallback, in case I didn’t get that romanticised job of an automotive stylist, was to become a product designer, which I equally enjoy.

During my post-graduation, I also worked as a freelance industrial designer for a number of clients, both domestic and international. This “extra-curricular” activity helped me in understanding the basics of client relations and communicating effortlessly in a professional scenario. Being a designer, you have to be good at communication, otherwise you’ll fail to both understand the client’s brief and explain your designs at later stages. 

Being at NID helped me to create a diversified portfolio showcasing my 3D capabilities as well as skills in conceptual development. This portfolio was one of the reasons that I got to work at General Motors India in Bangalore as a creative design intern. It was during this internship that I understood the role of a Digital Sculptor in an automotive company, something that I truly admired at the time. The project done at GM helped me to increase my expertise in 3D modeling tool, Autodesk Alias. 

My project brief at GM was to design a conceptual autonomous passenger drone for the brand Cadillac. The process involved product research, ideation and full scale concept development on a digital level, but the major learning and emphasis was on Digital Sculpting. Digital Sculpting in essence involves Class ‘A’ surface modelling. Class ‘A’ surfaces are primarily used in the automotive environment and refer to those surfaces which are visible in a product. In other words: A – class surfaces are those aesthetic/free-form surfaces, which are visible to us (interior/exterior), and have an optimal aesthetic shape and high surface quality. The surface model developed at this level is then interpreted by a team of engineers into a refined, ready for manufacturing CAD (Computer Aided Design). This CAD is then used to develop final prototypes and assembly models. 

I also worked as a design researcher in Amsterdam for a period of 5 months, where my role was to understand the future applications of Digital Twin technology in the context of a robotic circular wood factory. My role here included primary and secondary research as well as converting the insights into a meaningful User Interface. This project taught me a lot about robotic manufacturing, circular economy and artificial intelligence. 

More about this project can be found on MetaBots – digital twinning a circular wood production lab – Supratibha

How did you get your first break?

I got my first job through campus placements as an industrial designer at Havells India Private Limited.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: The biggest challenge was to prepare my portfolio and the projects I did both as a freelancer and a student in a way that impressed recruiters.

Challenge 2: The second challenge was the job profile, the position was for an industrial designer though my background was from transportation design. Therefore it was a bit difficult to make the recruiting team understand my capabilities as an industrial designer

Challenge 3: The third challenge was that many of my batch mates having more experience than me as an industrial designer had applied for the same position, so I had to really stand out and showcase my passion during the interview. 

Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?

I am currently working as an industrial designer at Havells India Pvt. Ltd. We try to solve a multitude of problems that concern a lot of products, both in the consumer and the commercial space. 

My current role gives me the opportunity to work on industrial products like switches, motors and pumps, as well as consumer electronics like chargers, video doorbells etc. Apart from this, we have several innovation projects and collaboration projects with studios around the world. We follow the complete process of design thinking and execution, which spans everything from market research to CMF (Colours, Materials and Finish) and includes everything from sketching to CAD in between. 

What skills are needed for your role? How did you acquire the skills?

This job requires good understanding of user needs, technical knowledge of how the products work, good communication and narration skills, effortless presentation skills, ability to create concepts within engineering constraints, solving problems by visualising end user scenarios, generating new ideas that makes the product stand out from the competition, ability to efficiently work on multiple projects simultaneously, as well as good sketching and concept representation skills.

What’s a typical day like?

A typical day starts with team meetings and setting up the agenda for the day. I usually visualise the entire day before beginning my work. Getting follow ups on the on-going projects from different teams, communicating and brainstorming various ideas within the team, a good laugh, coffee time and some philosophical conversations once in a while.

What is it you love about this job? 

The best part of my job is that I can utilize my skills as a jack of all trades, to my full potential and learn from my colleagues, as all of them are exceptionally good designers. 

How does your work benefit society? 

Our work at Havells is extremely user centric, which helps us to craft exceptionally delightful experiences and not just physical products. This user centric design aids our customers with an ease of mind while interacting with our products. 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

The one project which is very close to my heart was a student project we did during our first semester at NID. It was a full-scale cardboard model of a patronas racing F1 car! 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

My advice to the young minds out there is to never be afraid of your imagination. The first step is the hardest to take, so don’t be hesitant to take that first step towards your professional goals. 

With an open-mind, try to learn from everyone in your surroundings, empathize and be grateful to your family and friends. 

Always keep a fallback plan, but don’t be afraid to go with the flow if at that moment your instincts are driving you, as everything works out well in the end. 

Future Plans?

At the very moment in my life, I’m going with the flow 😊