Way back at the end of April we traveled to India for an intense week-long research trip. The trip was to open our eyes to the demographic and culture for the largest rebrand we've taken on so far: India's largest manufacturer of water pumps. Research is a fundamental part of any project we undertake, especially when it's for a culture we're less familiar with.
When you think of Indian water pumps, a design studio in Sheffield doesn't necessarily spring to mind. Last year we worked on a rebrand for Texmo Precision Castings - based in the UK, but with a production plant in the US & India. The rebrand was well received, which opened up a conversation with the Indian water pump company about working together. Their vision is one of innovation and quality, with a visual identity that hasn't changed in 10 years. It had been added to over the years, which had only added to the visual confusion. They also liked the idea of working with a western studio, to bring a different thought process than what they were used to in India.
We packed our bags, had 64 injections and set off on a sweaty adventure.
Our time was short, and our itinerary heavy. We flew from Heathrow to New Delhi, and then directly to Coimbatore in the south which was our base for a few days. We had a drive over to Kerala, then flights to Bangalore, Pune and then back up north to New Delhi. Our time was spent speaking to company management, conducting workshops with the in-house design team, and traveling the country to visit the local dealerships (they have nearly 1500 dealers throughout India).
India has a strong and fierce water pump market. Water pumps are a necessity for everyone in India, it's like the equivalent of having a boiler over here. The agriculture sector depends on them to feed their crops, as do the small rural villages and the huge cities to bring water into their homes and businesses.
What is very different to what we're used to is the buying culture. The local farmers will group together and travel to a dealership together (sometimes driving for hours) to purchase a pump. It's seen to many as a day out to celebrate, rather than an inconvenience.
We were already slightly obsessed with the colour and vibrancy of Indian typography, from the wall paintings to the incredible lorries and trucks. This vibrancy is carried visually throughout India, so much so that everything starts to blend into one, screaming for attention. This was great for us to see, as the odd piece of advertising which chose to be simple and stripped back grabbed your attention, a tactic we could look to use ourselves.
We didn't hit the tourist spots (for the whole week we saw 1 or 2 other westerners) and so got to see the 'real India' which is a beautiful place in parts, and a chaotic headache in others. The security process at the airport is a joke, the roads are madness and it gets slightly hotter than the surface of the sun, other than that it's an amazing place. We took an awful lot from our short visit - it answered a lot of questions and gave us a real insight into the cultural diversity of the country, which in turn makes our never-ending strive for a great idea with sound rationale a little easier. All in all it was an invaluable experience.
We're well into the project, and have just presented the first stage of work with the client, who were very happy, thankfully (there was even a high-five thrown in half way through). A large part of the first stage is a bespoke typeface which we're working with Indian Type Foundry to make a reality. English is well spoken/read in India, but we're also working with Devanagari, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada which is as challenging as it is interesting.
We're now planning stage 2, which includes a full rollout and digital application. We'll be showing some of our rejected routes and ideas in a few weeks, with a rough timescale of launching the rebrand early 2018.
A note on Delhi belly. It is real. Ask Dave.