Mindful Research for Way finding - Prasanna BK

Mindful Research for Way finding - Prasanna BK

19, May 2021

Some of the most creative designs are the result of translating insights from users. The methodological way to understand users is to conduct qualitative and quantitative user research.

"Research is very dynamic. You need to balance qualitative and quantitative aspects while selecting the users for sampling," says Prasanna BK, Manager of Consumer Research and Strategy at Tata Elxsi, leading providers of design and technology services across industries including Automotive, Broadcast, Communications, Healthcare and Transportation. With over 18 years of experience in user research, he has also worked at Jaguar Land Rover, CKS, Quetzal, Sri Design and as a Faculty at JGI. He specializes in Design Thinking, Design Strategy and Ethnography.

Being amongst the first in India to graduate in the field of Consumer Management, Prasannaís expertise in consumer research grew as he joined CKS, an ethnographic research company. Later working with Tata Elxsi for the past fourteen years, Prasanna shared the strategy I3 of Tata which stands for Investigate, Innovate and Implement. This is to research and collect insights into the real context, translating it to innovation and ultimately bringing the product to life.

One of the very first exercises in his career was to design branding for Womenís Horlicks and such branding projects require research and validation from users. The same was applied by him when he was working for the research for an innovative snack, Pepsiís Aliva. The research had to be conducted across the diverse user segments of India with varying food habits. With north Indians inclined towards snacks nearly fulfilling a whole meals appetite like a samosa, to south Indiansí preferring lighter snacks like bhajjis or upma, Gujaratis with their thepla and fluffy khamad, and the Maharashtrians liking towards snacks like chivda, all such regional insights culminated in a single biscuit-like snack, Aliva. This had a flat yet triangular shape resembling samosa, and to suit the eating habits of all. The golden brown colour was well thought since all these factors established cultural connections.

On determining the number of respondents and who should be selected for the research, one has to be very mindful. For the two classifications of research, qualitative and quantitative, with different objectives, the user sampling should be catering to the objectives of both. Through the example of the research for Aliva, with 90 research participants (some for focus group discussions while others for in-depth interviews) from across various parts of the country, he illustrated research is also dependent on the kind of product and the number of teams available, the more the teams the lesser the time consumed in research.

The authenticity of the data depends on how well the questions are framed. You cannot know the why of problems with a yes-no question, there should be a follow-up to such questions. Choose the users mindfully from diverse backgrounds, making sure they are rewarded while strategically not revealing the fine details of the concept.

Narrating his experience for the award-winning Kochi Water Metro Project he explained how complex research can be. Kochi being a tourist spot, the people there are well aware of the international benchmarks so the experience had to be world-class. From entry to exit all the touchpoints were analyzed and finally several services were introduced under that initiative. As a result, unique, colourful, lively signages were developed to show the tourists the identity of Kochi plus to make the residents feel important and connected to the culture. Even the general instructions were displayed creatively through the graphics of an elephant which instructs people in the local language, memories of such elements can also be carried as a memento by the travellers, and this was only made possible by careful observations about the users.

This dynamic process of research requires your judgment on when to conduct research on a divergent mode and when to converge and start the analysis. Prasanna says, ďFor making a career in consumer research one must be empathetic, keen to observe usersí behaviour and patient as the research process can go on for 8 days to 8 months.Ē And this is when your research interest will keep you going.

Written By,

Anvesha Dubey

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