I left home at the age of 20, when I received a scholarship to study in London. That - changed me forever. It made me realize how big the world really is. How every culture has a different take on life. And how much your immediate environment governs and dictates your viewpoint about your own life.
I knew then, that I wanted to see more definitions of life in different parts of the world. Languages spoken, breakfasts eaten, clothes worn, transits taken, all of it fascinates me. This curiosity has led me to live in Bombay, London, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, and currently Atlanta. It has also led me to travel and invest in experiences.
My best travel adventure so far- A road trip from San Francisco to New York.
A User Journey helps identify gaps and challenges that exist in a product/experience. By observing the user in their contextual environment, we can better understand their habits, mindsets, behaviors, and expectations. It often leads to uncovering aspects of the problem that were earlier unidentified thus opening avenues for holistic problem solving rather than isolated solutions.
While mapping out a User Journey for an outdoors retailer, we discovered that their sales were down not because of their competitors, but because people preferred the idea of Netflix and chill on a long weekend rather than going outdoors. Which helped create a digital solution that made the outdoors more accessible and browseable rather than "pushing more products". This is a perfect example of Sales being a by-product of solving tangential problems.
After almost 4 years of fast paced agency life, I was forced to take a sabbatical. I didn't see it at that time, but in hindsight it may have been the best thing that could happen to my career. Creative explorations, mindfulness and working on my self, has been an incredible journey. We get so lost in our work that before we realize, years pass by and we're the same person. This sabbatical made me realize how important it is to pause, reflect, learn new things, fail, grow and evolve into the future self we always wanted to be.
Here's an example of a competitive audit we conducted for a leading Hospitality brand. What could have been a boring excel sheet was transformed into a smart and insightful collection of visuals that helped present the findings in a way that wasn’t "boring".
Turning data and research findings into deliverables that are shareable and engaging is important. No matter how good the research/strategy is, if people don’t look at it, it’s of no use.
A lot has been about immigrants in the recent years. Some negative, some positive. Being an immigrant myself who has lived in 4 countries over the past 7 years, here are some traits I earned, only because I chose to leave my own country in pursuit of a better life.
I believe research is fundamental to crafting strategies and creating experiences that are RELEVANT.
A recent example of what happens if you don’t begin the process with Research - the Pepsi commercial. An idea in isolation is dangerous, research helps ground ideas and thoughts to human truths which drive our behavior. This helps us build things that resonate with people, with culture, with the times we live in. Stuff people care about.
I've always been a maker, constantly tinkering with materials, learning new techniques, getting my hands dirty. I bring this maker attitude to strategy and research. Instead of it being a passive process in front of a screen, it's an active process that involves sketching, brainstorming, observing, learning and building. I love making research and strategy tangible. Something that people can see, feel, get inspired and rally towards.
On the right is an example of the different stages of the process. The beginning being messy and scrappy. Then having the ability to identify patterns and connect the dots in a way that is insightful and present ideas in a way that is polished, engaging and shareable.
I've created a number of Briefs over the past few years. It’s not a 'one size fits all’ approach, different briefs help accomplish different tasks. Instead of it being a standardized piece of paper, it should be a dynamic experience that gets people inspired. Whether it’s done using a video, a keynote, a piece of paper, a painting - the medium should deliver the essence of the strategic narrative in a way that sparks action and conversations. Also, it isn’t something I create in isolation, it's an iterative process that champions everyone’s ambition for the project, while staying unbiased and grounded in facts.
As a part of an Anthropology class in grad school, we were tasked with doing a deep-dive on a subculture that we found interesting. I chose the Lolitas in San Francisco.
Over the next two months, I spent time discovering their world of Lolita dresses, wigs, makeup, accessories, secret codes of conduct that made them who they are.
This assignment taught me the power of trust. I had to undergo a Lolita transformation to really connect with the interviewees, and make them feel comfortable enough to open up about something that is extremely personal to them.
It taught me empathy. Spending time with them helped me truly understand their perspective on life and identity. Turns out, what drives them to carry a stuffed toy is the same as what drives us to carry an iPhone.
It taught me to respect rules and codes of conduct. In order to be accepted in a culture, there are spoken/ unspoken rules. Forming a true connection required the understanding and acceptance of these subtleties that governed the culture.
Being at an agency allows you to dabble with a varied range of industries. It makes the job so much more exciting. It keeps you on toes and lets you learn and become subject matter experts on a diverse range of topics.
The projects I worked on allowed me to better understand the following industries:
Food & Beverage.
Cosmetics and Beauty.
While working for a leading Menswear brand, we were trying to get to the bottom of the reason why our target didn't do their own shopping, instead relied on their wives. Here's an example of a 5 Whys that we did to uncover the real reason keeping them from shopping.
Step 1: Assemble a group of people.
Step 2: Identify a problem statement.
Step 3: Give 5 post-its to each individual and break off to do the 5 why's in isolation. Everyone get's 5 minutes.
Step 4: Start by asking the first "why" and subsequently follow with four other "whys".
Tip: Try to reply thoughtfully, going beyond the superficial.
Step 5: Each one shares their 5 whys. The group together looks for overlaps that could lead to the root cause(s).
My undergrad is in Fashion Design. The Apparel industry taught me to own the process, right from researching trends, ideating, to drafting patterns and sewing the final garment. It made me extremely comfortable with fast prototyping. Turning a sketch into a 3- dimensional garment is a magical process which helps you identify the problems with your idea and immediately allows you to iterate and fix it.
A compilation of weekly internet awesomeness.
10th January 2018