Based in Pune, India, Elephant Strategy + Design is a strategic design and innovation consultancy that creates unique brand experiences. A Corporate Member of Icsid since 2008, Elephant is one of the largest independent multi-disciplinary design consultancies in India with a strength of over 70 professionals from diverse disciplines backed by an experience of 20 years.

To share the insights from this dynamic enterprise, Icsid spoke with one of the three Founder Directors and Principal Designers at Elephant Strategy and Design, Ashish Deshpande.

Working in Pune, India
“Pune is the cultural centre of the Indian State of Maharashtra and there is so much to learn and imbibe into design work,” says Ashish. “Most of the work in India is need-based rather than life-style-based, and these needs are very much Indian. At Elephant, the designers are constantly in touch with people through research and co-creation.”

In one such example, Elephant had the unique opportunity to partner with the Commonwealth Games Federation in designing the identity, medals, souvenirs, baton (shown below), signage system and livery for Commonwealth Youth Games that took place in Pune in 2008.

“The relay baton draws its form from a traditional wind instrument from Pune region called the ‘Tutari’,” explains Ashish, “which has a peculiar curved horn shape and is used to announce ‘the arrival’, in this case of the games, as the baton travelled across the nation heralding the concept of green games. The baton has a set of copper leaves at the top which have been hand crafted by copper craftsmen from the Tambat Ali, an area in Pune which is famous for traditional copper products.”

Elephant was also in charge of designing the pictograms for the games, including the games identity, look and feel. “The pictograms are based on a tribal art form from the Maharashtra state called ‘Warli’. Combining iconic communication with traditional art base introduced a Pune centred culture dimension to the games.”

The scope of Elephant’s work
Elephant has helped build products and brands for Indian conglomerates such as Bajaj Auto, Bilcare, Britannia, Nirlep, Symphony, VIP Industries and also some of the large multinational corporations such as Nissan Motors, P&G, Standard Chartered Bank and Unilever across emerging markets. Elephant’s disciplines include Design and Business strategy, Industrial Design, Product Design, Environment Design, Consumer and Corporate Branding, Retail and Package Design.

Recent awards won by Elephant include:
Plasticon 2009 award for ‘Go Charger’, the compact mechanical mobile charger designed by Elephant team. Go Charger won the award in ‘Innovative Product Award’ category. The award, organised by Plastindia Foundation, recognises the effective and innovative use of plastic along with creativity in design, user-friendliness, cost-effectiveness and recyclability. [read more]

ReBrand 100® Global Award honoured Elephant Strategy + Design with two merit awards for recent branding projects. The ReBrand 100® Global Awards is the highest recognition for excellence in brand repositioning.

Elephantversity Institute of Innovation
India’s first and only institute of innovation initiated by Elephant Strategy + Design in 2008, Elephantversity has been promoted with a vision of making innovation an integral part of ‘Business Culture’ by educating future generation of innovators.

Elephantversity has conducted several workshops in the past few months, including:

  • Platform Strategies workshop for industry with Peter McGrory and Salimäki Markku, professors from Helsinki universities from Finland on 13 February 2009 in Pune
  • Product Innovation Process Workshop for industry with Daniel Buchner and Tom Burchard from Continuum, United States on 5 December 2008 in Pune
  • Workshop for MSMEs on Brand creation in a B2B scenario on 10 February 2009
  • Workshop based on the Blue Ocean Strategy through Design Thinking, facilitated by Dr. George Eapen from 10-12 June 2009 in Mumbai

Elephant partners with Continuum

In December 2008, a memorandum of understanding (MOU)was signed between Elephant Strategy + Design and Continuum, a United States-based innovation and design consultancy, and an Icsid Corporate Innovator and Corporate Member.

As design has always been an action of team work, “networking with various facets and champions of design world has always paid good dividends. Continuum and Elephant Strategy + Design are leaders in their respective geographies and it was only natural that we got together to share and benefit from each other,” states Ashish.

“Elephant and Continuum have been aware of their common thinking through interactions over the past four years. Since our first interaction, both firms have realised that they have much to learn from each other, and the opportunities for clients to benefit are plentiful. Elephant and Continuum share a deep belief in the value of design thinking. Both firms believe that design can help drive business success and that design is an essential contributor to the creation of value for economies, businesses, citizens and society.”

“Elephant and Continuum teams have shared their working processes over the last few months, shared the vision of each other’s leadership teams, charted out areas of cooperation, joint working strategy and launched working teams on a few projects.”

The future of Continuum and Elephant can be best summed up through a common vision and philosophy on design and innovation through:

  • Knowledge exchange of business practices from respective local markets.
  • Talent and cultural exchange to facilitate sensitive design thinking in both teams.
  • Assess emerging markets and opportunities together.
  • Combine reach potential to achieve wider impact of thought leadership in design and innovation practices.
  • Create and address opportunities to work on Social Impact projects.

BhoomiAbove: Bhoomi is an innovative product combining the goodness of hand made earthen ware and hi tech material like TEFLON coating to improve life of cooking pots yet retaining the earthy aroma of Indian cooking.

Benefiting from international partnerships
“The world is becoming flatter and more accessible in every context,” explains Ashish. “The gap between the evolved markets and the emerging markets is rapidly dissolving. There has been a major shift in the flows and this requires an acute understanding of local eco-geographies, cultures and feasibilities. Networking internationally, sharing work and knowledge will create a strong foundation for working in tomorrow’s economies. International partnerships drive home the point of an equated world where quality resources are accessible to improve our lives without disrupting local economies or values.”

“The partnership with Continuum brought us closer to understanding the American world. Our partnership with npk design [the MOU was signed on 11 February 2009], in The Netherlands, got us that much closer to European sensibilities. Both United States and European commercial interests in this part of the world will benefit from such partnerships.”

Elephant’s strategy during a global recession
When reflecting on the current state of the global recession, Ashish clearly shows his confidence in the role of design in the economy. “Indian GDP is growing at 6% + and this is a good reflection on the performance of Indian markets. Though the growth rate has dropped, the local industry is still buoyant. Elephant has pin pointedly concentrated on leveraging business out of the Indian medium scale enterprises as a key strategy to overcome any slow down. There is enough to be done in India for the indigenous industry, public utilities and social impact sectors.”

About Ashish Deshpande
A 1989 graduate of the faculty of Industrial Design at Icsid Educational Member, the National Institute of Design (India), with specialisation in consumer product design using engineering plastic processes, Ashish leads all the branded product design projects and brand environment projects.

To find out more about Elephant Strategy + Design, please visit their Member profile.

For more information, please contact:

Elephant Strategy + Design
13 Kumar Srishti,
1 NDA Pashan Road
Pune, Maharashtra
411021 India
t: +91 20 22 95 10 55
f: +91 20 22 95 10 59