By : wadeindia | 23 May 2018 | TRENDING WADe TOPICS
Art of Scaling-Up: What it Means for Various Firms
Starting a firm is far easier than scaling up. Unknown challenges surround a firm while it is trying to deliver on one side, retain on another side, and third, trying to scale up. This session at WADe Asia 2017 had a set of panellists from different stages of life as well as from stages, in ‘scaling up the businesses’. The discussion was moderated by Ramprasad Akkisetti, Founder Managing Director of Christopher Charles Benninger Architects Private Limited (CCBA) with other eminent panelists such as Ar Sonali Bhagwati, Spazzio, New Delhi. Ar Lalita Tharani, Co-founder, Collaborative Architecture, Mumbai & Ar Rahul Subberwal, The Architectural Studio, New Delhi.
BRIEF BACKGROUND & STAGES OF PRACTICE
Kick-starting the session with his own journey, Mr. Akkisetti shared his vast, almost two decade old experience in managing an Architecture Firm CCBA which he started with Christopher Charles Beninnger about 24 years ago. Initially, studying to be a doctor, Ram realized his ‘true-calling’ was Architecture. “I had to lose something to gain something better and I am very happy to be a part of this fraternity, this profession as an auxiliary.
Lalita Tharani, Co-founder, Collaborative Architecture started the firm about 15 years ago with her partner and husband, Mujib Ahmed, merging their individual firms together by collaborating their works thus the name – Collaborative Architecture. A concept that the firm believes in. They also collaborate with International firm J. Mayer.
Sonali Bhagwati graduated from CEPT, Ahmedabad – and then started the firm called Spazzio” which meant a team and she always believed that it is a team that makes a project and it’s not you. You can be a leader but you can’t do anything without the team.
Ar Rahul Subberwal, Co-founder & Principal Architect, The Architectural Studio, the youngest of the four panlelists, learnt architecture in Gujarat. Working for ARCOP for few months, he and wife (his senior in college) decided to start their own practice taking a chance by not working with a scaled up firm and starting on their own.
DEFINING SCALING UP FOR DIFFERENT FIRMS
‘Scaling-up’ cannot be just called as scaling up financially or scaling up the number of people that work for us, says Akisetti.It goes beyond. When I refer to ‘scaling up’ we have to look like at the social contract that we all kind of have in the society that we live in. So the kind of philosophies that we have to kind of impart why we are designing or practicing as practicing firms so it’s not limited to scaling up of the linear sense. We are looking at scaling up emotionally, scaling up philosophically as well as the scaling up of the profession itself and its values” said Akkisetti.
Scaling up must not be restricted in the linear sense. We must look at scaling up emotionally, philosophically as well as the scaling up of the profession itself and its values.”- Ramprasad Akisetti
Firms are dying in our country after the brand is no more there, he informs. His firm CCBA is trying to dissolve the brand Christopher Beninnger and trying to elevate the idea of team which is CCBA. In fact they have kind of changed the name for that matter. “We are trying to bring in kind of certain changes in the sense of making all the team members as the owners of the company. You have to maintain that kind of responsibility in sharing your profits also because you must never underestimate the team that works behind creating this particular brand. That’s one thing which I would like you to practice also in your practices”.
He reminds young architects that, you are also responsible for hundreds of other people who could not be at your place,” he added.
“We approach each project as a new film, with a new director, new actor, new story, new capacity build, so you have to innovative and cannot make the same recipe twice and it’s been very successful
for us” – Rahul Subberwal
Looking at the idea of Scaling up from a very different angle in the way their firms takes up each project, Rahul Subberwal says they approach each project as a new ‘FILM’, “You have a project, you have Director, you build capacity, you don’t always have the same actors, you will not make the same recipe twice so you have to innovate, you have to come up with new stuff, you need new actors, new producers, new cinematographer, you need new songs, music, composer. You capacity build for a project. You do it like a film”. He further explained his logic as, “The project actually gets done on time in the possible course without severe overheads. It’s been very successful.”
“We decided to take up different project types as a learning experience. Doing only one project type and settling into a comfort zone doesn’t take you very far.”
– Sonali Bhagwati
Sonali started her practice with her husband Sohrab Dalal while she was still studying. “We grew from a garage to a barsati and expanded the barsati till we could expand no more and then we sort of climbed over each other” said Bhagwati. “We always decided to do various different project types because every project is a learning experience. The uniqueness of the firm is that under one roof you have multiple services, integrated together and so if a project came to us which, was like a partially built shape we could take it from then on, a kind of advantage that became a USP for us,” she added.
“Collaboration not just mean collaboration of individual minds, thoughts, designs but also the entire team collaborating on each project as well as the way they work everyday!” – Lalita Tharani
While not calling it an uniqueness Lalita explains Collaboration is something they really focus on. “It is something not just the collaboration of individual minds, individual thoughts, designs but collaboration in terms of the entire team working together on each project and also how the office works,” said Tharani. Tharani’s focus has always been on innovation, not restricting to any particular category. “The one thing that we really focus on or I would say the unique thing we try to do is we try to focus on design life cycle of the project,” she said.
WERE THERE ANY TURNING POINTS IN THEIR CAREER
Ram credits, designing Suzlon One Earth project was a turning point for CCBA, which introduced them to the Green Building concept (newer facets of green), collaboration with another firm and so on post which CCBA turned from an organic organization to an organized systematic organization.
It was always difficult for a small firm to choose which direction they should move, to ensure that the project they took up was worth doing, taking alternative paths and not going completely commercial made sense to us as architects and dreamers but not the business sense, explained Lalita. Their innovative project ‘Wrap Series’ was a turning point for Lalita, bringing in a lot of recognition, awards, accolades and international recognition.”
Bhagwati shares 2-3 turning points in her practice, ‘One turning point was when we got our first Institutional project within a year or two in the practice. It gave me the confidence to overcome a lot of fears and go forward. The second one was more personal then professional. The third major turning point was merging two firms DPA and Spazzio, she said, “DPA, a large format firm & Spazzio the boutique design. They had similar ideologies and we took over DPA as a larger entity and that completely changed our way of practice, scope, processes, everything and that according to me was really the last and the major turning point in our career”.
At one point in time, Rahul says, they were struggling, working on mostly residential projects and some small institutional but nothing much. That’s when a rejuvenation of sector-17 Chandigarh project came along and a British firm BDP took them on for urban design and architecture. It was not easy as they were competing with big firms like ARCOP but they successfully re-integrated into the field and that was a turning point.
Ramprasad closes the discussion with a note – It’s more important to be a good person than a good architect.
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