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CUA of the Month - November; Nidhi Gulatee 

Manager of UX Design at Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited.

UX Helping to Transform India

by Jim Garrett

For our CUA of the Month, we look to India. Nidhi Gulatee works at Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL) and speaks of the company’s goal to transform India by bringing it into the 21st century with a 4G network.

Nidhi joined the company in December 2012. She works as a Manager of UX design and received her HFI CUA certification in June 2012. She works at Reliance Corporate Park, Navi Mumbai where there are around ten to twenty thousand employees on the campus.

I was reading about your chairman stating the company’s mission is to transform all of India.

In my view, we have telecom service providers offering 4G/3G/2G services in India, but the network coverage is very poor with call drops and unacceptable call quality. Apart from the coverage, the network quality availability is not up to global standards. So our organization has a goal of not only establishing a stable 4G network, but transforming lives of Indians by empowering the users with innovative services and products that will revolutionize communication.

Does it really have the potential to completely transform India?

Yes, of course. In India, there is no single telecom company that has a pan-India license in telecom to operate as a 4G service provider. Reliance Jio is developing a robust network with capability, and plans to connect the nation by giving them the freedom with better connectivity and contributions in multiple arenas, like entertainment, education, medicine and business.

That’s an ambitious mission—to bring India into the 21st century.

Reliance has contributed immensely to the telecom industry during its earlier rollout in 2000 by bringing accessible and affordable mobile phone services to the common man across the country. It is challenging no doubt, to engage and keep up the momentum, build trust and educate novice users, as we have different cultures and beliefs in India. A design or a product that interests and involves the entire nation successfully is a challenge also because of the literacy level. Beliefs and cultures change from region to region which creates a lot of variety and change in thought processes, and in likes and dislikes of the people.

How does the company plan on overcoming that?

As I learned in HFI CUA courses, users don’t know what they want. RJIL endeavors to design interfaces not by what users say they want, but by understanding the users’ needs and by providing a seamless experience on all the platforms. RJIL practices design research and testing with the real-users to understand problems (if any) and their solutions at every stage of design.

Where do you enter into the picture?

I am part of the UI/UX design team of a group in RJIL. I am responsible for gathering requirements, planning, designing and usability testing for all the services/products the company plans such as collaboration and communication mobile applications, web-portals, etc. So there’s a lot of scope, and a variety of things to be done.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The variety. Testing with the users is a challenge. Each user has a different approach to interacting with the applications but it adds to my insights and it’s a lot of fun.

I work in a team with a lot of developers, so testing becomes easy. I can pick up partially developed code and test it quickly. So the changes come easily. This reduces the development time and re-works, and also involves the developers in understanding the importance of usability and the product better.

Isn’t that the classic issue with the different perspectives of developers and usability specialists?

Yes, developers have different perspectives on design. I was able to overcome this with my HFI training. In my previous company, Ness Technologies, soon after my CUA certifications, I had given a presentation on usability to the developers. This was to make them aware of the User Centered Design process and help them understand that personal bias in design is not correct. It was a successful presentation. I got a lot of compliments and developers started understanding the value of the usability process. Our QA team also started to test the design by heuristics and became enthusiastic to learn more about usability.

What was the most significant thing you learned with your CUA training?

The classroom exercises where we had face to face interactions were very revealing. And the interviewing where most had practical experience was great fun. It was helpful to meet people from different experience backgrounds and interact with them. We gained great insights from the resource papers that we could take home and apply at work. The entire training was very useful but usability testing was something that changed my profile at work and gave my career a new direction.

What did you learn from the training you could apply to your work?

I’m working on mobile applications and portals. I gained a lot of knowledge from the research papers on mobile applications. Being a post-graduate in fine arts and visual design, my job was mainly focused on visual design and user interface design. But after the training, I started making my team aware of usability testing, and also got involved extensively into testing with real users. The VIMM model is a magic mantra from all the things we learned. All the other things we learned from HFI too were very useful.

What are the challenges with UX on mobile?

Mobile UX design has become a rapidly changing field, where the basics of designing for the device remains the same, but interaction and features with the new operating systems is a challenge. The challenge is also with the users to accept the designs, as they are biased toward the existing applications or services they use. With a variety of operating systems, versions of the operating systems and screen sizes, testing with the users sometimes takes a lot of thinking to get to a conclusion or a solution.

Any final thoughts?

HFI has given me a better understanding of usability and has added a lot of value to my career and identity.

The leaders at Reliance Jio Infocomm had started the telephone revolution in India way back in the 90’s. In those days the villagers had to use postcards to communicate to people in other villages or cities. People who could not write found it difficult to communicate because they couldn’t use the postcards. So the late founder and chairman of Reliance started mobile communications with landline connections on a 2G network through its company called Reliance Communications. The mission now is to launch 4G and transform the lives of 1.2 billion Indians.

In our chairman’s words, “For all of us at Reliance Jio, this is not a business that we are bringing to market. We are bringing our passion and belief to the market to transform India.”It’s so satisfying to be a part of that.

  • For Nidhi's original HFI CUA of the Month Interview click HERE
    • To follow Nidhi on Twitter please connect HERE
  • To connect with Nidhi on LinkedIn click HERE

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