Architect Abin Chaudhary opens up about how good education system and strong councils can augment fragile and diluting concepts in interior designing, its industry prospects along with basics playing a crucial role in facilitating better understanding and application of the subject. Excerpts:
1. Interior designing market/ecosystem of India is still highly fragmented. The technological intervention is also minimal. Do you agree? What is the way forward?
Ans: The biggest drawback in India is that we do not have a structured organisation for learning interior designing. We also do not have any colleges which are devoted towards the subject. Several colleges have this tendency of giving short courses for interior designing and this is the biggest threat for budding professionals. The secret to being a successful artist or interior designer is to learn as much as possible and start from the basics. Very few institutes are there in West Bengal, which give rigorous training in interior designing and help students learn the latest technology. This is where we are lagging.
In addition to this, there is a major difference between interior decoration and designing, which people tend to confuse. Nowadays, due to the advent of technology and digital media, people have the scope of easy access to apps such as Pinterest, which allows them to copy any type of images and project themselves as interior designers, since copyright issues are not that strong in India. As a result, the concept of interior designing has become fragile and diluted over the years. We need a good education system and councils to identify these loopholes and work on them to set up good interior designing colleges which will impart proper education. Only then can we expand this area of study and reduce its dilutions and volatility.
2. India is one of the few countries to have formulated and adopted a National Design Policy. It recently constituted an India Design Council to implement the major provisions of the National Design Policy. Do you think this will expedite the growth of the industry?
Ans: Firstly, there is a massive difference between design policy and design practicing. When we speak of design policy, we mean a hierarchical set up, which implements all the rules and guidelines in a proper way. The design policy always works on a larger bandwidth. The Indian Design Council has myriad responsibilities like laying focus on textiles, brass and ceramic works apart from designing. It is not directly related to architecture. The Indian Design Council was formed as a strategic body to implement multi-disciplinary designs and to promote the National Design Policy. Although both deal with designs, the Indian Design Council is a separate overall body and interior design and architecture are different entities altogether. Both are two sides of the same coin but cannot be merged.
3. Design education has seen a spurt of growth in the last five years or so with many private institutions gaining ground. Before that, the design education landscape was characterised by government-supported institutions only, which were few for a country as large as India. How can we promote design education in India to generate more employment and create a skill-backed crop of designers?
Ans: In India, interior design is a new concept and is trending nowadays. Earlier, neither was the form known to us, nor did we think of it as a career or job. Today, the concept of hiring interior designers and architects has become manifold and the demand is gradually increasing. Thus, a need for having more interior designers has gone up. Simultaneously, more and more institutes are mushrooming all across the country to accommodate interior designing students. At a point of time, a lot of institutes used to run on government funds. Today, we have few hundreds of private colleges on various architecture and interiors courses. But we should ensure that quality education is being delivered, which is not the case in India. Having more than 500 architectural colleges and producing more than 50,000 students doesn’t make them experts in the field. The institutes should not be bothered about the number of enrolment of students but should be more concerned about the quality education that needs to be imparted.
Countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have very few universities and colleges but both produce good number of architects and designers who are experts in the field. Quality education is more important than setting up numerous industries and spreading education in a mediocre level. India should also strive towards that and aspire to produce good designers and provide the best education; so that it can instill a sense of responsibility amongst the students and help them sharpen their abilities.
4. Foreign collaboration in this sector is still minimal but many such companies are setting their footprints in India. What kind of policy changes the government and the private stakeholders can adopt to usher in more FDI?
Ans: Personally, I feel for any sector to flourish, foreign collaboration is of immense importance. Whether it is the economic sector or the social sector, a monetary gain from foreign sources is always an extra advantage for the local business. Similarly, the design industry in India has had several collaborations with numerous foreign nations such as Singapore, Thailand etc. It helps in improving and developing the skills of modern management and imparting latest means of technology transfer. It also aids in the training of technicians. The fund that comes from these foreign collaborations are utilised in setting up more institutes. When there is an alliance or collaboration with a foreign nation, there is a healthy interchange of ideas and opinions. Similarly, when India joins hands with any foreign country for collaboration, it ensures that it can imbibe all the positive things from it. But just by imbibing and taking funds is not enough. The ideas should be taken and the source should always be recognised. India should try and maintain consistent efforts to keep alive the close ties. Only then, can India talk about future collaborations and make use of its rich network and connections.
5. India is a large market and at the same time unique as well. There is no such thing called as a thumb rule which can describe the Indian market or consumers. They vary in cultures, traditions, religions, food, dressing, etc. At the same time, the Indian consumer is becoming more and more demanding and is asserting himself/herself to get his/her aspirations satisfied. Variety is the diversity of this market. Is it an advantage or a confusion for the interior designers?
Ans: Known for its ‘Unity in Diversity’ and varied culture in terms of religion, art and history, India has flourished in every aspect — from having different stakeholders to varied artists and art forms. India is a composite mixture of varying styles and influences. So, in a land of tremendous variety, it is easy to promote artistic forms such as interior designing and architecture. Along with this, we need to strengthen our education system so that they can produce good architects and designers. India is blessed with such diversity and rich culture. If we can bolster our education system, our diversity of culture along with proper education will take our country to new heights and will take designing to a whole new level.
6. The concentration of design companies in Bangalore and Pune is due to technology companies and older automobile firms. On the other hand, tier-2 cities still lack the mindset and resources. So, should we say that this industry is still dependent on the urban population?
Ans: A lot of architectural colleges have been set up in and around Bangalore, Bombay and Pune. Needless to say, such areas have high revenue generation and good business development. Kolkata lags due to this. Industrially, Kolkata needs to be strong so that we can expand our business and proliferate deeper into these aspects. Chennai has 70 architectural colleges, Mumbai has 22 colleges but Kolkata has only 6 colleges for architectural design. Therefore, many students prefer to move outside for better opportunities. Also, a lot of revenue is generated from these architectural colleges. But first and foremost, before setting up colleges, it is important to ensure that those institutes have been equipped with latest technology and good quality education and teachers who will produce the best students. Good students will create interesting projects, which will be responsible in ensuring the overall development of the state. This is what our city should look out for.
7. India’s green building market is estimated to double by 2022 at 10 billion sq ft, valuing around $35-50 billion, driven by increasing awareness level, environmental benefits and government support, according to property consultant ANAROCK. Is this good news for the designers working in this segment or do you think India’s interior designing market is still not ready for this leap?
Ans: The entire concept of “Green Building” is a terminology. Today, we have a lot of companies who are talking about green initiatives and green buildings, but according to me, we do not need any certificate. We can ensure sustainability through making small changes in our day-to-day life. Carbon monoxide, chlorofluro carbon emissions can take place through refrigerators, AC machines and electric heaters too. Using low quality wall paints and colours can add to pollution too. Very recently, indoor pollution has become a big aspect and poses a major threat to citizens. Minimal use of these can reduce pollution as well and automatically lead towards green buildings. Hence, green buildings can be ensured at homes too.
1. After spending more than a decade in this industry, which identity suits you most — designer or an entrepreneur?
Ans: I feel I am more of a designer than an entrepreneur. This is because I love the work I do. Finance is a part of it but my main aim is to create good work and not just slog for business or monetary purposes. But someday, I would experiment with staging direction since I am more into designing, abstract art and dynamism. I have traveled to Scotland and Berlin and the Opera there is wonderful and a treat to the eyes. Maybe someday I would love to take part in backstage designing. To be more specific, backstage designing for Hans Eimer would be one of my dream works though.
2. What inspires you to take up a new project?
Ans: Being in practice, money is important and essential for sustaining ourselves. While working, there are certain projects in which we get emotionally attached. We work because we can relate to it and we love doing it.
3. What is your signature that one can find in your designs?
Ans: We have no such signature. We love challenges. If there is one signature of our work, it would be “taking up all forms of unfamiliar things”. We love to experiment and explore those minute areas where people don’t normally get the chance to work in. Our philosophy is to take up unfamiliar explorations and do it with confidence and considerable courage.