The kind of offerings Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS) provides is something that is not popularly implemented by brands in the country. Mr. Aditya Dev Sood, Founder & CEO, Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS) emphasises the need to allocate investment in such innovative problem solving solutions.
Aadeetya Sriram (AS): Tell us about Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS), your idea behind this enterprise?
Aditya Dev Sood (ADS): CKS is an innovation consultant company where we use ethnography, design thinking and user experience modeling to make new things possible. We help clients create products and services, new consumer experiences that will create greater value in the market place. It will allow the clients to differentiatetheir offering. I wanted to use the innovation and technology to solve our own problems rather than implementing it to solve other’s problems. Deeply looking into the matter, the issue is, we are unable to define our problems.
AS: Could you elaborate on the kind of service CKS provides?
ADS: The 3 things that I have mentioned are the components of an innovation cycle. Innovation is considered by most people to be highly unstructured or eureka kind of activity, which cannot be predicted. Innovation to us can be routinised and there can be a system to it We have worked for the last 8 years to develop that system. The first step is to understand context and consumer need in a rich way through rich data around the lifestyle, behavioural pattern, the social networks, media behaviours, the communication patterns, the values in which the consumer lives, that kind of information we gather through ethnography. We annotate photographs, draw on them, we visualise all the data.
Second step is interrogating the data, and making sense of it, we have a number of different methodologies that we use. Use case analysis for each and every behavior. We try to understand what are the latent needs and challenges. Then we have failure case analysis that we use to change the context of services being delivered.
AS: What type of clients are you catering to? Can you enlighten us about some of your recent client related projects you have handled?
ADS: We have worked with a wide array of different kind of clients. We have worked with global majors, Indian corporations and with international and Indian start-ups. Over the years we have done a lot of work for Nokia, we have looked at corporate social responsibility and rural challenges for Vodafone, we have handled Telenor, we have conducted study on future aviation in India for Boeing, we handled research and design Asian Paints Color Next, for the past 4 years. We work on developing technologies for rural India with General Electric’s. These are some of the larger and ongoing relationships that we plan to undertake for long term. We are in the business of innovation, and not telecom or healthcare, financial services, home-décor or aviation. Our offerings are such that it makes clearer the kinds of challenges, that customers face so that more effective solutions can be devised by our clients.
AS: You have operated in the West as well, what differences were visible to you between the Indian clients and the global clients, if there is one?
ADS: In the Indian context, there is a hugely growing appetite for innovation. But there is not necessarily a deep and widespread understanding of how innovation is actually done. They are bound to realise the potency of innovation gradually, considering the rate of change, which is tremendous, but for the moment we have a larger task, working with the Indian clients to help them understand how ethnography is connected to design and its connection to developing new solutions.
AS: Do you have any research center in the country? How much have you invested CKS?
ADS: We have 2 studios in Delhi and Bangalore. We handle our rural operations with office in Patna; we also have an office in Mumbai to handle clients.
AS: How do companies benefit from the solutions that you offer?
ADS: There is process that we employ that allows the clients to get from point A to point B, in a swift manner then they will be able to do on their own. Then there are different methodologies that we employ that gets the client to actionable insight and beyond that to the large contours of a possible strategy and solution that begins to look feasible and we are answerable to every step and procedure that we undertake to the clients. We take responsibilities for solutions and not reports, we are not into yielding consumer insights, rather than our interest is in making new things possible.
AS: What role do you play for companies in the retail sector?
ADS: Many of the retail design challenges that we have come across have been highly non-traditional, the problems have been wicked, which fascinates me even now. We have been involved in challenge of how to better the design centers for rural care. We have been involved in designing airports aviation experiences. We have also been involved in series of concept design challenges in relationship to communicating value, in and color and paint, both at concept & store level. This will be our approach to work even with our future projects.
AS: How exactly can one set-up his own center for innovation?
ADS: There is a belief among old-style conglomerates that they should be able to acquire and maintain expertise inhouse, but market forces don’t allow that to be implemented. If brands are serious about innovation, their inhouse resources will never be able to deliver for them because they need the promiscuity and the cross-referencing & cross-sectoral thinking that comes from servicing different sectors. Innovation is time bound; it cannot be executed setting deadlines that said it won’t remain unique forever.
AS: Do you provide any training to your working staff?
ADS: We have got people who have been trained in architecture, interaction design, in experience design, in interface design, visual design, sociology, media & communication, people with international experience working for brands. So most of our recruits are people who have relocated themselves to India from West. We also keep ourselves socially active through Facebook, Twitter etc.