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  • From Insights to Products - Make Innovation Realization

    26 December 2016
    S.Point, Member Firm (China)

    No. 1000, Changping Road, Shanghai. This is a five-story red building hidden behind green trees. This is the Shanghai HQ of S.POINT. Our founder Zhou Yi and many old colleagues have witnessed the transformation of the design industry in here. S.POINT is not the original name. In 1997 when the company was established, the name was Shanghai Zhinan Industrial Company. We were known for design in the industry.

    From design to innovation, the change is more about name or business

    In the nearly 20 years since our inception, each change or disruption has been a brave experiment in new business model to adapt to market trends. Starting from industrial design, we expanded to innovation consulting, capacity building, and innovative production. We’ve gradually established a competitive closed business loop. From insights to products, innovation materialized. This is our slogan now, representing our effort towards innovation and disruption.

    S.POINT has always focused on self-reinvention. Many new people have come. To help you better understand the company, today our founder Zhou Yi has a Q&A session with new recruits. Now you get the chance to quickly know about our past and future.

    Q: From 1997 to 2005, those years are known as our Design 1.0 era. What was our core competitiveness at the time?

    A: We started from industrial design. This year, we’ve been operating over 26 years. We’ve got experiences in industrial design, and we’ve thought about our business a lot. In the beginning, many Chinese brand names were not paying attention to design. We were one of the first indigenous design companies. We’ve provided design solutions to Siemens, Samsung, Philips, and Nike, which got Chinese design elements with their products. We’ve also provided service to Sany Group, Inoherb, Lenovo and other leading Chinese brand names, offering some good products. Some of our designs received international industrial design awards. Our core competitiveness used to be our design strength. We’ve designed many products. It can be safely said that we’ve designed almost all kinds of electronics devices.

    Q: Then our design business has evolved, hasn’t it?

    A: Yes. During the course of design, we discovered problems. When a customer came to us about design, he or she had deeper thoughts in the mind. As mentioned before, we provided design service for some brand names. Take Inoherb for example. They came to us about packaging design, but in fact they looked to repositioning of the brand name. Invus, a French VC, talked about a design for a fast-food store targeting young people. In fact, they looked to brand name and product positioning based on conditions of the Chinese food industry. Thre was this large-scale health product company, which demanded our design to be future-proof. It was not easy. Actually, the health product company expected to understand future trends based on current consumer insights. I started to think about what kinds of problems design can resolve. Can design resolve product, industry or management problems? I started to doubt the function of design. I thought design was not playing a big role in business growth. We must understand more clearly what kinds of problems to resolve when working with the customer on designs. Therefore, in 2005, we set up a design consulting department as part of our efforts to discover in-depth issues based on design work. Well, looking back today, I think such move actually launched our 2.0 era.

    Q: Then we began to develop consulting business?

    A: In the beginning, it was just exploration. In recent years, we’ve seen big growth of consulting business. In the beginning, the team and myself, starting from the design background, had to undergo a self-denying process. Our designers started the transformation process. They must not only understand design, but they must also understand market, consumer demands, insights, and analysis. We began to recruit talents from a range of businesses. People came to us with a range of backgrounds: psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc. We expected to provide customers with innovation solutions based on design thinking and consumer insights. Looking back, I believe the innovative value of a company depends on its positioning and its participation in the industry. Over the past couple of years, we’ve redesigned our structure. Now the departments are not along design work, but we are structured in accordance with business demands. We’ve launched the partnership model. More importantly, our business model has transitioned from design-driven to innovative consulting service. The following is well known to you all. In 2015, we joined Cordence Worldwide and consulting business accounted for over 50% of our revenue. We’ve also received the investment by three VCs led by Northern Light VC. Such investment is part of the evidence that our transformation has succeeded.

    Q: It seems we’ve never stopped exploring. We’ve been doing new stuff. We’ve even done manufacturing work ourselves. Is it so?

    A: Yes. I think a swimming coach is not a good one unless he or she comes down in the pool to swim. We help customers to improve products and services, but how come we’ve never really produced or marketed any products ourselves? Therefore we explore how to expand the consulting business to innovation industrialization. In other words, we’ve got industry design capacity and innovative consulting experience; then why not implement something on our own? Why not launch a physical product and put it in the hands of the consumer? We used to offer a great platform to two companies, benefiting them by materialize their bilateral cooperation and linking up their businesses. In the process, we’ve transitioned our own role from providing service to being part of the partnership. Now we’ve gotten our own brand name product: ACETINO.

    ACETINO is offering more convenient beauty products. This represents our exploration efforts. Our team does all the work from market research to product design to mass production to sales and promotion. Therefore, innovation industrialization is all about linking up everything along the business chain, letting innovative thinking permeate throughout the chain, and making things happen.

    Q: A chain of innovation industrialization? What does it mean?

    A: One thing is absolutely clear. The chain starts from the consumer. Through surveys, we’ve collected consumer demands, hence consumer insights. Based on consumer insights, we discover market opportunities, which lead to product design. In our 2.0 era, things ended in here. However, now things are changing a lot. Now the work is about DFM (Design for Manufacture). We design the process of manufacturing. We manage quality assurance. We have a dedicated team - Concept 7 & Acetino - for the work. The Concept 7 team conducts work from consumer insights to market opportunities discovery to product design through production. The team provides marketing solutions to the customers too. The process starts from and goes back to the consumers. Thus we have a close loop. In the past year when we explored such business operation, we were entering our 3.0 era. It is like upgrading to a whole new level in a computer game.

    Q: Long-time colleagues talk about parallel capacity building as the company grows. What about the future of 4.0 era? What’s about it?

    A: Capacity, or innovation capacity, is something we’ve always wanted to have. Meanwhile, we expect our customers and partners all have innovation capacity. It sounds difficult. Well, actually, it’s not so difficult. S.LAB is making effort on this front. To put it simply, consulting, design, and manufacturing work is about giving people the fish. It presents the result to people. Innovation capacity building is about teaching people to fish, by sharing innovative solutions based on design thinking. The innovation process is open to customers, who get to learn how to be innovative. We offer design thinking-themed workshops, launch innovative labs with customers in new projects, and set up joint innovation centers given some large-scale projects. By doing so we are trying to achieve the goal of innovation capacity building. In recent years we’ve seen big change in terms business models given rapid economic and technological development. The common challenge now is that you are obsolete if you don’t change. Innovation is the common theme. Learn the methodology, launch new products and services, and in the process revitalize your business. This is the tangible value of innovation that we want to materialize.

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