Co.Design

Looking to Realize Dreams in India, With New Business Models

Can we find a new model for sustainable economic growth that doesn't just provide for needs, but makes dreams come true?

This past weekend, I flew Bangalore to attend the first Dream:In conference, which will be held from February 16 to 19, 2011.

I've been to hundreds of design conferences, but nothing like this. This is different.

Designers, especially humanitarian designers, usually try to meet people's needs. In India, they are going to try and realize people's dreams.

What does that mean? How is this going to happen?

To start, the first phase took place during January when Dream:In sent student Dream Catchers out to interview thousands of Indians about their dreams for themselves and their country--the dreams were diverse, hopeful, and illuminating. The students put together 33 wonderful video interviews that give you a snapshot of Indian aspiration, including a canteen manager who wants to become a social advocate, a flower seller who dreams of Paris, a coach who hopes to train Olympic-level female wrestlers, and more. There is also an interview with Natalie Wang, a student at Parsons, who went to India to participate.

The conference goal is to build an open innovation system that quickly turns individual dreams into new businesses and economic growth.

I will participate in the second phase, helping to translate these dreams into scenarios for the future and to formulate concrete plans for investments and real businesses. In addition to the 101 Dream Catchers, the conference will have entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, designers, business leaders, activists, students, professors, government leaders, and not-for-profit workers working to interpret the dreams and to transform them into projects with economic, social, cultural, and environmental value. We hope that new ventures and businesses will follow.

One of the initiatives will be to launch a Dream:In Fund that finances these new ventures. Indian businessmen have already pledged enough money to finance 50 "dream-to-market" investment opportunities.

A second conference initiative is the Dream:In Junction, which aims to transform Bangalore into a crossroads city for creativity, design, innovation, venture capital, and entrepreneurship.

If it works, the model will be repeated in Brazil and other countries that are in the NODES network of local Design Thinking innovation/design consultancies that I talked about back in September. NODES was started by Carlos Teixeira, a Parsons, The New School For Design professor and Sonia Manchanda, the founder and principle designer at Idiom Design and Consulting in Bangalore.

That's the conference model. It's actually a model that IDIOM itself has been using for some time.

Sonia and Indian businessman (and IDIOM investor) Kishore Biyani have developed a fast "mind-to-market" model to design and to launch a series of businesses quickly. The conference will test whether or not they can extend that to a successful "dream-to-market" business strategy.

India is making great strides in "frugal innovation" and "extreme entrepreneurship." (Everyone is an entrepreneur in India!) This is another example of this creativity.

As for me, I?m going to be a "catalyst." This is going to be fun.

[Top image by Anand Jadhav]

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