I ran and I ran with all the strength that I could muster, the floor
felt very smooth. Between my foot and its soul, I wondered how it would
be to just lay down and feel the rubbery texture on my fingers, but then
I can’t right now, I’m in the lead, darting like a bolt of lightning,
the wind rushed beneath my hair, making it seem to the endless sea of
eyes surrounding me, as though I would achieve light speed.
Along my side were three others galloping like wild horses set
loose by an unknown jock. I was quite far ahead, I could see the
finish line luring me to cross it, but for some reason it just
kept going further away. I could feel my legs starting to give in
to the kinetic momentum that I had gained at the start of the race,
and then my body began tilting forwards, everything started slowing down,
I couldn’t push my self anymore, three of my generic competitors,
apparently had that seamless stamina backing their gut and started
pacing towards me. Sweat started pouring down my forehead
into my eyes and then it stung my eyes pretty bad.

Two of them whizzed past me like guided missiles hungry for their target,
I thought to myself “If not the first place or second, at least the third”,
I was just a few feet away from the finish line and then all of a sudden,
the third one passed me. I was disappointed, I began to cry,
It was the only race I had run for, my opponents were being cheered
by their followers and to add to the sour taste of sweat in my mouth
they were being welcomed and comforted into the arms of my favorite teachers.
I was 10 years old, It was the first time I had failed in a big way.
When I went home that day and related the situation to my father he
had laughed at the whole thing and said “Let’s order some pizza’s to celebrate”,
I was baffled then because I had assumed that he would be dissapointed,
but he had managed to turn the whole situation around.

13 years later, after many failed attempts of a 200 meter dash,
my whole life had taken a drastic change since then.
I’m a designer now, no not a fashion designer, a communication designer.
In case you don’t understand what that means you can have a look at this link.
OK, back to this article. Its been a year since I graduated now,
and rather than the typical situation of looking for a job,
I had opted out, decided to try something on my own and then
faced loss again. But I’m used to this now. No more is everything the same,
like a ship being abandoned by it’s men when hit by a torpedo,
mine was the ship that could magically stay afloat and not sink.

At Onio design, It had been my fifth month so far,
still fresh into my job, a debate had broken over
the company’s regular morning meetings as to
what had to be done on Onio’s 14th anniversary.
the ‘Monday morning meetings’ are one of those
meeting’s that set off the entire week.
-a bit about the meeting
During the meetings, project heads give us progress updates
on their respective design projects. Everyone besides the
team members and their head’s share their thoughts or give
constructive criticism as they are the outsiders:the people
who haven’t been involved in the intricate design thinking process.
A few substantial thoughts backed by intelligent visuals would
end up becoming a direction to look upon the week.
-back to the article
A place and date was soon agreed upon, on a bright peaceful
morning the employees with their families were ready to board
the bus that was hired to take us there. an hour and a half away,
it was a resort located in a huge valley, spiked with myriad
green hills, buttered with the mild omnipresence of rain,
the weather was just right for a good trek on one of those hills.

Way up the hills

Among the families were two little boys I had noticed
earlier in the bus. They were bursting with such
excitement that I had immediately visualised
someone trying to tie a flying rocket to a cannon ball.
As the formalities were being completed a guide was
assigned to take us through the flora and fauna of the hills.
Given my past, I naturally took the lead ahead of the guide.
The two boys I had seen earlier, the elder one
took a liking towards me. He was 11, ambitious to
conquer the hills and had informed me that he
had been up this way before.

Let’s name him Rocket in this article.

Some of his energy rubbed upon me, I geared up starting
on the path curving through the hill, it was exhilarating!
we jogged up the way and noticed the greenery thinning,
and stones evolving slowly over the ripe green grass.
and saw a fork he piped up and said “You wait here,
I’ll go ask the guide which way we have to go” I waited
for a few mins and thought was I like him when I was 11?,
he returned smiling and took the lead. We came across many boulders,
with cob webs sprawled across the stone, it was glistening with
rain drops embedded into the silk soft web. We both moved on
towards the hill top and ran at top speed.

Me and Rocket at the top of the Hill

I felt nostalgic, my legs had felt strong as ever and my stamina never ending.
My rocket counterpart kept the lead, we reached the hill top and saw the
group slowly ascending. I decided to take a break and sat on a boulder
basking in the feeble sun, it had a small pool of water in one of its grooves.
The valley looked as beautiful as ever, I was tempted to scale all the hills
around it. My office colleagues soon caught up and everyone appeared
slightly exhausted. We all slowly descended back down to the resort

It didn’t take too long, for any one of us to reach the base of the hill,
My little rocket friend, was enthusiastic to play football located
somewhere within the resort, but I got distracted by an old man
sitting on a bullock cart. Some of the employees were already
preparing to get on and all of a sudden, rocket pulled me onto
the cart, the seating was fragile, the wheels of the cart seemed
as though they would give away any second, the passengers were ecstatic.
The driver made a quacking noise, and without a jerk, the bulls began
moving away from the resort towards the base of the hill,
I started feeling pity and guilt as they strained slightly,
Rocket felt the same way, he yelled at the driver to stop,
all of us were caught up in a mixture of sadness and
amazement for the bulls.

Preparing for the bullock cart ride

Since the ground was littered with rocks,
the carrier that we sat on, shook frivolously,
making all our bones ache, once the road started
inclining up the hill, a mutual decision to turn
around was immediately passed between all of us.
The cart stopped for a few seconds, the driver made
a few short spurting noises and as easily,
the bulls took an immediate circular turn.
For some reason, the bulls seemed to have gained
instant energy as though the code words that the
driver spoke filled them up with getorade(energy drink)
the bulls made a dash for it, all of us were holding
on to the cart for the fear of being thrown off.

After a wild satisfying ride, a few events had been
planned by our host for the rest of the day. Now this
resort was particularly hired by companies for picnics,
special events or in our case to celebrate anniversaries.
Rather than following suit and doing what our hosts
had pre-planned for us, out of the blue, a ball came
flying in from a volley ball game being played by a
neighboring company. There was spontaneous change in
the environment it didn’t feel as though we were surrounded
by hills, instead it felt like the surrounding hill tops
transformed into conical towers filled with cheering spectators,
with flashes of cameras blinding our sights…

Somehow these things seemed to blend in quite naturally at Onio
I thought.

Immediately a game of volleyball started, memories of the same
feelings felt in my past race that I had run earlier came
back to me. we played a few brilliant games, enjoyed the
competitive spirit, laughed at each other’s comical mishaps and
developed a closer bond amongst ourselves.
Rocket couldn’t join me because of the age gap,
but as a compensation I thought I would invite him
later for a hill trek(He had enjoyed the previous
one pretty much) We had to break for
lunch when the rain started pouring heavily.

After a heavy lunch where I couldn’t stand anymore
our entire new found team had decided to move to an
isolated room, for some reason the excitement of
Rocket never seemed to end, on entering the room,
there was a large conference table, with ample seating
around it and on the sides were gym equipment,
a water dispenser, a football table, a carom board
and a big chess board.

The room was half the size of an airport hangar.

The presentation at the hangar

After a few minutes of play we were called to sit
for a presentation. Here the Director spoke of Onio’s
14 year history. Images of the company’s metamorphosis
from scratch to the present and the diversity in the
projects undertaken, during the company’s growth were displayed.
I questioned myself how one could maintain the monotony of
starting something new and eventually making it this big.
The only answer that could come into my mind was “passion”.

After the presentation, everyone had decided to head for
tea, a colleague of mine had approached me and had asked
if I had wanted to go for quick hike. I agreed and told
him I had to ask someone first. I approached Rocket and
it seemed he was tired. we were running out of time and
so we decided to trek the first hill that we came across.
on walking a bit away from the resort to the hill side,
we came across a plain looking hill, but was attached
with an odd looking boulder on its side.

It was that one, I thought.

we both silently agreed in unison and started
towards the hill, the climb was quite steep, I had changed
into flip flops during the volley ball game and found it
difficult to climb further. I was trying to scale a hill
wearing flip-flops! (had to change in between for the volleyball game)
I was half-way there when, I couldn’t go ahead anymore.
The incline was close enough to my chest and the grass
had turned icy cold to grip, then there were the irritating
rocks that had temporarily converted themselves into glass,
what with the sudden down pour of rain.

My colleague was adamant on moving forward.
I knew I couldn’t head back down since we were lacking
a rope and the slippery stones would make me fall anyway.
I decided to remove my slippers and go bare feet,
making it easier for me get a grip. I was on all four’s ready
to pull my self up. Fatigued,by the previous trek and the volley ball game.
It felt as though I was back in my 200m dash and I had to reach my finish line: the peak.
I pulled my self up and made a bolt with all four’s to the finish line.
An internal feeling of elation had passed me, I had victoriously
reached the peak of the hill, my colleague had come to sit beside me.
The landscape in the distance was marred by rain, the clouds draining
water endlessly over the valley. We sat for sometime absorbing
the endless rain, and decided to return.

On the peak we noticed a rough road and decided to tread on it.
it moved in the direction of the resort. While walking back
down with my colleague, I discussed my elated feelings and
the adrenaline pumping into my body, whilst reaching the peak.

On returning home and reflecting back. I had made a very good friend.
I had observed that a simple product like that of a ball could
create so many happy memories, bring in competition,
its various forms like basket ball, foot ball, volley ball,
could accentuate an auspicious day also bring in spirit.
a physical activity helped me with my past regret-
hills not only beautify but can also bring in wonders.

A lot more for me to learn at Onio, a day that was made best for me.

Jatin Gopal




Since it’s very first project about 14 years ago, Onio is known for introducing
game-changing innovation into the products it touches. The game-changer elements
appear in both – macro & micro contexts and it’s a pleasure to see how users
and customers recognise the innovation bits, although it’s hidden under the ‘design’ tag.
This obsession with innovation has made Onio cruise the territories effortlessly
from consulting on products to brands to strategy & business innovation.
For us at Onio it has been evident that innovation is necessary,
but certainly not a sufficient condition for customer / user delight.
At times, the efforts needed to make a product better are much more
than product innovation. From the numerous (and often unsuccessful) assignments,
the factors surrounding a successful design story appears to be quite diverse and
distinctly specific to each case. However two ingredients have always
surfaced in all successful cases.

A clever idea and a touch of fun!

In hindsight, these two factors have always guided the design team in ways like-

  • Getting more empathetic to the users, since the cleverness and fun
    claims have to be validated from users’ perspective

  • Getting emotionally involved with the product and saving ourselves
    from making drab & dry runs of ideas

  • Keeping the mind open as there is no such thing as ‘final’ design,
    if one is pushing for clever & fun ideas

  • Inadvertently keeping the boring concepts at bay, and saving ourselves
    from pushing ‘workable’ design ideas into client presentations

Keeping positive pressure for constructive feedback on ‘just critics’
within us and within the clients’ teams Continue reading


led light redesign

In a nation growing at a scorching pace and facing increasing
energy shortage, a visionary idea is to deploy energy efficient 
light emitting diodes or LEDs for lighting needs. A prominent
Pune-based company approached OnioMax to conceptualize and
design luminaries for a solar-powered LED lighting system
that they were launching.

OnioMax designed the LED luminaires in various configurations
for multiple applications. These luminaires will play an important
role in lighting up advertising billboards in India as also many
other applications. A team of innovative product designers and
engineers from OnioMax also redesigned an entire range of LED
lamps for a global player in LED lighting systems. 

With a major segment of conventional lamp replacement market in sight, 
this MNC client was very pleased with the project delivered by OnioMax.


car design

car sketch

In a world of nuclear families, studio apartments and virtual realties;
some cars are legendary machines that benefit from unrivalled heritage,
crafted with fantasy and driven by opulence. At OnioMax, we are pushing
the limits of Design and Prototyping for a historic makeover to some
classic models in the Indian automotive market. In collaboration with the
core engineering team and OEM’s, this project has further strengthened
our expertise in the field of Automotive Design for the Indian market.


mobile phone

A large multinational company mandated Onio Design to conduct research
on energy consumption in the Bottom of Pyramid segment of rural India.
For this challenging and socially relevant project, a team of
design professionals and ethnographers from the OnioNxt vertical
travelled to four states in India for an elaborate design research.

The research revealed interesting insights about rapidly shifting
economic and cultural parameters and various segments within rural India.
The team later took this learning to the drawing boards and came up
with user-centric products and future-ready strategic
business models for rural India.


Onio has been working on the mega-trends for India for almost
6 years now. Yearly research that connects us to more than
200 consumers and trend-hotspots in India culminates into
Trend report and a workshop. Onio’s design research and
innovation strategy practice relies heavily on yearly updates
from this research. Here is a snapshot of what’s new in
India-Working out at gym is nothing new to those connected with IT.

Shifting the activity to break the monotony of break-neck
pace of life is the new mantra that borrows a few hints
from the IT set-ups. It is not a lazy Sunday afternoon
and nor it is a running away to weekend jaunt that is ‘unwinding’.
It is not a seamless switch of activities, change of rhythm,
mix of micro and macro, home and hotel, work and fun that will
create a soothing new energy. Expect hybrid product characters,
mixed zone spatial treatments, advanced versions of quick connect
technologies like QR codes, DIY multi-role products and airport
like accents will dot the design directions or 2012-13.


Onio turned 14 on 14th July 2011. Three testing business cycles in the
last fourteen years tested everything from our views on the core of
innovation to our resolve to our business processes to our very approach
to business. In the fast evolving economy bubbling with increasingly
aware consumers, India-centric innovation is just about taking shape.
I remember the very first years of Onio where we were struggling to find
product design assignments and were actually forced to take up
graphic-design assignments for sheer survival. For some time, we had
almost become a dotcom portal design company.

The beginning of design-led innovation renaissance in India started only
in the last 5-6 years. It has happened not because home-grown companies
developed a love for design and innovation; but because the foreign
companies started feeling the need to differentiate their products in
the emerging economies. Everyone is a winner in the scene that is unfolding now.

Innovation frontiers are getting pushed for the better. Keener and deeper
understanding of emerging users is becoming a de facto method for new product
development. Statistics, though being the backbone of any decision, has now
found a competent partner in qualitative research methods. This rapidly
changing scenario affected Onio in many ways. In the world of modern design
and innovation which has luminaries starting from Leonardo da Vinci,
fourteen years are really nothing.

Each day, new start-ups are being born out of new energy and confidence
of emerging India and stories of ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’ are polishing
new beautiful minds. Onio is a small flicker in this illumined new world
of innovation. This small flicker is the marching light for tomorrow. 
We believe in this and strive together with all our clients, suppliers,
partners, remote well-wishers and the families who support us day in and day out.

Manoj Kothari

Continue reading