User Experience (UX) design and research have undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, emerging as essential components of product development worldwide. UX design has now become one of the top five in-demand skills globally, underlining its significance in today’s digital landscape. The Government of India has recognized the value of design thinking by incorporating it into the National Education Policy (NEP) and introducing it into the CBSE curriculum, emphasizing the importance of ideation and innovation. This shift underscores the evolving design landscape in India, with UX Design finally receiving the recognition it deserves. However, this wasn’t always the case when Samir Chabukswar and Prasadd Bartakke, the founders of YUJ Designs, embarked on their entrepreneurial journey in the realm of UX design.
The Turning Point
The early 2000s saw technology services take the forefront in India, with design and UX largely overlooked. Until 2010, discussions about UX design and usability were rare in India, as the focus remained squarely on technology services, while design was perceived as a prerogative of the West. Samir Chabukswar explains, “Everyone knew that if you wanted coding, you had to go to India. However, hardly anyone looked to India for design. We believed that it was our mission to bring cutting-edge design practices to India and demonstrate that exceptional design could indeed originate here.”
Samir’s conviction stemmed from his earlier experiences, where he had designed comprehensive man-machine systems and successfully executed multiple ‘usability’ projects for North American clients. Prasadd Bartakke had his share of disappointments in the design industry. His experiences in advertising and the e-learning sector revealed a stark reality—design often neglected the core expectations and needs of users, adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. Recognizing the potential of design to change the world, both Samir and Prasadd decided to establish YUJ Designs in 2009—a specialist studio dedicated to delivering user-centric and business-oriented design solutions.
Despite flourishing careers, the duo embarked on their entrepreneurial journey to address the inadequacies in technology experiences and to infuse human-centered design principles. They believed that design possessed immense potential for business growth if leveraged correctly. Samir had witnessed the impact of design while working with a prominent IT company, where he realized that design was the real hero, not technology. Design was often relegated to a tactical role, but Samir recognized its holistic significance. His quest to gain a deeper understanding of design’s role led him to leave his one-year-old daughter behind and travel to the US to study Human Factors, which profoundly influenced YUJ’s distinctive approach to design. Meanwhile, Prasadd Bartakke, with his research-oriented mindset, focused on enhancing the effectiveness of design by refining design processes. He understood that a research-driven approach was crucial to maintain user-centricity.
A Road Less Traveled
The journey for YUJ Designs was not without its challenges. At the time, India lacked a domestic market for design, and potential clients needed to be educated about the real value of design. Finding the right talent was also a hurdle, as there were few design institutions in India. Despite these obstacles, YUJ worked with some of the world’s largest global organizations, establishing hybrid on-site and off-site teams that delivered exceptional design work on a global scale.
Design at Scale for Impact at Scale
Over the past 13 years, YUJ Designs has steadfastly maintained its focus on design and its profound impact on businesses. Samir Chabukswar emphasizes, “We both have design in our DNA. Despite opportunities to expand our technological capabilities, we have remained committed to design and its excellence. We have never compromised our value proposition for design. YUJ comprises 80 percent designers and 20 percent technologists, but everyone here possesses a designer’s heart.”
Designers at YUJ are groomed to become design consultants, going beyond conventional project briefs. They embrace the YUJ way of working, which involves in-depth research to understand and address the right user problems. In contrast to most companies where research and design are separate departments, YUJ positions itself as a design consultancy that emphasizes the critical role of research in effective design.
For more than a decade, YUJ Designs has been at the forefront of global design projects. Under the leadership of Samir and Prasadd, YUJ has collaborated across diverse sectors and geographies, serving over 200 global clients with B2B, B2C, and B2B2C experiences. Their work on a connected experiences app for a major automobile company earned them the prestigious Red Dot Award, often referred to as the Oscars of Design.
YUJ Designs has ambitious plans for the future. The company aims to expand into multiple geographies while adhering to its core design philosophy. Their goal is to collaborate with the top 100 brands globally, making a significant impact on human lives through holistic design that extends beyond digital screens.
While the design market in India remains relatively small compared to North America, India has emerged as a leading supplier of UX designers worldwide. The world is increasingly recognizing the value of design originating from India. Samir Chabukswar and Prasadd Bartakke are confident that India, with its cultural values of inclusiveness and sustainability, is poised to become a global design leader.
In conclusion, Samir Chabukswar and Prasadd Bartakke, the founders of YUJ Designs, have played a pivotal role in reshaping the landscape of UX design in India and beyond. Their unwavering commitment to human-centered design, coupled with research-driven approaches, has not only elevated the status of design but also inspired a new generation of designers and entrepreneurs to prioritize user-centricity and excellence in their endeavors. As YUJ Designs continues to thrive and expand, it stands as a testament to the transformative power of design thinking and its potential to create lasting impact in the world.