In­ter­na­tional de­sign firms need com­mit­ted Project Lo­cal­iza­tion teams to col­lab­o­rate with to get de­signs off the ground.

VM&RD chats with Shyam Sun­der, Chief Ar­chi­tect & Di­rec­tor at Four Di­men­sions Re­tail De­sign who have re­cently col­lab­o­rated with Dalziel+Pow, Lon­don to jointly de­liver ‘Global De­sign with Lo­cal Roll­out’.

Why do stake­hold­ers as­so­ci­ated with large brands, shop out­side the coun­try for de­sign on re­tail iden­tity projects?

I’ve been asked this ques­tion many times be­fore, be­cause of 4D’s prox­im­ity to large brand roll­outs. Ac­cord­ing to me, “re­tail iden­tity” as a clear de­liv­er­able is still not clearly ar­tic­u­lated in In­dia - even though it has been an emerg­ing facet of our re­tail sky­line over the last 8 to ten years.

But the big plus here is the rate at which things are chang­ing, in vis­i­bly dy­namic pro­por­tions. Stake­hold­ers manag­ing large brands in In­dia are ad­dress­ing highly evolved au­di­ences with a global ex­po­sure to brands and re­tail en­vi­ron­ments, mak­ing it im­per­a­tive to seek the per­spec­tive and ex­pe­ri­ence of in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers. I think there’s a lot to learn and ab­sorb from highly evolved, ma­ture mar­kets in Europe, the UK and US.

What chal­lenges do these in­ter­na­tional firms have, when it comes to work­ing with project teams in In­dia?

Like any other im­port of ex­per­tise and think­ing, last-mile de­liv­ery of de­sign in­tent can face some very se­ri­ous road blocks. Pri­mar­ily be­cause in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers need to 'lo­cal­ize' de­sign strate­gies against ROI in In­dian terms –en­com­pass­ing ma­te­rial se­lec­tion and bal­ance, qual­ity of de­liv­ery and ag­gres­sive time­lines. So it’s im­por­tant to find the right In­dian part­ner, with the right mix of ex­pe­ri­ence and re­sources.

What kind of a learn­ing ex­er­cise is it for the In­dian part­ner?

At 4D we have learnt to evolve a log­i­cal process, which keeps im­prov­ing project af­ter project. The learn­ing curve has been for­mi­da­ble as we work to strengthen our in­ter­na­tional build ex­per­tise, with In­dian fla­vors the cus­tomer can iden­tify with.

For us the learn­ing curve has been en­joy­able and has taken us from strength to strength – which is a great ar­mory of skills to bring to the ta­ble.

What are the many ways the over­seas de­sign team ben­e­fits from the part­ner­ship?

There’s more than one vis­i­ble ben­e­fit as we have seen, on our projects. One, there is no trans­mis­sion loss be­tween con­cepts to ex­e­cu­tion. Two, the process of lo­cal­iza­tion does not lose out on the in­ter­na­tional de­sign ma­trix of the brand – the de­liv­er­able still mea­sures up to a global au­dit. Three, and this is im­por­tant, we en­sure ‘best of de­sign de­liv­ery’ with­out phys­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion in the build process – which is a key lever­age point in the part­ner­ship.

At the end of the day, it’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion for both sides of the part­ner­ship, even­tu­ally ben­e­fit­ting the client in a very in­te­gral way. The client gets the best of both worlds in an well man­aged, seam­less ex­er­cise.

Can you give us a re­cent ex­am­ple of a suc­cess­ful de­sign lo­cal­iza­tion part­ner­ship, in re­tail iden­tity?

Allen Solly is a good ex­am­ple of such a col­lab­o­ra­tion. In the early nineties, Allen Solly gave the ur­ban In­dian a whole new dress code for the work­place – mak­ing head­lines with 'Fri­day Dress­ing'. The plat­form aimed to in­fuse vi­brant col­ors and break away from the cookie cut­ter ap­proach to work wear.

Dalziel+Pow our col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner, through their In­dia of­fice, have worked on the new re­tail iden­tity project for Allen Solly. The Dalziel+Pow strat­egy was based on an eclec­tic mix of her­itage and con­tem­po­rary ex­pres­sion. The big chal­lenge here was to rein­car­nate this with a look and feel that was dis­tinctly In­dian – with­out any di­lu­tion of de­sign or busi­ness in­tent of the iden­tity.

This is where I’d like to give you a snap­shot of the mi­cro-man­age­ment we went into on the de­tail­ing. The ex­act color & shade of the pow­der coat­ing spec­i­fied for fix­tures was clearly out­side the scope of our process stream, so we had to work with a sup­plier to re-for­mu­late his pal­ette to get an ex­act match. The ef­fort to con­form closely, went across the board – right from wall pa­pers, floor­ing, light fix­tures, mer­chan­dise fix­tures, and more - to de­liver qual­ity and stan­dards that made the grade and mea­sured up

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