A few months ago, we publicly announced the launch of Urban Company Native RO water purifiers. It was one of the biggest milestones of Urban Company and even me personally. Couple of firsts in my life:
Designed a physical product for the first time in my career
Talked about it on stage to a hall full of journalists and media
Watch the unveil video below
At UC, we'd been servicing water purifiers for years. Over time we realised that the core user problem was around frequently changing the filters. In just a few years, they'd have spent more than the cost of RO on filters and servicing. We saw an opportunity to change that. We decided to build an RO water purifier from scratch.
We called the hardware brand Native. A quirky story behind this name, but later. In 2021, we started our multi-year journey of figuring out the science of filtration, how can we truly add value and add some true delights in the machine along the way.
As you'd guess, none of us had ever designed hardware before. But, we knew what we wanted. We built it thinking what would Apple do. It needs to look amazing. It needs to deliver kick-ass value. It needs to stand apart. We worked with amazing an industrial design agency and manufacturers and made it happen. Super proud.
This post is not about the features of the purifier. You can check it out here. You can buy one too. I bought 3 of them. One for my in-laws in Udaipur, one for my parents in West Bengal, and one for us in Bengaluru.
This post is about foraying into hardware design and finding a lost love. This post is simply a list of captured moments of my learnings & journey.
Here it goes:
Engineering drawing was my favourite subject in college
The last time I sketched something related to hardware was practicing concept vehicles from Scott Robertson's books
Till date I'm fascinated about concept vehicles, spacecrafts, hybrid automobile, basically…anything mech.
Drew the concept of this RO machine on Figma using just rectangles; didn't know and still know CAD softwares
Took a couple of fundamental courses on Skillshare & Udemy to learn the nomenclature and absolute conversation basics of Industrial Design
Learned a little of everything — how ribs work, how injection moulding works, what kind of material should we use for what parts of our device and some more
Learned just enough to have a conversation with our design agency and manufacturer. More we knew, better we could take decisions.
Learned how the internal parts design plays the core role in deciding the exterior look and feel
I used to consider joints, capacitive touch, load bearing capacity of channels for trays etc. to be trivial; now, I don't.
Figured a lot of hacks along the way to make the device look slimmer with curves in strategically decided places
Read unsaid signals from observing consumers use an RO at their places and introduced two of our loved features — one touch preset dispensing and tray
Added some quirky stuff too — UC logo on the tray, a light at the dispensing tap
Did a lot of on the fly changes to the hardware to fix problems from first prototype to make sure we finally ship the absolute best
One of the only purifiers that is truly IoT enabled (read more about this on the website) but feel very proud when it gets called out
At one point in time, seriously thought of taking a part-time course in Industrial Design. Still looking for recommendations that I can do after work or over weekend.
It was called the most beautiful water purifier by many prolific people. We will do better.
Gave us the confidence to hire Industrial Designers in-house for our next portfolio of products — Locks, new ROs, appliance testing devices for service partners.
I feel lucky that my parents got me into drawing when I was a kid. That helped. Really.
Although I don't understand hardware design completely, I'm privileged to now have Industrial designers who do; lots of learnings ahead and I feel like 2010 again when I started my career
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