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Mobile is a shallow boundary and about to be broken, says Tanay Kumar of Fractal Ink Design Studio – Linked by Isobar

Kumar, Co-Founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, along with Priyanka Agrawal, Co-Founder, COO, Chief Strategy Officer, tells how the experience design and consultancy agency is working towards developing a culture of innovation and disruption within corporates. They discuss how the agency is keeping its expectations buoyant despite the economic slowdown after growing at 30% year-on-year

With technology changing the way how enterprises work today, for companies, big or small, embarking on their journey up the digital ladder has become a norm for their growth and business. The integration of digital technology into all areas of a business is fundamentally changing how companies operate and deliver value to customers. Agencies are now riding on newer technologies to support such designing outlook for businesses.

For Fractal Ink Design Studio – Linked by Isobar, which believes mobile is a black box and shallow at the moment, which is about to be broken yet, it is the time to stay one step ahead. Having completed the digital ecosystem for Aditya Birla Payment Bank in the past, the agency also built the Voot application and an omni-channel experience for Raymond, designed Shemaroo’s OTT platform and is now building one for the Bombay Municipal Corporation.

Tanay Kumar

Tanay Kumar, Co-Founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer (CCO) of Fractal Ink Design Studio - Linked by Isobar, discussed with how digital disruption and transformation in a market has to be looked at optimistically. Apart from discussing the digital explosion, Kumar, along with Priyanka Agrawal, Co-Founder, COO, Chief Strategy Officer, also talked about the agency’s expansion and growth plans.

Priyanka Agrawal

Starting off in 2010 with a team of seven people, Agrawal said they started when a lot of companies were getting into digital as an entry point but there were hardly any discussion on how digital products and transformation were going to be delivered — and that is where they saw an opportunity.

Having witnessed how user experience as a domain shaped up products, and was at the heart of transformation in Western countries, the team believed that being an early starter it can own the domain.

In 2016, when DAN had acquired the agency, Kumar said they got access to a wide support system and global exposure. The 120-strong agency now operates from Mumbai with its small presence in Gurgaon and Bangalore.

The agency aims to double its work force in another two years. With an objective to own geographies that are waking up to the digital revolution, Kumar said countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Africa have a lot of potential. “India used to have the kind of audiences that currently exist in Africa. So Africa is big for us and we are eyeing that.”

The agency’s revenue is split evenly between India and abroad. Business has been growing equally in India abroad at 25-30% from last year. While expectations are quite high, Kumar said because of the economic upheaval, some of the sectors that needed to be high on digital, such as automobiles, a big driver of digital businesses, are seeing a slowdown. The agency is banking high on the African, Indonesian and Malaysian markets to keep afloat.

Discussing how exactly the agency digitally transforms businesses, Agrawal said they first assesses the entire service blueprint of companies and then find gaps where they can digitally improve things. Based on it, it creates a road map with requirements of digital products such as applications, websites or branding solutions.

“It is a more strategic-level thinking and designing than just UI or UX. Anything and everything that comes with the customers at various touch points is something which we deliver and in terms of newer technologies, voice experiences, AR is something we will be experimenting on.”

With an objective to transform business and not market any product, the agency positions itself more of a consultancy.

Speaking on why the agency embarks on newer technologies, Kumar said, “It is because mobile is just a black box that we have right in front of us. Mobile is definitely a boundary that is very shallow at the moment, it is about to be broken. We are going to an age where everything is going to be smarter. We are trying to build some scenarios that are hypothetical in nature and trying to experiment with AI, VR, AR. These experiments will help us to really showcase our clients that we are thinking ahead of time.”

For an agency that is thinking ahead of time, in terms of tech-based solutions, which are yet to be adopted in a country like India, challenges cannot be no lesser. 

Agrawal said the first challenge is of readiness in the marketing departments about adopting solutions and putting them out in the market and being the first movers. “To do something disruptive, or to do something that is different than ahead of the curve, it takes a lot of convincing. Doing experimentation with live clients is a little bit of a challenge. Disruption doesn't have a price at the moment in the country. They will have to wait till some disruptor comes in and disrupt that market. There is no proactive market. ”

To imbibe the culture of design thinking, and then keeping design at the centre of the clients, the agency conducts a lot of workshops with them to get into place a corporate innovation model, the culture of innovation and disruption.

Having worked with clients across categories, Kumar said the base of BFSI clients is widest. As newer segments open up to technology, this is what he calls is a sweet spot for the agency.  It is now working with the Mumbai transport department to design their application, and with KPMG to educate BMC to develop an understanding of designing.

Kumar said with digital becoming unavoidable, and devoid of the geographies, it has brought people on a par. He said with this, it has become a great equaliser in terms of the digital capabilities.

But at the same time, Kumar said with technology going too fast, there are chances that humans will not be able to catch up with it. Technologies such as AI, NLP, and ML are learning about human beings at a much faster scale, and people have to be conscious of the fact that how this technology can come back to human beings.

“With this, a lot many companies are cashing in on these technologies that are experimental in nature. These technologies still have not found real value in the real world, because it is uncertain whether people are ready to accept it or not. Future machines can also take decisions on our behalf, which is dangerous. With this, designers, media and companies will have to become more ethical. A very few people have the power to actually use that technology and deliver it. We cannot just think about our revenue but beyond that.”

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