In The Economist it has recently been written that, although Indian artists enjoy an international following, India’s design industry is scarcely known or recognised, even in India. The two-day India Design Forum, which was held in Delhi on 9-10 March, was meant to promote India’s distinctive design aesthetic, bringing together 700 Indian designers, architects and students.
Inspired by the Dubai Design Forum four years ago, Rajshree Pathy, an Indian entrepreneur and contemporary-art collector, went “knocking on doors” for sponsors in India but was regularly rejected. Most think that design has little relevance to their own work and is only a subject for fashion and luxury goods. The conference’s list of 40 sponsors includes only two manufacturing and infrastructure companies: Punj Lloyd, a leading engineering group, and Titan, a watch manufacturer in the Tata group.
Ms. Pathy wonders why design companies in places like Paris and New York often involve Indian craftsmen and designs, but India doesn’t. According to her, the problem is the lack of a “design” thinking in India, in part because the education system is too structured to allow for much creativity. Yet India, with its massive human potential, can bridge these gaps; this is what Mike Knowles, a British furniture designer and dean of the Delhi-based Sushant School of Design, thinks.
Auspiciously, the forum’s 700 delegates were young and included 100 students. The dull products, poor quality and inefficiencies of India’s pre-1991 controlled economy are becoming less acceptable in the new Indian consumer society.