A ‘design studio’ to call her own
he mentors startups in India and the US. She is a regular presenter at industry conferences, an active member of several design, innovation and women forums. Her work has been covered by several publications including the Harvard Business Review. She is also a recipient of the prestigious Indira India Innovation Award. As a professional working in the field of design and product innovation, Deepa Bachu has spent the last 20 years in various capacities at leading multinational firms and technology startups. During the course of her career, Deepa has effectively handled numerous responsibilities and roles across experience design, innovation, product management, project management and product development. During her stint with software giant Intuit, Deepa was part of a team that created an app called Fasal — an SMS-based platform that provides farmers with reliable and real-time wholesale market prices. Eventually, Deepa gained expertise in creating and taking global products for both emerging markets and developed markets across multiple domains like operating systems, financial portals, business and financial management solutions and retail and information services (online, desktop and mobile). All within reach If all of this sounds like it would fit the bill of an overachiever, you’re probably right. Deepa was a kid who did consistently well in school. Those were the days when getting good grades meant taking up mathematics or science for further studies. And for Deepa, who had always been enamoured by technology, getting a degree in science seemed only the logical choice. She began her career in technology in the early days of the dotcom boom and much of her learning and growth happened on the job. But even while working a corporate job, Deepa had a desire to pursue her passion for design. “India is a country with many smart people. It is a design-led country with tremendous engineering talent; and as a result of this, there is much of untapped potential and plenty opportunities here as well. Production has reached a stage where it is no longer about just getting things done. Experience and human-machine interaction by themselves have become an important factor. As a result of this change, the design aspect of products has achieved a lot of significance and is picking up traction,” she says. It was probably this urge to create more innovative products that led to her co-founding Pensaar. Pensaar is a design strategy and consulting firm that employs human-centred approaches to create products and user experiences. The firm believes in working together with organisations as co-creators to gather insights and come up with beautiful products. Deepa likes to call it a ‘design studio’ where you can dream and make unexpected designs. She also believes that design and product have a symbiotic relationship. As a mentor to many startups, she figures her role entails thorough understanding of product functionality. Having been a part of the corporate ladder, as well as having donned the entrepreneurial hat, Deepa has seen it all — power, struggle and success. Which is why she is keen to voice her concerns about the present state of women in Indian workplaces. She concedes that women are a minority in technology as you go up the ranks. She recalls times when she was the only woman in a conference room filled with men. “It is important to have more diversity in our educational system. Also, women can do more as leaders than when they are in positions with little or no power; so it is imperative for us to create an inclusive environment,” she avers. To those girls who are trying to make a fruitful career in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas, Deepa has some sound advice. “Reinforcement is of utmost importance. Do not make excuses and keep the faith. Many women tend to give up their jobs for the sake of marriage or family. But I think they throw their hat out of the ring way before its time. I would say, make your job worthwhile. It is possible to make it all happen if you plan well. Don’t overthink,” asserts the mother of two. Speaking of overthinking, Deepa remembers this one time when a manager told her that she had done a good job, to which she replied with, “Well, I could have done better.” Don’t do it, she says. “You always deserve the words of praise you receive at work. Women must learn to handle compliments. And if you’re uncertain or flattered, just say thank you and stop at it,” she maintains.