Designing in Context: A visit to Lakudpada Village

Effective innovation demands a thorough understanding of Context. Professor B.K Chakravarthy of the Industrial Design Center, School of Design at IIT-Bombay— defines Context as the second “C” in his “7C’s of Design”. So naturally, with him as our principal investigator and guide, we are often coaxed to get out of those office chairs and immerse ourselves in the context before designing—meeting users in their homes and workplaces before designing for them.

We have 3 design projects exclusively focused on the rural sector: The water cart, the smokeless biomass stove and the drumstick plucker. But besides this, all our projects are designed with this large, untapped sector in mind. So on 29th September, all of us went en masse to visit the Lakudpada Village near Murbad, in the Thane District. 11:00 a.m, we started with a short group meeting of sorts, all the villagers gathered together for a discussion with us. Then, we spent the day meeting the villagers, visiting their water sources—two wells, a hand pump and the Shahi river; their homes and their village school.

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dsc_0478_1 meeting with Gram Shevak

We trekked the slippery, rocky 300ft stretch to the river with our inexperienced feet safely tucked in sneakers—no easy feat. The village women do this trek bare feet or with thin soled slippers, completing the uphill journey with 2- 3 water laden pots balanced on their head during summers.

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Aniket can be seen here at the hand pump, 400 to 500 meters away, speaking to the locals who informed him about summer queues so long that people often had to wait up to 2 hours for their turn.

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And then we visited their kitchens to see their traditional stoves or chulhas at work, we listened carefully as they enumerated the negatives and a few surprising positives too (the smoke even though it stings and burn their eyes, tends to keep insects away) and calculated the efficiency of their fuel (each of 30 sticks last about a week-see photo).

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Back to the city now, we are putting down our conclusions into reports, brainstorming on our insights and working hard at the drawing board, allowing the all-important C for “context “ to refine and redesign our Water cart and Stove.

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