How this Indore-based design studio is crafting success for brands in India and beyond

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Established in 1956, Giani’s Ice Cream grew to become an iconic brand with over 100 products and 60 outlets across five states in India. 60 years later, in 2016, the brand decided it was time to speed up growth. It wanted to be seen as a national brand in the domestic market. An eight-month-long branding exercise with a design studio based out of Indore, Aarts, led to the brand witnessing a 50 percent increase in growth in a span of just two years.

A food-tech startup HeyChef in the UAE aimed to launch an online service for providing working class people with a facility to call a chef at their homes to cook regular meals or put together a large spread for a house party. While the brand expression was required to have a distinct character, the user experience of the application had to be extremely intuitive. Aarts worked with the foodtech startup and helped the brand crack its brand positioning. This coupled with the service, saw the startup make inroads in the UAE market with its chef booking service.

Building successful brands with empathy

Over the last six years, Aarts has been able to script numerous such success stories for companies across sizes, from early-stage startups to large FMCG brands across the globe. With a comprehensive range of services - from Brand Strategy to Identity Creation, Collateral Designing to Package Designing, Building UX Strategies to UI Designing and Development - Aarts helps to empower brands across all touch points. “We pride ourselves in building successful brands with creativity, purpose and empathy,” says Aashirwad Gupta, the founder.

Taking on the tag of being Chief Creative Officer, he reasons out why empathy is as important as creativity in defining impactful brand strategies. “Every company is a child of someone’s dream and efforts. And, I have realised that unless you are in that person’s shoes you will not be able to truly understand their challenges and aspirations. This is where empathy becomes foundational to brand building.” shares Aashirwad. He highlights Aarts’ focus on “empathy” helps them to up their creative game and think out of the box. “If you are empathic, you are driven to solve the challenge for your client, as you do for yourselves’ ” he says.

Breaking perceptions

While today, Aarts has successfully positioned itself as a global design and branding studio, the journey has been challenging. Aashirwad says one of the first challenges was to establish the brand’s credibility, given that Aashirwad was not trained in design but was driven by an inherent understanding of the subject. Second, they were based out of Indore and not a metro. “Completing engineering and working at a corporation, I realised I was not built for engineering but for designs. Parallely, since the age of 18, I had been designing logos for brands and helping them establish themselves in the market. And that’s where my strength and sensibilities were. So, when I decided to start a design studio in 2015, I was already aware of the market needs but at the same time I knew it would take a lot more to establish my credentials only because I didn’t come from a design school,” he explains. So in the early days, he consciously took up projects that didn’t translate into good revenue but would help him build a strong portfolio. The strategy worked in his favour and in a span of a year he was able to bag the Giani’s project. Soon after, he was able to bag yet another big FMCG brand - Patanjali.

The second challenge was their base of a Tier II city as opposed to a metro in which case businesses often questioned if Aarts could really execute branding projects. “However, the work in the initial months with numerous businesses and then following them with recognised brands in the industry spoke for us,” says Aashirwad. Here, he notes that their online presence driven by their website has provided a window into their work. “Prospective customers get to see our promise in action. We have put out some of our case studies and shared our offerings in depth. And, the sleek and neat design of the brand website is an indication of what we stand for,” he says.

Advantages of .in

Aashirwad confides that choosing the .in domain extension in hindsight and being able to position Aarts as an India-based global design studio has had its advantages. “We were able to get a lot of India-based big brands that were for brand expression as that of global brands but understood the Indian market,” he shares. In addition, they were also able to capture market interest from global brands who were looking to work with Indian design studios. “From a talent or work perspective, some Indian studios are on par with the rest of the world. But, for a fraction of the cost of what they would otherwise have to spend if they were to go for design studios in developed markets,” explains Aashirwad.

The .in domain extension is especially beneficial for a startup or a business in its early stages, says Aashirwad. “For a business which is just starting up or is in early stages of growth, there are limited resources. This has to be put into use judiciously in areas such as product development, talent management and even branding or marketing,” he says. Given that building an online presence is non-negotiable, investing in a .in domain extension makes a lot of business here, especially if the business is looking to draw traction in the domestic market. “You can build the brand website on a .in domain at an affordable cost, which is a big advantage for early stage businesses,” he says.

The National Internet Exchange for India (NIXI) is helping many businesses across the country to get a .in or .Bharat domain. Enterprises irrespective of their scale and size can avail a .in domain with the help of NIXI. It is affordable and can be availed in more than 22 languages for businesses coming from all regions of the country.

Impact > scale

As an entrepreneur, Aashirwad says he has never been bullish about growth. “In the early days, when I decided to switch careers from engineering to design, I wanted to prove to myself that I could pursue my dream I had set for myself,” he reveals. That saw him working with a limited set of clients but creating a good portfolio. When he was confident that he could take the business to the next level, he decided to build a team. “Today we are a team of 16 people. It may be a small team in terms of numbers but we create quite an impact. We closed FY 20-21 at Rs 1.5 crore in annual revenue,” he shares. Aashirwad says he still holds strongly to the opinion to not scale disproportionately. “The measure for success is impact rather than just scale for Aarts,” he believes.

The ‘Shaping India Inc's Online Growth’ series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.


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