Instant Craft Transaction

Aim

To help poor and illiterate farmers connect to the market using new technologies.

Summary

Artisans and craftsmen of North-eastern India are blessed with innumerable skills but currently they are swamped by their problems like deteriorating financial status, broken communications link with the market and remote geographical location. We used ethnography to study their current business model and conducted research on their working process interviewing NGO’s, studying government policies, etc. A new business model was developed using mobile technology which accomplishes the primary goal of improving the quality of life of craftsmen along with creates more job opportunities, centralizes and moderates the whole business process. Low-fi prototypes were generated and tested.

My Role (What did I do, learn)

I was involved in ethnography and spent time with Craftsmen learning about their day to day life and their working patterns and structure. I was instrumental in designing the questionnaires and user research questions for the online survey and was part of the team who interviewed the NGO’s and local craft store managers and employees. I also brainstormed with the team to design the initial ideas and participated in the validation phase. Later I was involved in storyboarding and designing the wireframes and prototypes in Flash lite of the mobile software.

Design and Methodology

The Data Collection phase started with discussions with CCI (Craft Council of India) and conducting user survey at Pragjyotika, NEDFi, a highly popular exhibition place for craft items in Guwahati. Several online interactions with NGO’s from all over India and multiple unstructured interviews/discussions with local craftsmen enabled us to understand and model the present structure underlying the production, distribution, consumption cycle.

To understand the system and illustrate the process in a better way several storyboards and UML diagrams were constructed in different phases of the project. (use images) Four entities involved in the current system were identified:

  1. Customer
  2. Retailer
  3. Intermediates
  4. Craftsmen

To understand the contextual need of the project and to understand what the consumers want, an online consumer survey was conducted with a user base of 200 spread across 32 cities. It was reported from the user study that general people often buy craft items and mostly for decorative purposes. Our belief in the project was reinforced when almost all of the users expressed the desire to have a tool or system in place which would ensure better quality, appropriate price of craft item and save them from the suffering of market hassles. Also an interesting observation was that the users were ready to pay a bit more if the increase in price would help in bringing a widespread revolution in the craftsmen conditions.

Story boards

One example of the storyboards which were created during the course of the project.

Ideations and Iterations

The user research and literature survey revealed some deeper insights about the user requirements and constraints, under which the present process works. A solution which meets the requirements and also caters the constraints such as low literacy, lack of motivation to learn new technology, sparsely located users  can be found in current communications technology involving a device such as mobile phone.

We came up with many ideas that could improve the present process, but selected four most distinct and feasible solutions, which could be implemented. Storyboards and interaction maps for these selected ideas were developed and analyzed.

  • All Time Craft Sales (ATCS)
  • Picture Based Transaction (PBT)
  • Kiosk Organized Transaction (KOT)
  • Code Controlled Transaction (CCT)
Final Solution

All of the concepts discussed  were not able to establish a permanent link with the Craftsmen so that there is no exploitation on the part of the retailers or the intermediates. We needed a solution which takes into account all aspects of craftsman’s interests and is in complete sync with government policies running in parallel. As stated earlier our main focus was to include all the actors and at the same time the final solution should bring a major change in the lives of the craftsmen.
For this we proposed a new business model and redefined the entities involved. In the new model there will be five entities:

  1. Customer
  2. Retail Store
  3. Organization
  4. Craft Agents
  5. Craftsmen

The Process

The new scenario according to the new business model proposed is presented here as a story:
Customer comes to a craft shop, selects a product and places his order. In case he demands some changes in the product the retailer notes them and using his mobile phone with the in-built software [Figure] sends the detail to the database. The database which is managed by the organization checks the availability of the ordered product in its godown which is also maintained by the organization.

In case the product is available, it is dispatched immediately. On the other hand, if the product is not available, the request from the retailer which the database has received is stored. The database then searches for the areas where the craft product is developed. The system finds the best area (say A) and craftsmen depending upon the location of the delivery address and the craftsmen workload to ensure speedy delivery of the product. This information is passed back on to the retailer and the user is informed of a tentative delivery date.

The corresponding craft agent responsible for the area (A) is contacted on his mobile and the details of the order are transferred. The craft agent then contacts the relevant craftsmen and ensures the product is delivered to the showroom (if the showroom lies in his area) or to the Organization godown if the showroom is situated in a station which is not located locally.

The craftsmen in this case, will get the money as soon as he delivers the product which is made possible by the floating money concept explained in the next section.

Floating Money concept

Floating money is an important aspect of the solution as it bring coherency in the system and ensures the whole process functions smoothly. Floating Money is a buffer Money kept with the Organization and this shall be brought from funds. As discussed in section 2.1 the present process creates the delay in payment of the craftsmen but the floating money concept ensures that the craftsmen are paid as and when they deliver the product to the Craft Agent. This also takes care of the Contract Assignments and Consignments for which the craftsmen demands payment.

Cost Cycle Benefits

While doing our data collection we took a product Leephang and found out the cost cycle of it when it leaves the craftsmen to when it reaches the customer. Figure shows the old cost cycle and Figure shows the new cost cycle after the business model is implemented.


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Figure 3: Cost cycle in the present system.

Cost Cycle for the proposed model.

As we can see in the figures the remuneration of the craftsmen is doubled in the new cycle. One of the major advantage is that the price is controlled by the organization in the new model which ensures transparency in the system and provides the craftsmen with the maximum amount of remuneration.

Overview

Collaborators
Aditya Saxena, Divye Bokdia

Methods Used
Ethnography, User Research, Storyboarding, Low and Hi-fii prototypes, Wireframing, Visual Design, Business Development

Technology Used
Flash lite, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign

Client

IITG

Services

4 months (Jan 2006 - Apr 2006)

Skills

Mobile
System Design
User Experience
User Research