India needs to blend traditional knowledge, such as craft aesthetics, music, folklore and performing arts with contemporary design and go global. Which is why there is need to invest more and more in design, says Pradyumna Vyas, Director, National Institute of Design (NID). Business Line caught up with Vyas at the CII-NID design summit in the Capital. The summit focuses on taking design to the boardroom and advise companies why investing in design is important. Edited excerpts:

What is the aim of this design summit?

If you look at the vision of independent India, design was in the forefront. But because of the protected economy, industry was competing on costs. After that, industry was focusing on reducing manufacturing time. It was only later that it realised the need to innovate. Design is needed to translate innovation into a tangible product or service. We tied up with CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) in 2001 to boost industry-academia partnership. This caught the attention of the Government, which led to the National Design Policy in 2007. We need to understand that design is not a cost to the company, it’s an investment.

How far behind is design education in India?

We cannot compare ourselves with European countries. We are behind even Asian countries, such as Korea and China. Till the 70s, we had only one design institute in India – NID. Now, four more NIDs are coming up as part of National Design Policy. IITs, too, are starting design centres. Scaling up is a big challenge for us because the country needs more designers.

By when will the proposed four NIDs become operational?

If they become operational in 2014 or 2015, which is likely, by 2016 or 2017 we can expect the first batch of students. All four NIDs — Jorhat (Assam), Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) and Kurukshetra (Haryana) — will start together.

How do you plan to address the problem of faculty shortage?

We are looking at online design education. One expert can be virtually present across 100 places. We are discussing as to how we can use technology to create faculty resources.

How has the Design Clinic scheme been progressing?

The Design Clinic scheme, taken up with the Ministry of Medium Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs), has been initiated to support MSMEs and to equip them with capability of offering competitive products. We have to the second phase. We have already done about 267 design awareness programmes in these clusters. You can log in to where we have created over 600 design pools, register and find out a designer in your area, submit the proposal to us and we then release the funds. The Design Clinic scheme supports MSMEs by funding design work by refunding 60 per cent of the designer fee up to a limit of Rs 15 lakh. We can expect the impact in three-four years, but some positive results have already started showing.

Do you feel the Government has taken design lightly?

I won’t say lightly, but we started late. The urgency is much bigger and the numbers required are very large. But, I believe, if a crisis is there, the opportunity is also there. If we are not proactive in the next five years, we may lose out. We must take forward such platforms for design awareness across various sectors.

What is your vision for NID for next five years?

We plan to focus on sustainable design. In India, traditionally, the understanding on sustainable design is very strong. We need to recognise the strengths that we have. We need to take our traditional knowledge, such as craft aesthetics, music, folklore, performing arts and blend it with contemporary design and go global. You can become the global leader only on your own strength, not on borrowed strength.

Apart from sustainable design, we plan to focus on renewable energy. We also will focus on designing products for inclusive development.