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This project was done before Design school

problem space

Understand pain points and latent needs to help build a new, innovative scooter. The findings would be used by different functional teams, including engineering, marketing, and design

my take

An entirely different thought process was required, not just in methodology, but the research design and way of carrying out the study

**CREDITS – For both, inspiration and ideation, a lot is borrowed from and inspired by the IDEO design toolkit available online


Research, operations and director of Purple Audacity Research and Innovation (India). I played the role of a project lead


A leading automobile manufacturer in India, the top player in the 2 wheeler market

my role
research design considerations
execution front

I realised this project had several facets, and required perspectives of different stakeholders. I called the operations and SCM team for a viewpoint sharing session​



Debono’s 6 thinking hats to enable a fruitful session among often conflicting teams



Downloading all inputs as a story of requirements and challenges, without mentioning the team it came from, thereby changing ownership from “mine v/s yours” to “ours”

sample selection
  • Extremes and mainstreams - Designing a solution that will work for everyone means talking to both extreme users and those squarely in the middle of your target audience

  • Those who travel alone v/s with pillions (elders, kids, spouse + kid) v/s who carry material (ex, grocery, equipment, etc)

  • Mix of men and women (since they have different physiologies and concerns)

  • Capturing perspective of pillion as well as rider

  • Both scooter and bike riders


I decided to observe riders travelling through varied Time of day, Distance, Road conditions, and Weather to understand different experiences​

DELIBERATE DISRUPTIONS - Since people get used to travelling in a certain way, it is difficult for them to articulate the challenges these situations create. Therefore, I caused a deliberate disruption, understanding pain of a long-distance travel from a short distance traveller

pre-defined target group

The client desired to conduct the study among 4 psychographic segments: Free spirit, Differentiation seeker, Responsible provider, Security seeker. This segmentation was basis mindset and needs from a scooter

approach for data collection

We used multiple methodologies in a phased manner


INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT : Through a group discussion with people from different parts of the city, we collected information on areas considered good and bad for scooter use, bottleneck v/s smooth areas



a) Observing people ride to capture latent needs through body language & non-verbal cues

b) Interview at rider’s home, to supplement our understanding of the ride and understand needs, pain areas, travelling realities

c) Operations team in their free time was stationed at parking lots to record rider-pillion-scooter interaction in their natural environment

We captured pictures, videos in this step to create “User generated stimulus” to inspire and spark ideation during the next step. Categorized this data in different heads


IDEATION WORKSHOP : Using stimulus generated above, we conducted ideation workshops with creative students from different fields to generate solutions ideas for challenges noted

tools to elicit information

Ideal scooter in a make belief film: Fantasy travel, where everything was possible brought out desires

Observation sheets to record every minute detail: person’s physique, facial expressions, riding behaviour at different points of the ride, posture changes etc. 

For Ideation workshop, I started with an IDEO tool, 30 circles exercise to get the juices flowing, Solutions were then generated using creative techniques like 

  • Epitome – How would a mother design for safety

  • Anti-christ – If you had to make the scooter inconvenient, what would you do

  • Inspiration – What ideas can we borrow from a product designed for comfort, ex, a lazy boy

Timeline of different aspects of personal life, and timeline of vehicle purchase to map how the two are related

Travel and transport map of the person (distance, frequency, company, destination, etc) to see which conditions made a scooter ideal / not ideal

analysis and synthesis

We followed a step by step progression for our analysis process to move from specific responses to abstract

first level

Data from each unit was placed under heads  of the discussion guide. At the end of this step we made an Empathy Map (*a tool of d-school at Stanford)

SAY: What are some quotes and defining words your user said?

DO: What actions and behaviors did you notice?

THINK: What might your user be thinking? What does this tell you about his or her beliefs?

 FEEL: What emotions might your subject be feeling?

second level

Data was synthesised, and categorised under 5 pre-identified + 1 new head of balance. Here, everything that was heard and seen for the 4 segments is downloaded, making a matrix of of those 2 parameters.


  1. Comfort

  2. Safety

  3. Convenience

  4. Performance

  5. Style

  6. Balance

third level

Consisted of two components:

a) Analysis framework – Recognising patterns in the data and placing them under a framework to synthesize

b) Arriving at the theme - The common thread of pain points and desires for each segment

While the framework helped synthesize large amounts of data, the themes gave the client insights into conceptual design directions for each segment 

the framework

Since the findings would be used by different teams: engineering, marketing  and design, we worked on a framework which could talk the language each understood

The articulations with respect to the pain points are not random, but fall under specific lenses-

a. NAVIGATION LENS - The problems in doing/ executing a task/ activity on a scooter

b. ANATOMY LENS - Pain/ discomfort in the body part related to the execution of these tasks

c. DESIGN LENS - Pain areas with regards to the scooter (parts, performance) – E.g. braking, poor shock absorption, fiber body, feminine looks

key findings

**Please note that the information shared below is only a glimpse of the vast data collected


While scooter riding is considered simple, we found 72 activities involving only the rider, 96 if pillion was added, and 103 if child was added. Eliminating repetitions gave 94 unique activities

Current large number of activities is an opportunity to automate and make riding simpler 

To help prioritize actionables for the engineering team, we chalked out high frequency and high intensity (those requiring greater physical effort) activities from the huge laundry list

Holding the grab rail at the back arms need to be twisted – uncomfortable and unsafe
Must get up every time you must get petrol filled


  • Excessive use of feet

  • Pillion footrest touches rider

  • Hands get cold in winters; gloves make hands slip

  • Difficult for person with long legs to fit in the front space comfortably


    Cannot kick start while sitting, must stand

  • Chances of touching the hot silencer


  • Poor pickup, worse when there is load or more than one adult passenger

  • Unlike bikes, braking is not instant

  • Engine heats up faster

  • Petrol tank below the seat means person must get up each time

  • Poor shock absorption

  • Fiber body unstable at higher speed. vibrates when other vehicles pass by

  • Given no visor, air hits directly

  • Smaller tyres increases chance of skidding

  • Requires frequent servicing

insights - arriving at codes

For each segment, I turned every bit of information I had on the PERSON that represented the segment in my mind – What did I know, What did I learn, What did I see, What did I feel, What did I hear, the interconnections between these, the contradictions between these

what does the free spirit seek

Irrespective of whether this segment spoke about pain areas and desires wrt comfort, convenience, safety, performance or style, one common thread I identified that ran through our interaction was

Theme: Tenacity

Need from vehicle: Don’t force me to stop

Please note – While arriving at this common thread or theme, I had to understand what was desired in more and more abstract terms, to see the linkages that existed in apparently disconnected quotes

For example: Wrt convenience, User mentioned that he found the petrol tank too small for long rides, that he had to stop often (interruption in thrill). Wrt safety, he mentioned that vehicle is not as durable (tenacious) as bikes.

A researcher visualization of what he sought:

what does the differentiation seeker seek

Theme: Attention (to detail, seeking)

Need from vehicle: Technology loaded, futuristic

An interesting dimension here is the two-fold meaning of attention – This was one segment that paid attention to every small detail, almost finicky. He also sought attention from those around him. So we suggested the client to design for ATTENTION – to detail & seeking attention

impact of the project

DESIGN TEAM: Understanding and exploring different facets of what each segment was looking for

ENGINEERING TEAM: How to make the product human centered and intuitive basis deep user understanding, human anatomy and evolutionary biology

MARKETING TEAM: Where all scooters tried to compete with bikes on being MACHO, these insights gave them a different space to position in: The intelligent man


  • Scooter as a category is a rational animal. The consumers are fully aware of the tradeoffs and make an informed choice. Scooter is preferred for: Carrying load + Being a family vehicle which multiple people can ride

  • Free Spirit and Differentiation Seeker scooter owners are compromised buyers. Bike still remains the canvas for style and impression


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