H2Designo brings to you Kayzad Shroff, founder partner of SHROFFLEoN, a Mumbai based architectural firm. As he talks about his work and inspiration here is what he got to share with our readers.
1. Tell us something about yourself and the firm.
We are a partnership firm. Myself and my partner Maria Leon who is a Spanish National. We are 6 years old now. We have been primarily working on Residential projects be it renovation, bungalows or buildings, there is where our forte lies.
Moreover our work culture and office is a fun one wherein we even have a dog at all times who normally sits for meetings as well as comes to our sites.
2. How did you get your first break and what were the initial challenges you faced?
In the beginning I feel everyone needs a sort of a Godfather and for us it was a dentist of mine. I was abroad for 10years before I came back and setup the office. I wasn’t in touch with him earlier. But when I came back I needed a wisdom tooth to be extracted. That’s how we met and he took a sort of liking to me and introduced me to a couple of his friends and that’s how we got our first project. It was a 3BHK house, almost 1500-1800 sqft, which is not a small project especially for the first one and after that we did 3 more projects for that same person.
Later he also gave us his own clinic to design, which was a very small project. It was a dentist clinic and at 250 sqft he wanted 3 operatories, making it a difficult project to execute. However we learnt a lot from this project.
Further he is also a dentist to quite a few bollywood personalities. So one day one of them came to his clinic and really liked what we had done with a 250 sqft place and because of that we not only got to do his house in Pali Hill but also an animal veterinary in Karjat. So things always tend to be Ripple effect. When someone sees and likes the work it is always a progressional thing.
3. So can we Describe this as the moment of “wanting to start your own setup”?
Yes we always wanted to start our own setup, that’s why we decided to come to India. We were both based in New York previously and in New York it is very difficult to start off a simple thing because the rent itself is 1500-2000 dollars a month and if you do not have a job or a serious backup from your parents it is not practically possible.
Over here with house being covered, as most people stay with their parents, your major expenses are out and also over here you tend to do a lot of interior projects which gives you a foothold into then progressing into Architecture. That idea does not particularly exist in America where unless you are doing absurdly high end, a regular person in a 2 bedroom 1000sqft flat would not be calling an interior designer. It’s just not heard of.
So even because the market condition is such that over here the potential to get jobs is more so that is why we decided to come back.
4. What kind of projects excite you the most.
Most of our projects are very exciting for us. We are a small office, we don’t particularly have an ambition of growing too large too soon. We prefer to take 4-5 projects at a time. Projects which interest us, projects where the budgets are relatively decent, projects which are interesting by programme and most importantly, projects where we feel the client is someone we can relate to. For us that is a very big thing, where we need to feel a sort of connection with the client because you are going to be working intimately with them for atleast 6-8 months and if you feel that there is even a little bit of friction in the very beginning it doesn’t make sense to go ahead as you may end up in a very abusive cycle. Luckily we have never had that issue but I have seen friends who have had such issues with clients so we are very careful with who we work with also.
5. What inspires your designs and keeps the creativity going?
I would say it’s the client actually. We tend to get clients that are relatively enlightened, with enlightened I don’t mean people who are extremely well off but people who have travelled abit, who read, who are generally curious people and when you get that kind of a person to work with they tend to challenge you a lot. They tend to challenge you in terms of basic programming, in terms of detailing , they tend to challenge you in terms of budgeting and quite often a requirement that a client has that becomes the Gem of the project or main point of the project.
6. As a design-preneur, where do you see design in India heading?
I feel in general there are 3 different streams happening in India right now.
You have one stream that has very traditional, Indian stuff with a modern twist. When I say a modern twist I mean almost kitsch modern or like kitsch Indian to get parallel not to architecture but related design stream, someone like Krsna Mehta, who takes images of rickshaws, old potters and changes the colour so you have this type of aesthetics that is happening in one stream.
You then have a second aesthetic, a modern Indian, where you have people like Bijoy Jain who are beginning to cultivate what it means to have a modern contemporary aesthetic within the Indian context, where you use local craftsman, use materials that are native to the context etc. They create a very modern looking building but at the same time it is inherently very Indian.
You then have the third variety which tends to do more of decontextualized modern stuff where once you see the project you do not even know where it is and I am not saying that in a bad way, I am just saying that it is the world aesthetics, the contemporary world aesthetics which is not particularly rooted in its context and by context I mean the larger context of India and not location.
So you have these 3 streams going on in parallel and I feel these streams did not exist earlier particularly the first one where you have the Indian kitsch thing happening. It is an interesting thing. I am not sure which one is going to take off in a while.
7. Apart from the above what is there something you would like to share with our readers.
One thing that I would like to tell the students, people who are entering the profession, or school, do not particularly choose this profession if you are not extremely enamoured and obsessed by it because it is a very tough profession to be in. It requires a lot of hours, a lot of dedication, hell lot of heartaches and not particularly any monetary awards. Do not do it if you are forced into it.
Second thing that I would like to tell young professionals is that even if you have completed your degree, do not feel pressurized to continue the same stream because you have spent 5 years in it. A lot of my classmates have actually left architecture and are in different fields, some are in graphics, some into construction, some into building, some of them are have gone and done their MBA and are working in places like Whirpool and things like that.
The thing with an architectural degree is that it teaches you how to think maybe not completely in a straightforward manner but in a parallel manner.