This woman entrepreneur is putting India’s design talent on the global map
Tanya Khanna studied architecture, but took a different route when it came to starting her own business.
With a background in the design industry and having worked with many firms as an architect, Tanya saw a gap in designers, their practice, and business communication. She realised that design and architecture firms were only focusing on their work, and not using communication to ensure growth.
Keen to bridge this gap, Tanya started Epistle Communications, a one-of-its-kind agency that offers bespoke strategic communication consulting for design, architecture, and allied industries.
Focusing on needs and demands
When Tanya decided to turn to entrepreneurship, she had no insights at all. No one in her family had ever ventured into the field, but six months after she got married, Tanya started Epistle Communications in 2011 from the dining table and living room.
As an architect and having worked with firms, she understood the needs and demands of these businesses. However, she bagged her first project only six months after starting up.
Talking about her shift to the communications sector, Tanya says that she was always interested in this field “even during my undergraduate degree”.
After graduating, she got the opportunity to work at an architectural journal, which furthered her interest. After completing her master’s from University College London she found mentors there and subsequently in India, who helped her get more clarity and delve deeper into this sector.
From a one-person team, Tanya has now built a team of over 25 people and has more than 30 design and allied brands as clients. The list includes India’s top 10 architecture firms.
Epistle has helped clients get featured in over 1,800 online and 1500 print publications, and has helped small and big firms get global recognition and access to new business opportunities.
On scaling up the business, Tanya says,
“With no insights into entrepreneurship, it has been a huge learning curve. It has meant multiple heartaches, many sleepless nights, and literally no holidays. Even while pregnant, I did not take a single day of maternity leave. But, those hours of work have resulted in success.”
“Moving out of the comfort zone with no sight of success or monetary goals ahead is what entrepreneurship is.”
Giving back to the design field
Apart from creating a niche agency that caters to designers and architects pan-India, Tanya has been involved in nurturing design discourse and studies.
She was integral in creating the academic agenda for Sushant School of Art & Architecture, Gurgaon, which is affiliated with Ansal University.
She spearheaded the management initiative that helped secure university status for the school and helped introduce new programmes to ensure holistic design education and promote design dialogue.
Tanya has also been associated with The Design Village, an emerging school of design. She has delivered lectures and formulated the curriculum for communications at the school. Epistle also facilitated setting up marketing and outreach activities for the school.
On entrepreneurship and success
Tanya set up Epistle with the goal to further the cause of good design in the sub-continent, and bring it to the forefront in an otherwise latent industry.
During this journey, she has faced her set of ups and downs. She admits that there have been tough times. But faith and commitment to her journey have seen her through.
“From recruitment to payments and delivering good quality work, it didn’t come without tears and heartache. But at no point did I stop. The journey has been great. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course, there have been ups and downs, and moments of heartache, when you wonder why you are doing it all. But if I look back, I don’t think I would have it any other way,” says Tanya.
The challenge to alter the notion that good design speaks for itself was one of the foremost. For this, she worked with clients to create opportunities to showcase their work and enable better discourse, and improve future prospects for innovative practices.
With relative success in a short period of time, Tanya feels success is more than money.
“Believe in the value-add that the service is providing and focus on the quality, rather than the tangible success of the business. Money is a by-product; if the business is successful and clients have faith in your offerings - success will follow,” she says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)