Aadisht Khanna writes about why household products in India are poorly designed.
Example one: mopping. If we’re the ones wet-cleaning our floors, we go out and buy a mop. As long as the maid is around, we expect her to do it with a pochha, her back bent at a completely uncomfortable angle. The extra price you pay to avoid that uncomfortable posture is only a hundred and twenty rupees, but the cost-benefit ratio doesn’t even enter your head until it’s you who has to bear the cost and benefit.
Hmmm… we do not think of cost-benefit if we are not the party that is affected. I mean, hmmm. Why is that so unnerving ?
When I first read this, I was driven to thinking: are we, the middle class, that heartless ?
Before going further with my argument, I must clarify that Aadisht was not making a point about the “soul” of the middle class. The point was solely about the motivations for good design. Like Aadisht says, the reasons for bad design is that the person paying for the product is not necessarily the one using it.
To carry on with my point, I believe that the people who come to our homes to do miscellaneous stuff like cleaning, washing dishes etc are an amateur lot. Now, I realize what I am saying sounds naive and cold (an uncommon combination). So, I will take an example to illustrate. The maids at most homes exhibit the following characteristics almost without fail: coming late, missing work days, cribbing about how tough work is, cribbing about unforeseen work (a few extra dishes because guests are staying)…the works. (Again, before you go for my throat, I am not saying all maids are like that. Most of them are, though)
Clearly, market forces are at work here. If you are worried about haggling with your maid first thing in the morning, she would be the last person you would be concerned about when you buy that next mop, no ? But, if on the other hand, you had a good maid, you would make sure you kept her at your service (even if it meant spending extra hundred bucks for a better mop). That, I believe, is the real cost-benefit analysis that “enters our head”.
Wouldn’t you agree Aadisht ?