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A brief recap

A recap on my first semester of International Business Management.

While it was a demanding semester, it was just as exciting throughout. I come from a computer science background and so this was in many was uncharted waters for me. The course by itself has been very well structured. In Fundamentals of Business management where we were introduced to the five main aspects of a business. International trade and environment has educated me to the finer points of running a business in the global scenario. I was able to correlate and better utilize a lot of concepts in each of my subjects. For example, researching for my assignments in Fundamentals of Business Management (there were 5!) helped me while working for my Design thinking and International Project Management projects. As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, both these subjects have given me an opportunity to utilize class concepts in real projects with real life consequences. Importantly I have also learnt to manage time and resources in the real sense.

I have learnt to experiment with the concept of redesigning in the context of marketing and operations. Not only just in class, I was even able to make better sales in my part time job by employing a few techniques about empathy and stastical placement that we learnt in our course work. Also working in diverse teams has improved me as a team player.

Its time now to finish the final assignment for this semester and finalise the layout for the magazine for the website.

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Business Justification

While studying Prince2 in International Project Management I came across a term ‘Business Justification’. Business Justification means there is a valid reason for doing the project and stays as such for the entire duration of the project. As long as the business is justified, the project is wort investing and undertaking.

Working on two different projects simultaneously in very different environments has been interesting. I have been able to incorporate the best of what I learn and explore different angles in each project. For example, I have been able to segment and structure how I envision the end product shall look like in Design thinking and map a rudimentary approach towards the same. On the other hand, I have been able to use factors such as innovation, redesigning, empathy and re-framing of the questions for my tasks in Project management.

Coming back to business justification, we had to change ideas in Design thinking as there was no sufficient reason to keep working on the original idea. Similarly, there have been setbacks in the creation of our current magazine. But the idea stays afloat as we have been able to provide reason to continue working on it. Setbacks and failure do not signal a dead end. They only encourage you to find a better alternative to get through the roadblock. I have been able to utilize methods and techniques that I come across in both my subjects and use them to overcome obstacles. Looking forward to learning and implementing what I learn in my upcoming module of International Business Strategy with Simulation.

Marching onward with the business idea

Now that we have started developing the product, the sheer number of factors that we must take into consideration has us wishing for an extra day in every week and a spare set of hands. Thankfully dividing tasks within the group has reduced the workload and provided a structure to the product development. I oversee the development of the website and its maintenance. Having a computer science degree has been helpful.

I have started working on the framework and how the layout can be made for easy accessibility and be aesthetically pleasing. This has involved in going through many well-established magazines and newspapers as they have similar content. One of the challenges that I have come across is making the layout agile and scalability. Also, a key factor is having pages respond quickly. This also includes loading of the page and its associated links. As the development of the website progresses, we will also have to consider a major aspect; security.

As the process is in the initial phase, security and scalability is of lesser importance as compared to working on the layout and connecting databases. As and when more content is available, changes will have to be made accordingly.

Simultaneously the rest of the team members are working on creating and sourcing the actual content for the magazine. It is exciting to see how the development progresses. The business development can be compared to putting together a jigsaw puzzle; one has to make many tries until you find the correct corresponding piece.

Finalising the product

Initially we came us with a substitute for access key cards as our business product. The idea being to convert the traditional key cards that are so widely used everywhere instead of keys into a more portable ring version. The rings would use the same existing NFC-RFID technology that businesses use. We would incorporate the chip into a ring. This would require minimum re-configuring of the chips and need minimum investment on their (the business’s) part. Although this solved the problem of portability and reduce the factor of misplacement, we overlooked the fact that an organization would not consider replacing an existing solution unless it became obsolete or had some flaws as it required some investment however small. So, considering all such factors and feedback from peers and professors we decided to discard the idea. Taking into consideration that this was our first idea and accepting that it would not develop into the product that we envisioned was difficult.

The product that we finally decided to proceed with is a magazine. The magazine shall have content by Indian students studying in the UK. The content shall be inclusive of stories, blogs and insights about their experiences of studying and general living in the UK among other information. The magazine will also act as a guide to new and prospective students. We had to research about how magazines source content and make it appealing to their customers. When we presented this idea to the panel at Dragon’s Den, they provided a lot of inputs and suggested important changes that would make the idea more attractive. One of the major changes suggested was to make the magazine available on the digital platform.

Based on feedback and research we have now started building the product. We have divided the construct of the magazine into two parts. One is developing the actual website and the other to source content and prospective investors for the magazine. We also need to create an MVP (minimum viable product) to test the product before creating the actual product. Throughout this process I have been able to learn and gain insights about the various aspects of creating the product as a business. As the business is in its initial stages I am looking forward to the various challenges that shall come up during its developments.

Business Model Canvas for our business

To quote Jeremy Clarkson- “How hard can it be?”

 

As it turns out; extremely. In Design Thinking for startups, the first product that we came up with was dropped after a lot of consideration and feedback. In class we were introduced to the Business Model Canvas. The business model canvas helps to segment and bifurcate various factors that are required to plan a business. This model was very useful in deciding and finalizing our current product. The model acts as a guide while starting up a process as it helps to divide the various aspects of the business. It is also helpful in justifying or rejecting the business idea as one can list the positives and negatives of the business graphically. After going through a few models that well-established businesses have adopted, we went through our own business idea and incorporated ideas and solutions that fit in with our business. This also enabled us to communicate our expectations within the group step by step.

The various blocks of the lean business model canvas that we have focused on at present:

Problem- The issue/problem that you intend to solve.

Customer Segment- The target customer segments that require a solution for the said problem.

Unique Value Proposition- What value do you intend to deliver and what your solution has to offer that makes it worth investing or purchasing.

Solution- The solution that you wish to offer your target customer for the problem that you intend to address.

Cost Structure- Tentative cost of creating and sustaining the business. Forecasting additional costs and anticipating return on investment.

canvas model

Thus, this model has been very effective not only in helping us to structure our business but also help in creating the actual product. Post this we have now started to actually build the product which shall be discussed in upcoming blogs.

 

References

Heflo.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.heflo.com/blog/business-management/lean-business-model-canvas/ .

Medium. (2019). An Introduction to Lean Canvas – Steve Mullen – Medium. [online] Available at: https://medium.com/@steve_mullen/an-introduction-to-lean-canvas-5c17c469d3e0 .

 

What is a good design ?

 
If asked, this would be my reply ‘A design which not only fulfills its purpose of satisfying its expectations effectively but is also aesthetically pleasing’.
A recent trip to the design museum at Kensington, enlightened me to some important aspects about designing. The process of designing is something of a three-way communication between three entities; User, Designer, Maker. A good designer captures the user’s requirement and translates them graphically and elaborately to the maker, who in turn makes the actual product/service.
But is there a logic behind how the process should happen? Are innovation and redesigning the same? Can the user’s need prompt the designer to design a solution to address the need, or can an existing product be redesigned to better cater to the user? Both the approaches are in a way necessary to the designing process. For example, the car was invented to address a certain need and it has been redesigned ever since. Without the need, the car would have never existed and conversely, the model which was built by Karl Benz in 1886 would not have survived unless improvements were made in that design. In this scenario, Karl Benz was the user, designer and the maker. Effective communication between all three entities is very important. The car for example has not had any radical changes in its primitive design. New technology, user needs, environmental changes, different requirements have caused innovation and improvements in various aspects. The change could have been availability of better roads post world war or access to embedded systems. Some changes are enforced while some evolve with time. The designer must grasp these requirements and design a solution to address the said problem. The maker in turn must develop the product to complete the cycle. Use of materials, technology and resources is the maker’s responsibility. At any point during the process the user, designer or the maker can be more than one entity.
Also, design itself plays an important role for any business. A company is identified by its logo and name. Memorable companies are just defined by their logos. May it be the three-point star of Mercedes-Benz or the blue and white adapted by BMW from the Bavarian flag or Google in its simplest illustration. Inputs from a Graphic designer have educated me about the sheer number of iterations that go into designing, redesigning and finalizing a logo or design. Designing solutions for businesses and client needs also follow a similar procedure. The better users can translate their needs to the business, the more effective a solution can be developed.
Thus, innovation requires redesigning. Although innovation by itself does not imply improvement, the reason to innovate is often to improve and better an existing design.

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References:

Design Museum. (2019). Home. [online] Available at: https://designmuseum.org/ .

Finding your feet

As a part of my curriculum, (as of now) I am a part of 2 major team-based projects. One in Design thinking for startups and the other in International Project Management. This is a very interesting experience as both the team involvements are very different. With International Project Management, we have been given a project mandate and are supposed to complete the project with a predefined goal. The team manager (who is rotated at stipulated intervals, to expose all members of the team to this role of responsibility) delegates roles and responsibilities for the task at hand depending upon the current progress. This is then cross-checked and improved upon at every team meeting. Thus, there is a clear understanding of the project requirements and one’s role in the setup.

On the other hand, for Design Thinking, we must articulate a problem and define a solution for the selected issue. This is an iterative process as any said problem is not necessarily an issue than needs to be solved. Similarly designing a solution is equally challenging as the solution of choice, is often neither the most optimal nor the most desired. This process leads us back to the drawing board. Although this is tedious, I have come to realise the various facets that go into making decisions, the different factors that must be considered and more importantly, whatever you come up with can always be bettered. If there is a perfect approach to this, I have yet to come across it. Even so, I have learnt that with each iteration the process is smoother. May it be redesigning or completely scrapping the idea and starting the process all over, the mistakes and assumptions previously made are extremely helpful.

The first product idea we came up with was very handy. It was extremely minimal and had a wide range of uses. The biggest flaw was that it catered to a problem which did not exist and required change which was not needed at present. We were so focused on finding the solution that we forgot to ask the right questions.

Thus, both the projects are different and have different approaches. As the end product is known in Project Management, the process (though extremely demanding), is easier than in Design thinking where the entire process takes place in unchartered waters. And this makes the journey exciting not only as it requires skills which push me to the extremes but also because it requires me to discover the process myself.