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Why is Direct Exposure to the Environment and Problems Important to Solving a Complex Problem?

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet and interact with Shradha Sharma, the founder of Your Story. Coming from Bihar and witnessing her rise to prominence in the Startup world, we, along with many others, have looked up to her as an inspiration. Interestingly, I had been messaging Shradha for almost two years without receiving a reply. However, a series of fortunate events led to her finally responding on WhatsApp, resulting in a one-hour meeting at Lemon Tree Hotel in Patna. Following this meeting, she graciously introduced us to two crucial individuals within the same industry, one with insider knowledge and the other having significant experience. Unfortunately, I am unable to mention their names in this essay.

Another fan moment, honestly, I look better than this (lol)

Before we delve into the second part of this essay, let's highlight an important lesson. If any of you are in the early stages of building your own venture, I strongly recommend reaching out to people like Shradha Sharma, Nithin Kamath, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, and others who have made a mark in their respective fields (It might take longer - it took me 2 years - but they come with gravity). Connecting with such individuals can be incredibly valuable, as it might have taken much longer for us to establish contact with the aforementioned gentlemen if not for Shradha's assistance. Thanks to her, we obtained their contact information and engaged in a 45-minute conversation with them, where we were able to validate many of our thoughts and approaches towards solving the problem - making quality healthcare affordable for 1.2 billion Bhartiya.

I started Jile Health after facing a personal problem, and we have been on the ground from day 0 hence our thought processes and approach to solving the problem - Making quality Healthcare affordable for the bottom 90% of Bhartiya - has been completely different. When you receive validation for these thought processes from individuals with more experience in the same domain or from subject matter experts, it bolsters your conviction. However, it leads to introspection regarding what sets you apart from the status quo. In my view, there is no better answer than our direct exposure to the environment and the issues we aim to address. We have been on the ground since the beginning - Day 0.

This direct exposure to the environment and the problems it entails fosters much-needed empathy towards the problem and the target group. The ability to solve a problem, in my opinion, is closely tied to one's ability to empathize with the problem and the target group. This empathy eliminates preconceived notions and biases, directing your focus towards building solutions from the perspective of the target group rather than an imagined persona. Let's substantiate this with some success stories.

As I love exploring the History of everything. I can recall stories of some of the world's successful products/companies and artists that helped them win the market or build a compiling product just because they had direct exposure to the environment and problems or at least they exposed themselves to the environment and problems.

Let’s get started:

Story-1: P&G’s Razor design for the Indian market

Around 2007, Alan G Lafley, the CEO of P&G, contemplated expanding the company's presence into developing markets like India and China. The research and product design team initially believed they could design a suitable product for Asian consumers without observing users in action because they could find enough Indians in the USA and take their feedback. However, Alan insisted that the team visit India, meet actual users, and observe their habits before proceeding with Razor prototype development. The team was initially reluctant, deeming the trip a potential waste of time.

Nonetheless, the research and design team journeyed to India, spent several days with actual customers, and observed their shaving routines. What they discovered was eye-opening. In the USA the actual customers use an open flow of water during shaving with Razor. The razors of those consumers were compact in shape - that means flow (Pressure) was necessary to clean those razors. But in India, customers use still water - water in a small mug - and there was no way the Razor that was working well for USA customers could have worked for Indian consumers as well. This means they had to design a new Razor from scratch.

The research and design team designed the new razor on paper for Indian customers on the plane while coming back after the user research. And according to the team - this was the best thing they had done in a while. (WoW).

Story 2: Pixar's Research for "Monster University" Animation:

The Pixar team were building the animated movie “Monster University” (I have not watched the movie yet, but it is related to renowned USA universities). The first thing the production team did was: They formed a research team and asked them to visit all the monster Universities - MIT, Stanford, Princeton etc.

The research team visited each and every part of those Universities and created detailed notes. This allows the production team to bring authenticity to their animation. And the box office success of the movie is a testament to the effectiveness of the above approach.

Story 3: SS Rajamoli’s Bees movie by capturing bees in his Fridge:

In India, the eminent filmmaker SS Rajamouli undertook an unconventional approach when crafting his visually stunning movie, "Bees" (Makhi). He captured bees in his refrigerator and observed them for weeks or months to gain a deep understanding of their behaviour. This unique experience allowed him to infuse authenticity and relevance into the bee-related aspects of his movie. The subsequent success of "Bees" catapulted SS Rajamouli to worldwide fame, affirming the effectiveness of his approach. I think this approach could be one of the reasons he has been one of the successful creators who has been able to attract audiences from every corner of the world.

In a recent conversation with a painter during the Bihar Innovation Challenge, I sought to understand the creative process behind painting. I inquired whether painters first conceive an idea and then execute it on canvas or if they pick up a brush, allowing the painting to take shape spontaneously. The painter conveyed that, for any artist, the initial formation of the painting in their mind is crucial. This process relies on exploration and direct exposure to the environment and the subject matter. This insight may explain why the world's greatest painter, Leonardo da Vinci, spent months and years outdoors, meticulously sketching his surroundings.

The fact is, without direct exposure to environments and problems - it is not possible to keep your biases away. And this is the reason, our approaches and thought processes have been different from the rest of the industries because we have direct exposure to the environment and problem

Thanks for reading, if you find this essay insightful, you can subscribe to my blog as I write every week, and you can also share this in your network…

I shall see you all the next week

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