TheShareStory.in is an initiative to build a community of Entrepreneurs, Founders, Startups & Industry Stalwarts to celebrate success & to learn from shortfalls, and to Contribute, Inspire & Embellish Entrepreneurship by sharing their exciting Stories!
As a part of our initiative, we invited yet another passionate Professional Ms. Harshada Desai for an interview with us to understand more about her corporate journey. She is the founder of theObservatory. Let’s learn more about her exciting journey, her background and her advice for our growing community! Dynamic, daring and a go-getter—these words are floating around the lady herself.
Could you tell us about yourself and your journey in brief?
This has always been a difficult question for me to answer because I never know where to start. Anyway, I will attempt.
I had a very interesting childhood. I am what I would call a product of globalization, a third culture kid. My father is a Maharashtrian, mother a Goan with some Kanada influence. I was born in India, raised in Cairo and Egypt, spent some time in a boarding school in South India, went to college in Glasgow, Scotland and now I live in Ahmedabad, Gujarat; and the journey continues…
How did the idea of theObservatory come upon?
As I mentioned before, I was brought up, right in the middle of cultural diversity so being raised in an extremely diverse, multicultural, multilingual environment my interest in culture, design, and people is not a surprise. As a qualitative researcher, my favorite part is getting to know people’s stories, about their life experiences. This interest of mine found a place in Humanities and Social Science subjects when I was a design student. When I graduated, the only jobs available for a designer were UI/UX roles – which at that time was an upcoming field. Although I did work as a UI/UX designer for some time, I always craved to be on the field and talking to people. So I decided to take my interest, knowledge, and skills in the social sciences and data field and turn it into a business. This year in June 2020, theObservatory turned 5 years old! theObservatory is new. At theObservatory we have crafted a unique approach. We use social science methodologies to navigate through complex human behaviours and decisions. We combine this understanding with design thinking tools, to innovate, solve problems, and identify business opportunities.
What was the most important problem that you wanted to address with your startup?
“PEOPLE AND CULTURES ARE NOT STATIC. THEY ARE DYNAMIC.”
Each generation goes through influences that are constantly changing their value systems, beliefs, and cultures. Businesses need to recognize this fast rate of change so that they can remain relevant and never stop creating meaning products, services, and systems. Our expertise in the social sciences methodologies and design thinking abilities helps us to help companies approach problem-solving head-on and de-clutter societal habits so that they can make informed and strategic business decisions.
What would you say has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Finding the right mentor.
One quality that makes you a superwoman in your niche?
I am a very good listener so when I meet people even if it is for the first time people end up telling me so much about their life, and because I listen very carefully to each and every word, the tone, etc. I actually learn far more about people than others. This certainly helps me become a better researcher and also a good friend.
What services do you offer?
Our main umbrella service is qualitative research. With three main focus areas:
- Consumer Insights: How can understanding our consumers’ behavior drive growth?
- Digital Innovation: How can digital innovation find a place in consumers’ lives?
- Opportunity Finding: How can business catch on to the next wave of growth?
Where do you envision theObservatory five years hence?
Within research the next big thing is data – everyone knows it and I do not think data analytics is something you can escape. But someone has to make sense of the data you collect and someone needs to make those datasets human so I think in 5 years we will be those experts that can with experience and confidence be able to decipher any kind of data and make it meaningful for people.
Any future projects or exciting prospects that you would like to share with our readers?
Since the pandemic two of the youngest team members have been collecting stories on how youth have experienced the pandemic and the lockdown. There was so much insight there because we never ask the youth for their opinion, as adults, we just go around taking the liberty to make decisions for them – so listening to these stories has been thrilling. We are actually looking to now build or partner with a platform to keep the youth conversation going.
How has theObservatory helped you grow personally and professionally?
Running my own business has made me more confident. Working with teams that you have to guide has made me more patient. Professionally I have learned to become more flexible in my approach to things, whether it is in the way that I conduct business, or approach a business problem or project. I am now more open to experimenting with techniques and taking in recommendations.
How did the Pandemic influence your work-life balance?
Actually, I like working from home. I feel I have more work-life balance now than ever before. By simply avoiding long commutes and by being at home I am eating better, avoiding commuting stress and morning rush so I am more relaxed when I sit to work at 9:30 am and now I also have time to exercise in the evening. However, at the beginning of WFH, my office hours had actually increased. So I had to make a very conscious decision and politely inform people that after 7:30 pm, I am not available for work calls or Zoom calls.
Why do you think an impactful, sustainable, and relevant design is the need of the hour?
Personally, I am not sure if we need impactful, sustainable, and relevant designs. What we do need is to do things differently because time and our surroundings are constantly and rapidly changing. And change never happens in one area alone. Change always sweeps everything with it, like a domino effect. So there is definitely a need to do business, design, and research differently. Additionally, impactful, sustainable, and relevant are heavy words with multiple meanings, and who decides what the words should mean? More often than not these words end up becoming white noise, especially in design.
What is the significance of ethnography in today’s diversified business platforms?
Ethnography is one method of studying people and society, and a good researcher knows multiple methodologies and is able to decide which method would suit what kind of project. But what is important for businesses to do is be in touch with people. Ultimately it is because of the people that you have a business, to begin with. Also, on a personal level I believe that with technology being such a huge part of our lives now we do not connect to people as much, so even more of a reason for businesses and for people to get out and connect.
When in dire need of inspiration whom do you look up to?
I take a break. I stop doing whatever I am doing and start taking up creative hobbies like embroidery or painting. I had a very wise art teacher in school, he used to always tell me inspiration is not outside of you that you need to seek it. When you need to be inspired it means it’s a call to listen to your inner self. So these creative hobbies help me reach within, quieten all the noise outside and focus on that inner calling.
Any advice for future-entrepreneurs among our readers?
Know your worth – when I first started off as a research consultant I struggled with pricing the most. I used to always think that the fee I quoted was too high and that no one would give me the project for quoting higher, which would mathematically work out more than mentally what I thought I deserved. Slowly, I realized what you charge is a reflection of how you think about your capabilities and skills. This doesn’t mean you always charge higher but what it does mean is do not lower your rates simply because you don’t think you deserve to be paid as much.