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"I used to travel 2.5 Hours in a Boat For College As Hostel Fees Were Unaffordable" Here's the story of how very humble upbringing brought out the artistic creativity to design more than 60+ famous brands

By Rustam Singh

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Advertisements and promotionals are beyond just a single designed advertorial in a news media made by your in-house designer. These are creatively challenging tasks that require your utmost attention, time, devotion, years of experience and a complete holistic solutions provider. Advertisement should be personalized and across multiple mediums. However even established marketing giants and marketing departments would eventually run out of creative juices and want a second opinion or a faster solution for effective designing that suit their needs. This is where third party designing firms come in handy.

We had a word with a similar design firm called WOW Design and its Partner and Executive Director Deepti Kshirsagar over what it feels to come from humble backgrounds in a small town to aid designing some of the most familiar faces of products we all recognize today across her entrepreneurial journey. Here are some excerpts:

How was your educational background and working experience like and where did entrepreneurship fit in?

I come from a rooted family in a small village-Karanja, close to JNPT Uran and have spent my childhood amongst fisher folks. I could only take basic education in Uran but my parents who had very progressive thoughts made sure we siblings followed our passion.

Hence, I got all the support I needed to take up art education. I used to travel for 2.5 hours to Sophia College by boat for almost a year post which I started staying with a relative in Mumbai. Hostel fees of Sophia were out of my parent's financial reach. I made most of the opportunity I got and pursued my design education.

Initially, I dabbled with advertising. But soon I realized that my passion was more in design. Eventually, I worked in a couple of good design houses and finally joined Yellow. Yellow was an offshoot of now Dyworks and erstwhile DMA. It was there when I got the most challenging projects and brands to work on. FMCG was an emerging sector then and I got a privilege to work with the Godrejs, Cavinkare, Pillsbury& ITC. I learned the nuances of branding and its direct impact on the consumers as I used to spend a lot of time interacting with the brand managers in an ode to learn more. It was here that I decisively stepped out of my creative shoes at times and put myself in the shoes of the marketers. This really helped me to gain a strategic perspective towards branding and Design. I used to travel a lot for projects and researches thus developing an interest in knowing the consumer and decoding the semiotics to apply them in giving great solutions.

Independence is a key trait I possess and that always played a big role in the decisions I took. So I always wanted to do something on my own.

What was your first job, and how well did it pay?

I took up a job early on while I was still graduating as a part-timer. That helped me because by the time I finished my education, I had hands on knowledge. It paid me as much as 1800 per month. That was good enough to run my college and project expenses by then.

How was the idea of your startup conceptualized? What is the need you are addressing in the market?

After garnering enough knowledge and experience, I had discovered that fine intersection between creativity, strategy and marketing and my role in the company was giving me a levy to practice one at a time. It's like you are part of a large crew on the ship excelling in the role that you are supposed to do, but at the end of the day when you are standing on the deck you see those far of lands which you want to explore. Your ship won't go there, so if you have to go there, you take out a boat and sail off on your own out on the sea.

Indian Retail was evolving with brands gaining more than a utilitarian space in the minds and homes of people. It was imperative to create lasting brand experiences rather than just popular communication campaigns and who else but people like us who have had decade of experience in the world of brands and branding could do that. A specialized service industry was emerging and we wanted to make a difference and make the stakeholders understand the difference between branding and mainstream advertising.

Is there a story behind the name of your startup?

A name must say it all in the simplest manner. WOW is the most natural exclamation for anything that's positively beyond expectations.

I wanted the WOW effect in every aspect of the organization from the team that works towards our services & the Brand assets that we create for our Clients. It's in a way a single word guiding principle for us at a team to always do WOW!

What is your business model? Please share numbers of founders, your users (customers),products/services offered and current business size

WOW Design is a specialized strategic brand design company. The company follows a revenue trajectory generated by focusing on its core services of branding- brand strategy & visual brand identity, packaging design, retail communication and space design.

We at WOW practice strategic methodology that ensures design to achieve an effective connect between the brand and the consumer. We make sure that the solutions add manifold value to the Brand image and ultimately meet the marketing objectives. This approach has enabled us to grow healthily with its service offerings in various sectors, FMCG being one of the key sectors of operation. In thelast six years, WOW Design has successfully partnered with a number of FMCG majors as Clients: ITC, AMUL, JK Helen Curtis, CavinKare, Biersdorf, BERGER Paints, PIRAMAL , Abbot , DABUR , PARLE , JYOTI Laboratories etc. The list of clients we have worked with is more than 60 and the number of brands we have imparted our WOW touch are over 100.

What is your office culture like?

Our team size is 40 including myself and my two other partners. Yes, it's the most challenging thing to keep the spirits up in the team in an organisation like us where every team member has to think and deliver creative solutions. Our motto at WOW is to think thoughtfully fresh and every team member is given freedom to express their ideas that can add to the growth of the company. There is a complete transparency in numbers and every team is nurtured like a mini entrepreneural set up.

What has been your biggest challenge since its conception? What is your personal style of addressing the challenges you faced?

If I have to sum it up, there were three key challenges faced. Like every business which is boot strapped, the initial challenge was to go on without taking back any remuneration at the end of the month, which went on for several months. The second toughest challenge for a specialized service offering like us was to get good resources, who are passionate about branding and patient enough to work with a business. The third and impending challenge is that it is very difficult to convince the clients to pay a good price for the specialized service we were offering and to make them understand the difference between advertising and branding.

How do you see the growth scenario is this business? What do predict for the future of your business?

The way the business of branding is shaping up makes me heady at one time and the dynamism makes me want to do a jig at another. Consumer delight is the key word for all brands, whether big or small. With so much exposure to the world wide content , people are getting more than informed and only a suistaned branding effort is going to enable brands to stick around. The retail scenario on both levels is evolving at a fast pace, strategic branding and design has a pivotal role to play in the coming time. With the environment fostering the business and Make In India, I anticipate a lot of home grown brands to shape up and firms like us will go hand in hand enabling the brands to manifest themselves strategically and visually, to be able to reach their desired consumers. So while I cannot predict, I am highly optimistic about the future and will focus on gearing up the team to adapt to the newer ways and technologies required for our business.

What changes have you experienced in your own self since the day you started the business till now?

In the initial stages any unfavourable situations related to WOWDesign used to emotionally traumatise me first before my brain would start proscessing a practical solution for it. A lot of my decision making would slow down because of that. I used to hate firing people. It took me time to detach my emotional self from the practical aspects for running a company. As mentioned earlier, I learnt and aquired the skills of managing the most important part of an organisation-the people, in a non-emotional authoritative way.

Rustam Singh


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