How a small town girl became a top-notch designer - Deepti Kshirsagar’s storySaswati Mukherjee
Deepti Kshirsagar hails from Karanja, a small village near Vashi in Maharastra. Her parents were very keen that she got the best education. The school she went to was the first English-medium in her village.
After graduating high school, Deepti wanted to pursue Arts but her relatives tried to convince her parents in favour of Science, simply because she was good at academics. But she stuck to her decision and did her graduation in Arts. But the initial days of college was not an easy ride for her.
With hostel accommodation being beyond her parents’ reach, Deepti used to travel by a ferry and a bus to reach Sophia College in the city of Mumbai. “Every day it was a five-hour round trip,” says the 36-year-old Deepti, who continued her hard work for the initial months. However, within six month the distance started taking a toll on her health. She then decided to move in with her relatives for two years in Mumbai. Her being a four year graduation course, she shifted to a hostel in the final two years of her graduation and started working too. “I knew what my parents were doing for me, so I decided to support myself from an early phase,” says Deepti. She was offered a job at an advertising firm in Pune even before she graduated.
Deepti worked there for a year and earned some money, and quit as her design skills were not being put to use and she was uncomfortable with the hierarchy which existed in the advertising world.
She then worked with a few design houses. She first joined Yellow, a leading fashion house, and worked for nine years, where she met her current business partner Sai Prasad Karalkar.
At Yellow, she become a strategy person, part of the core management, and moved away from being the designer that she was. By then, Deepti’s personal life had also changed and she had become a mother, which only meant more responsibilities at home.
That is when Deepti decided to do something on her own. In 2009, she founded WOW Designs, a leading strategic brand design consultancy outfit with the tag, ‘Thoughtfully Fresh’. WOW has serviced clients like ITC Ltd, Heinz India Pvt Ltd, Starbucks, Piramal Enterprises Limited, CavinKare, Emami Limited, Abbott Healthcare etc.
“Challenges were typical of a startup – we didn’t have funds. We worked with our own funds and have been able to survive and have now made a mark in this very niche service offering. Now we have started looking for investors,” says Deepti, Founder and Managing Director of WOW Designs.
The other challenge we faced was getting resources and convincing packaging companies for branding.
As Deepti says, in modern trade, impulse buying happens and branding clearly plays a very big role. “More difficult is to convince brand managers to believe in our designs. They still believe that advertising is the king,” says Deepti.
Thus, the tag for her firm – Thoughtfully Fresh.
I strongly believe that whatever is created has a thought behind it. So the bottom line for us is fresh ideas backed by a strong thought,
WOW Designs has grown from a three-member team to a 40-member team in a span of seven years. Currently, the platform has 60 clients and has provided their service to more than 100 brands. The company has won more than 30 pitches so far and the turnover is steadily growing to be a $1 million company. A specialised strategic brand design company, WOW Designs follows a revenue trajectory generated by focusing on its core services of Branding-Brand Strategy and Visual Brand Identity, Packaging Design, Retail Communication and Space design.
Wow Design has some very tough competition from the likes of DY Works (earlier Yellow where she worked), Ray and Keshavan – now Brand Union, Elephant Design and Lokus Design. With the design branding sector still being a niche industry, the market for each of these companies is continuing to grow. With an expanding market, many of these firms are also looking for funding, including Wow Designs. But with talks still being at a very nascent stage, Deepti does not want to spill the beans on funding yet.
A pillion rider
When not designing, Deepti is happily traveling.
“I am a good pillion rider. Biking happened because my husband is into it,” says an avid traveller Deepti. Though India is her preferred destination, she has travelled to many places including Italy and Austria.
It is during her visits to the grassroots that she came up with an idea to channelise the skills of artists from the interiors of the country and maybe start her second venture soon.
Deepti strictly follows one motto in her life – we have one life, we must make the most of it on various fronts.
The ‘let’s do it tomorrow’ just doesn’t work, it is now or never,
Deepti signs off.