Career Focus

Career Focus

Great demand for industrial engineers

Rapid growth in consumer spending and marketplace competition have ensured that industrial design is taken seriously by companies chasing sales and market share

ith rising incomes and rapid
lifestyle changes, fashion and design is no longer restricted to clothes, jewellery and accessories. Today sleek new models of cars, mobile phones, music systems, laptops, and airconditioners roll off assembly lines with the objective of luring design conscious customers. Industrial design has come of age and designers are in great demand," says Dhimant Panchal, senior professor and member of the governing council of MIT Institute of Design, Pune. In his long career in industrial design spanning 26 years, Panchal has designed airconditioners, water coolers, refrigerators, trophies, spectacle frames, hand tools, diamond polishing consoles and blood oxygenators for the biomedical department of the Institute of Medical Sciences & Technology, Trivandrum.

Industrial designers fashion products to make them user-friendly in terms of comfort, aesthetics, efficiency, safety, reliability and economy. They tend to focus on home appliances, automobiles, industrial and public utility equipment. The demand for industrial designers has increased manifold after the liberalisation and deregulation of the Indian economy in 1991. Rapid growth in consumer spending and marketplace competition have ensured that industrial design is taken seriously by companies chasing sales and market share.

The premier institutes of learning which offer industrial design training are the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad followed by four IITs — Mumbai, Delhi, Kanpur and Guwahati. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore is also a pioneer in industrial design education. Other institutions include the recently established MIT Institute of Design, Pune; D.J. Academy of Design, Coimbatore; Raffles Design International, Mumbai; Symbiosis Institute of Design, Pune; and NTTF School of Postgraduate Studies, Bangalore.

While NID offers both undergraduate and postgrad programmes in industrial design, among the IITs only IIT-Guwahati offers an undergrad programme. Currently IIT-Mumbai, Kanpur and Delhi offer Masters programmes, but will soon introduce undergraduate courses. The MIT Institute of Design, Pune has a four-and-a-half year undergrad and a postgraduate programme of two-and-a-half years. Admission into the IITs is through CEED (Common Entrance Examination for Design) while other institutes conduct their own entrance examinations. Generally, Masters programmes are open to engineering and architecture graduates.

The qualities and aptitudes required of industrial designers are creativity and imagination. They must also possess insights into consumer behaviour and preferences, and keep track of market trends and innovations.

With the Indian economy experiencing a consumer boom, professionally qualified industrial designers are in great demand. For minimally qualified designers, entry level remuneration packages range between Rs.2-8 lakh per annum with NID and IIT graduates commanding higher emoluments.

Designers could sign up with consultancy firms or start their own design units where the sky is the limit for career progression depending on hardwork, capability and creativity. IT and media companies are also hiring industrial designers, and are ready to pay top dollar for their services. Teaching is another option though typically, institutional pay packages tend to be modest. But most institutes of design allow their faculty to do consultancy work which helps them bridge the remuneration gap between corporates and education institutes.

"With design now accepted as an important product attribute, many new institutes of design are springing up across the country. There’s demand not only for product designers but also for graphic and retail designers," says Panchal.

Exhibiting an artistic and creative bent of mind from a young age, Panchal enrolled in NID, Ahmedabad in 1974 after completing his Plus Two exam. He began his professional career on the NID faculty as co-ordinator of the institute’s foundation programme in 1981.

In 1995, he signed up with Marc Walker Opticals Ltd as senior manager, product development and quality control, where he landscaped the company’s factory and designed spectacle frames in nickel, inox, monel, phosphorus, bronze and 18 carat gold. Subsequently he moved to Solsons Exim, Ahmedabad to develop hand tools for Indian and overseas markets. In 2003 he returned to academia by joining the faculty of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Gandhinagar.

Four years later in 2007, Panchal was invited by the Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT), which runs 32 educational institutions offering study programmes in medicine, engineering etc, to establish its institute of industrial design. "The MIT Institute of Design aims to create a design community, which will not only service the needs of India Inc but also of small-scale and rural businesses. Our charter requires us to help improve the design of rural products for the benefit of the large disadvantaged population in rural India," says Panchal.

Indra Gidwani (Mumbai)