Nokia's Jan Blom with the students of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore
Aparna Kalra reports in Mint, a new Indian business newspaper produced in collaboration with the Wall Street Journal, on how the trend of cool hunting – and then innovating – in India by companies also illustrates how the country is moving higher in the food chain in product research and development.

Bangalore: In his quest to understand the Indian consumer, Jan Blom, a boyish looking 32-year-old from Finland, finds himself back in college.

The senior design manager at Nokia Design, a part of Nokia Oyj, moved here a few months ago, driven by a partnership between the world’s largest cellphone maker and the substantially tinier Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. The 60-seat private college here is run by a trust of six women, who canvassed door-to-door for students when they started in 1996. And, yet, it is a place that Nokia thinks might yield the next big innovation.

Meet the “cool hunters”.

Big firms are turning to such small and focused niche gro-ups in search of trends and also to better understand consumers, especially in complex, developing markets such as India and China. In the case of Nokia and Srishti, the firm hopes to get these ideas by assigning projects to students learning art, visual communication or product design.

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