Do this. Vision a 12x12 empty room. Four walls and a tiled floor. A fan on the ceiling, maybe. Now - what would you call it? A bedroom? Hall? Classroom? Office? Your guess as good as mine.Clearly, what defines a room’s purpose is the furniture it possesses. Furniture - that provides convenience and comfort and caters to our wants of having a good-looking room and our needs in terms of its utility.
To sort this dilemma of choosing the right furniture, Ayush Kasliwal, founder of AKFD Studio, steps in.
Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in finds out how.
Also, Ayush was one of the finalists at British Council’s Young Design Entrepreneur Awards, 2011. To know more about the Young Design Entrepreneur Awards, click here. Follow the Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards on Facebook
“Furniture design” - Not a very frequent terminology we come across. Tell us how and when was AKFD Studio started?
AKFD actually started right after I finished my studies at NID, Ahmedabad(1997). One of the things I was very clear with, right from the beginning, was that I will come back to Jaipur . At that time, there were no opportunities, in terms of employment or even consulting, in Jaipur. With absolutely no other options, I started work as a contractor - repairing, installing and doing odd jobs for friends and family. Along the way, I started putting in design to the jobs, thus becoming a designer-cum-contractor.
But the story got even more interesting later - because whenever I did a project, I came across situations when I did not like anything I saw or was available. So I ended up making them. Therein I found my calling. I was trained as a furniture designer and in my practice learnt a lot from my suppliers, vendors and craftspeople. Slowly, the business model changed, from contracting to manufacturing of custom made objects, lighting, furniture, and in some cases even carpets and textiles.
Tell us a little more about your background, Ayush.I grew up in Africa, studied in Indore, and then in Jaipur , and then went on to Ahmedabad. A bit of a nomadic upbringing. I studied science in school, and made decent grades. But a career in medicine or engineering was absolutely not for me! I went ahead and gave the exam for NID, and pretty much went about my own way. My parents were supporting and let me do what I thought was my calling... And here I am!
So in detail, what are the services that AKFD Studio offers.
Our business has four aspects to it.
Retail, which is what my wife, Geetanjali heads. This arm retails our products, as well as other curated objects, lighting and furniture.
Projects, the department that I take care of, is when we undertake projects, installations, and interiors either of our own design, or of other people's designs and execute them. Works at the Delhi airport were of the same nature.
Exports is the arm which manufactures and produces objects which are exported. Amongst our clients, one can include some of the biggest retailers in the US, including crate and barrel, William Sonoma , Anthropologie, designers such as Tom Dixon , and shops such as Conran and le Bon marche.
And the last, but the most important - Design. Which is the life-blood of our enterprise. Design works for other group departments, as well as markets.
How big is your team and where are you based?
The team, which includes all my staff and carpenters is around 120 people. Of these, there are four designers. Our flagship store is at Jaipur.
Do you get more of corporate clients or individual clients?
Both in equal measure.
How do you acquire clients? What kind of marketing efforts do you make?Up till now, never really marketed ourselves. Never really had the need to, but we do intend to participate in exhibitions and fairs going forward.
Are there any other design shops doing similar stuff? How, do you think, are you different?
Our USP is that we are into many different activities. There are people, who are doing similar stuff; but very few doing so much under one roof. Probably what sets us apart is the fact that we understand business and design equally. And while being design led, we understand that business is what will make it real. Additionally, over the years, we have been able to work with many artisans, and have slowly perfected the art of being able to work with them in a mutually profitable manner. Our enterprise is also run such that there is transparency within and outside the company. Over the years we have built a reputation of being fair and just in doing business.
So according to you, how hard is it to find good design talent in this space? Could you give us any vital tips for fellow design entrepreneurs?
Actually, there is a lot of design talent around; problem is in being able to channelize the design intents. The thing about being an entrepreneur is that one has to understand multiple points of view, and walk the middle line. This is not the same as a compromise, one can still have the loftiest ideals, but, then, one still has to understand where the other person is coming from - to be able to make an informed choice. In addition, one has to have oodles and oodles of common sense, and to be able to give vision, to ones own team - as well as to the other partners one is working with.
How do you see design entrepreneurship evolve in India?
It has been slow but of late, many designers have become entrepreneurs, probably because the industry has not been able to evolve sufficiently to harness the available talent. You know, it is kind of a very strange situation - industry needs design professionals, but rarely ever listens to them, or understands the strategic edge that designers can bring about. Far too much emphasis is laid upon marketing professionals, and their analysis of the marketplace, and design is left to realize the ideas. In this scenario, a company like Apple can never be built! Designers on the other hand, want the independence to be able to follow their conviction, and thus branch of as entrepreneurs. Only a few companies like Titan and Tata Motors have been able to harness the enormous design potential that exists in India.
Finally, could you tell us about your experience at YCE?
Well, I was a finalist at YCE in the year 2011. It was an interesting experience and an opportunity to meet many similar people and share ideas. More than anything else, it was an opportunity to sit back and look at the journey so far!
Do visit AKFD Studio’s website for further details about the venture.