Building Affordable Incubators for Low-Birth Weight Infants in India

design research  |  prototyping  |  service design  |  training programs  |  product roadmaps and strategy

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Company:  Embrace Global
Industry: Global Health
Location: India
Date/Duration: July 2009 - August 2010
Role: Design Lead at Embrace
Project Status: helped 200,000 babies across 20 countries
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80% of all babies in India are low birth weight and spend most of their energy keeping warm not developing vital organs to be a strong adult. The health systems have incubators and radiant warmers that are often broken or simply not used. 


A simple infant warmers that used phase-change material to provide a low-level healthcare worker or family member the ability to keep their child warm at the critical first phase of life. 

Design Process

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Design Research

In order to understanding pregnancy and child birth pratices in rural India, we went to 8 different states and visited homes, clinics, mid-wives, NGOs, government hospitals and private practices. 

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Product Definition

We charted out the stages of product from introduction to completion, focusing on the first use and regular use for both the electric and hot water based device. 

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We prototyped three main components: soft goods, heating unit, and temperature indictor. The tests we conducted were both function for temperature control, usability with caretakers, as well as risk factors as a medical device. 


Design Strategy

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In our first months in India, the design research that I conducted also fed into market research, sales strategy, and product definition. In the process of mapping potential users, we also were discovering who our buyers were and their willingness to pay and assessing the environments these devices would have to endure.  We developed a rough product plan, developing an electric warmer first, quickly follow-up by a hot-water based warmer for the mass market at the bottom of the pyramid. Roughly, Embrace followed this high-level product roadmap, launching a luxury unit called the Little Lotus in the USA in 2015.


Reflections // Learnings

  • In 2007, I learned the limitations of a being a traditional designer. I headed back to Stanford to finish my degree and broaden my view to add business strategy.