Amidst the political ambiguity, and sometimes cynical attitudes, surrounding rapid tech development, comes Darshan’s socially conscious social innovation studio: Super Being Labs. As the CEO and founder, himself told us: “We always ask ourselves how can this project help the human beings involved, and work back from there. How can it make a real impact on people’s lives so that they can be greatest they can be? Sure, digital is increasingly important, but the crux of the answer is not about the technology. Creative problem-solving and ensuring that the answer matters to people using it, is even more vital. The tech is just a tool.” Holding a diverse range of clients by the hand: from businesses, to charities, and individuals, including the likes of Telefonica and Breast Cancer Care, Super Being Labs thus starts to tangibly right the skewed emphasis on “simply tech for the sake of tech, which might or might not help the customer.”
For example, as Darshan elaborated, “the Breast Cancer Care app BECCA, has helped women adjust to their new lives after treatment. Tackling this issue meant working with women who would be using the product, and allowing their insights to inform the final product and then iteratively making it better. The pivotal aspect wasn’t necessarily the digital feature but discovering that there was an inverse correlation between female cancer patients’ health and their mood over time. As their condition improved, their mood could go down. We had to work out how to tackle this. These women had had all sorts of changes in their lives. As a result, we found that the first version of the BECCA app would help most by providing curated and trusted information when users needed it most. By connecting these women to advice from fellow patients and nurses, they’d have a little friend they could carry in their pockets, reducing ambiguity and stress and the possibility of being overwhelmed by too many unwanted sources of information. We now have 8000+ users for the BECCA app, and it’s only getting better. The next phase will use more complex tech to make that information personalised to each and every woman. It’s an excellent example of tech being driven by the needs of the people who are using it.”
Super Being Labs then differentiates itself from other tech businesses. “We look for answers in human behaviour and use those insights to drive a positive shift. And as I said, not everything has to be about technology, you can start in the analogue world first. For example, our book Being ManKind, tackles the issue of outdated masculinity, and is far more useful as stories in a concrete form rather than a website. The book and photos resonate, and the film is coming next. Our process is ‘jumping in’, identifying the issue incisively, and then ‘thinking long’, making that solution systemic.” This organically institutes incremental social change. Spreading this philosophy to their clients along the way, with no little thanks to a “highly focussed, yet multi-skilled and well-rounded super team,” Super Being Labs are revolutionising the consumerist industry as well as their individual consumer goods. “To be honest,” Darshan stated, “there are many employees from large companies who want their employers to take social responsibility for overlooked adverse effects on the wider public. Online platforms might have done some good, but they’ve also caused damage: mental health and influencing questionable politics being but a few issues. Smart companies know good business is more ethically pragmatic. Nissan’s automated car unit, for example, has a social anthropologist in the senior ranks because they don’t see it as just a car, but something that will change how we move as a society. They want to consider the longer-term impact, looking at it through a human lens - how is it going to change people’s social freedom? If you design superficially, the responsibility will catch up to you as well as the product having had a doomed shelf-life from the start.”
Thus, refusing to obsess over online resolutions and digital decor, and seeking to realign technology with human characteristics instead, Darshan passionately pioneers a new generation who wish to bring business back to the people it should serve. Naturally, Darshan practices what he preaches: the team at Super Being Labs are given unlimited holiday, and then one-month paid on top of that – which can be spent recuperating, or on courses, such as cooking or filmmaking, allowing after-hours self-growth. As well as this, a future goal is to be able to fund individual scholarships that would award funding to social entrepreneurs, with no prior experience, but whose deserving talents would be incubated by the Lab.
Super Being Labs also promotes humor as a good character trait, and being conducive to productivity. Can you give an anecdote?
We can learn much from children. It’s why our logo is a child. Kids have the ability to perceive in a much more positive way: the ability to imagine, and the curiosity to experiment without worrying what other people think. That gets drummed out of us as we grow up. I saw a brilliant story on Twitter the other day...which shows how an adult sees things and how a child sees things... It said "My 3 year old said she wanted to be an astronaut, and I said she had to study hard, go to college, learn a lot of science, and take a physical fitness test, and she shrugged and said "That's just 4 things." That’s awesome.
What inspired you to create this everyday hero sort of business?
A strong influence from both my mum and dad. My mum with the creative side, my dad with the business side, and both on the social impact side. I always wanted a creative company that merged innovation and impact, and after lots of experimentations in my twenties - here we are.
What's a big future goal?
We want to redesign our world so that it works for everyone. That means collaborating with bigger players and individuals. The latter is especially important, with automation and technology increasing at lightning speed. We need to create an environment where people can be what humans are best at being - empathetic, creative, imaginative and so much more. The time is right to ask the questions that will get us the answers we all deserve.
Finally, what has been a highlight moment?
Every day being in situations where we can work with and influence key decision makers is awesome. However, it’s our work in schools that makes it all worthwhile. For Being ManKind we do sessions in schools and I once asked the kids whether a boy or girl plays certain things. Even at that young age there were ingrained biases but one kid put up his hand and said ‘I don’t know - I haven’t met either of them’ and all the kids suddenly understood what he met. Those sort of moments are plenty in my work, and I love it!