Sarthak Sengupta of Sahil & Sarthak on being a ‘design’ entrepreneur

By Team YS|13th Jun 2011
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Sahil & Sarthak

We at YourStory caught up with ‘design’ entrepreneur Sarthak Sengupta, the co-founder of Sahil & Sarthak, a Delhi-based studio that provides design consultancy services for a wide range of disciplines such as interiors, furniture, products and accessories, visual communication, strategic design and system design. Sarthak was also one of the finalists at the British Council’s Young Design Entrepreneur Awards in 2010. To know more about the Young Design Entrepreneur Awards, click here. To follow the Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards on Facebook, check out http://www.facebook.com/YCEAwards.How did the idea for Sahil & Sarthak come about? Can you take us through the important milestones in your journey to design entrepreneurship?

I come from a product design background. After receiving my Bachelors Degree in Accessory Design from N.I.F.T. Delhi, 2001, I started my career as a jewellery designer in Mumbai, at a high-end jewellery export house. I joined the famous Sanghavi Group as the Design Head where I continued to work till 2006.

Sahil & Sarthak

Sahil Bagga, my co-founder, completed his BFA in Applied Art, from the College of Art, Delhi. He began his career at the Vibhor Sogani studio, working on product as well as graphic design projects.  Soon, he discovered his passion for spatial design and from 2003 to 2006, he worked with reputed event companies designing exhibitions, events, animation and visual communication.In the year 2006, seeing our body of work, the Italian Chamber of Commerce awarded both of us with scholarships to pursue higher education in Milan, in the field of Design. While pursuing our Masters in “Product Service System Design”, at Politecnico di Milano, we worked on various multi disciplinary projects which gave us the opportunity to converge our varied design skills and realise the potential for a future business partnership.

In 2009, Poltrona Frau Group selected both of us to be a part of the international team of 11 designers for the Project “I-Nova” which gave us the opportunity to closely study this historic furniture company and be a part of various design projects, real to the company’s needs.

Sahil & Sarthak

Subsequently, we worked under the mentorship of famous architect/designer Giulio Cappellini where we concentrated our efforts towards the future launch of brand Cappellini in India. This experience provided us with valuable insights into the Indian market from an international perspective, its emerging values and its new definition of luxury.In 2009, we returned to India and started our own design studio in Delhi by the name of Sarthak Sahil Design Co. We wanted to offer the Indian consumer more holistic design services which we felt was desired by many Indian clients.

So, what are the areas in which Sahil & Sarthak works today?

We provide our client with an integrated service by the creative coordination and management of the various aspects of any project such as concept development, product design, spatial design, visual communication and the overall management of the production chain.

We also do a high level of customization for most of our interior projects with the help of traditional Indian crafts as well as local regional skills as we believe that no two spaces can be same. We have recently started retailing our products and furniture in Delhi and Mumbai. Once again, we have made an effort to create contemporary lifestyle objects reviving and re-contextualising Indian crafts and traditional materials.

Tell us about your "Zero Kilometre" design concept. How did that evolve?

The zero kilometre design concept is born out of the belief that designing beautiful and functional products and projects should be combined with the efforts to involve and preserve local traditions and local craftsmanship specific to that locality.

A similar movement is taking place in the food industry in various parts of the world. The transportation of materials and skill from where it is produced to where it is consumed can create many social, environmental and economic problems. Long distance manufacturing leads to increase in prices of products due to ever-increasing oil prices. It may lead to environmental pollution and makes it even more difficult to control the quality of the products. It may eventually lead to homogeneity of tastes and styles, depriving us of age old traditions and distinct local flavours. Moreover, by involving the local community, it evokes a sense of belonging and a sense of pride amongst them which can be groomed into long term partnerships between the locals and the enterprise.

Realising the potential of this design approach, our company has trademarked the “Zero Kilometre”™ concept as one of our core brand identities.

Sahil & Sarthak

Our most significant example of a Zero Kilometre design project would be the Lakshman Sagar Resort in Raipur, Rajasthan. Consisting of two heritage wings and 12 ‘Mati Ghars’, the effort was to integrate the property into the existing environment. Therefore, all the interiors, furniture and products were inspired through an understanding of local products used and produced locally. A conscious effort was made to draw out the unexplored nuances of the local culture.What are your views on the design ecosystem in India? How can the design community be better supported?

In our opinion, there has been a shift in the way design is perceived, both by the market and by policy makers. Earlier, design was considered to be more of an aesthetic tool rather than a strategic tool. But that’s changing. Also, the design ecosystem in India is becoming more market driven and less policy driven. Projects now have an interdisciplinary design needs. Thus, the need is either to network or to diversify.

With the government beginning to realise the potential of design, they should encourage designers to join various panels that look into projects such as urban planning, urban transport and other such service system projects.

Cross pollination of design cultures is also very important for designers today. This can be facilitated by scholarships, exchanges and sponsorships for design fairs.

Property rights and royalty laws have to be updated and improved. Sometimes, designers are apprehensive to explore and pitch their ideas to companies and manufacturers with the fear of getting copied or not getting properly remunerated. Improvement of these laws will lead to greater innovations and larger mainstream participation by designers.

Developing a prototype in India for a young design professional is quite a challenge. There is no centre/forum that brings the various technologies and materials under one roof. Such a centre does not have to be solely government-funded. In fact, it can be self sustaining.

What does the future hold for Sahil & Sarthak?

This year, we have participated in two international design exhibitions for the first time - Salone del Mobile Milan and the Alchemy Festival in London. We have always tried to create products which have an Indian soul but an international appeal. We were eager to try it out with an international audience. The response was overwhelming and we are talks with international companies for future collaborations.

We aspire to become a design studio with the ability to mainstream sustainable design solutions not just as an ethical conduct but more as a mechanism that can bring about strategic value additions and wider opportunities for our commercial projects and clientele. As a brand, we are convinced that ecological products will be the next generation lifestyle icons and therefore, we intend to be a front runner in optimizing this market.

You were one of the finalists at the British Council’s YCE Awards in the Design category last year. Can you take us through that experience?

It was a great experience and we thank British Council for giving us that exposure. The best part was to get the opportunity to network with other contemporaries, prominent designers and market leaders in India and abroad, giving us a better understanding of the market pulse. It also gave wider recognition to our approach and design philosophy (for instance, the Zero Kilometre Concept) amidst mainstream clientele.

It has also opened up possibilities for future collaborative projects, research studies and exhibitions supported or facilitated by British Council and their partners.

We at YourStory wish Sahil & Sarthak all the very best. To know more about this venture, do check out http://www.sahilsarthak.com/. Also, please share with us your thoughts about this story. You can write to us at feedback@yourstory.in.

Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 12th June 2011 | Mumbai

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