Saptarshi Prakash, Product Design Manager @ Swiggy
What led you into design?
I was in the eighth standard. Back in those days, computers came with photoshop installed in it. I had one, too. I started playing around with that. I would edit pictures, change the color of my shirt and other things. Just for fun. That was my first venture if I can call it that, into the design.
I studied electrical engineering at IIT, Madras. I figured that there are a lot of resources available and I took help from a lot of seniors who are passionate and are also self-learners.
Back in those days, it was mostly graphic design though. I graduated in 2014, and slowly Android phones and iPhones were entering the market. I never thought I'd be taking up design as a profession, so I took up a managerial job. I was a product manager in an MNC in Bangalore, after getting placed from IIT.
There was an upcoming design industry in 2015, it was all over the news with great designs and everything. I was told to give it a shot, but I wasn't too sure. Some were saying they were the best designers in the country and I haven't even studied design. But, I thought of giving it a try.
There was a case study, I solved that, and a couple of interviews later I was in. That's how I got into professional design.
Where do you get the inspiration to design?
Most of the time, I don't have to look for inspiration. Because I'm usually motivated, and there are lots of switches that keep running in my mind. That's largely because I tend to observe things closely. I think and see the world like a designer would. I can't unsee designs in anything. It's not in any critical way, just became a habit. Almost everything that I see, I connect to my work a lot. Don't want to call it a good or bad thing, this is how it is.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
I really like CRED app. It’s an app for paying credit card bills, and what I like about CRED is the onboarding. Onboarding is a fairly long process, where you need to give your PAN number, and it searches the database, and it pulls out your credit scores. When you're doing it, there is a good chance that you might drop off without waiting. But the way they have made it, with the likes and rewards in terms of visuals and animations and doing things differently. As a user, I was not put off.
In addition to that, I really love the delivery system of Swiggy. I believe it is very reliable. User experience doesn't always have to be within the digital realm alone, what makes Swiggy great is so many things like our operations and all.
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
I like to call myself a storyteller. That's an important thing for us designers. Everyone talks and everyone shows or tells you a lot of things. But what becomes interesting or compelling is a story. So I would like to believe that I'm a good storyteller. I also hope that my work and whatever I do kind of reflects that.
To give you an example, you can write a blog post on anything and everything. When I'm writing it, I ensure that I am not doing another blog post and another that comes under 90% of the things that you see on the internet.
So, when I write a blog I ensure people will find it valuable and interesting and perhaps learn something out of it. So yes, I would say it's my storytelling capacity or capability. Storytelling is certain information that you're communicating to someone else, in a certain way. That's pretty much our work. When we are designing a product, there is a set of information or the set of things that we ask the user to do or tell the user. We tell it in a certain way, which the user would like that's essentially storytelling.
What design challenges do you face at your company?
What I've observed is design, after a while, is all about taking the right decisions. We do a lot of hands-on work, we create screens, open colours, and we write stuff and all, but at the end of the day, what becomes challenging are the decisions that take. The way it works is you identify a problem. The problem can be anything. Let's say people want food in their homes but they don't want to step out because there's a lot of traffic in the city.
So what can we do about it? That is a problem. In a broad way, Swiggy is a solution. Now for a broader problem, I am giving you an example of a broader answer. Now they can be minute problems, right? There are a lot of restaurants that people don't want to eat restaurant food, which is full of masala every day. People want something that is sober, something that is in a home-cooked, or something they don't have to order every day. Okay, that's a problem.
The solution that we have found is okay, why don't we get all the home chefs and home-style meals and get a subscription. And that's how we started this new app, Swiggy Daily.
The way we identify this problem and then when finally, we when we ship a solution in the form of a feature or an app, there's a huge space, which we call, the designing and the building age. The decisions that we take there, I believe, are the most challenging parts.
At Swiggy and also any other organization, I can pretty confidently say that because it can be as simple as just change the items to something which home style and people just go ahead and buy that. And it doesn't end here.
When I tell you I'll buy you a burger from McDonald's. You will know what it is, because you have seen McDonald's and you have eaten a burger from McDonald's. When I tell you that, I'm going to give a veg North Indian thali from Mrs. Kapoor. How would you feel? Because you don't know who Mrs. Kapoor is, she's a home chef. In that case, one of the things that I need to show or tell you so that you get the confidence to buy a thali from Mrs. Kapoor.
Any advice for ambitious designers?
Think like a designer. See the world around you as a designer would. The world is filled with stuff that is designed, well designed, badly designed, and a regular person might not see all the good and the bad aspects of these designs. But a designer will. It takes a bit of practice to understand and to be able to critique all these designs, and that's what many people out there might say that design is thinking.
For example, I use a microwave at home for everything. There are a lot of buttons on it, and I barely use three of them. The question arises in my mind if this microwave is designed only for me, would I have had all of these buttons? Or is there a possibility that I redesign to something that is very simple, very easy and has the correct interface. This is because I look at the microwave not just as a regular user but as a designer. Hence I figured out that the interface could have been better. And my other advice would be to be a doer. Someone who does things. You have to step up and take action for things that you need to prioritize