Cel­e­brat­ing 10 years in the In­dian re­tail de­sign sec­tor, Fu­ture Re­search De­sign Com­pany (FRDC) be­lieves that re­tail is in its most ex­cit­ing phase of de­vel­op­ment. Evok­ing a feel­ing of love, joy, ex­pe­ri­ence and de­light in the space they cre­ate, San­jay Agar­wal, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of FRDC re­traces the com­pany’s jour­ney in the in­dus­try. By Chanda P Ku­mar

Step­ping into the sprawl­ing white du­plex struc­ture lo­cated on a quaint tree-lined street in Ko­ra­man­gala-Ban­ga­lore, I im­me­di­ately en­sure my­self that I’ve reached the right place. Boast­ing of its decade long run in the re­tail de­sign world, the FRDC (Fu­ture Re­search De­sign Com­pany) of­fice wel­comes vis­i­tors with its vi­brant red wall of fame. And here its not just the awards or tro­phies that rep­re­sent the firm’s achieve­ments but the peo­ple be­hind the suc­cess too! Clearly a de­sign firm crafted by the cre­ative hands of its team mem­bers, and moulded by San­jay Agar­wal, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of FRDC.

Hail­ing from a fam­ily that had no real con­nec­tion with any cre­ative line of work, San­jay Agar­wal, shunned the con­ven­tional pro­fes­sions of medicine and engi­neer­ing to pur­sue a ca­reer in ar­chi­tec­ture. With an in­born gift of ob­serv­ing ev­ery lit­tle de­tail in things around him, San­jay soon recog­nised his pas­sion for de­sign and the func­tional as­pects of de­sign it­self. Dur­ing his ar­chi­tec­ture years in Lucknow, San­jay got to ob­serve the shop­keep­ers and re­tail­ers at the bust­ing shop­ping area of Hazrat­ganj for his col­lege project. As­pir­ing to re­vive this her­itage stretch, San­jay took his first steps into the re­tail de­sign world. When In­dia was still learn­ing the true mean­ing of re­tail, he soon moved to work with in­ter­na­tional brands and re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Lux­ury in places like Sin­ga­pore and re­turned home to be­gin his stint with ITC.

Soon he was hit by the en­tre­pre­neur­ial wave, and co-founded (RDG) Re­tail De­sign Group in 2007 with his friend and CEPT batch­mate Mi­nali to ven­ture into the evolv­ing re­tail de­sign land­scape in In­dia. “I al­ways be­lieved in do­ing some­thing that I have pas­sion and com­pe­tency for. So re­tail de­sign is what I’ve been do­ing for 10 years now and en­joy­ing. There are no re­grets!” San­jay adds.

Lead­ing the green & en­vi­ron­ment friendly de­sign in In­dia and also de­sign­ing & ex­e­cut­ing re­tail de­sign projects to match global stan­dards, FRDC was soon com­pet­ing for projects with in­ter­na­tional de­sign firms. Work­ing with top clien­tele in In­dia, FRDC soon made its name in the In­dian Re­tail De­sign scene. As of to­day, FRDC is also ex­e­cut­ing projects in Mid­dle East, Asia Pa­cific and other re­gions, and the lat­est feather in the cap are two top In­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tions for their works.

Fol­low­ing no spe­cific sig­na­ture in their work, FRDC is known to sur­prise clients with their con­stantly evolv­ing ap­proach to de­sign. “We don’t have any sig­na­ture style and that is what ac­tu­ally helps us mov­ing.” And to make this de­sign phi­los­o­phy work at FRDC, San­jay only con­veys his idea and al­lows his team to chart their course, en­sur­ing that each project is com­pletely dif­fer­ent. “I be­lieve the team should find them­selves in­volved in a de­sign rather than dic­tat­ing the de­sign ap­proach ev­ery time.”

San­jay shares that FRDC’s jour­ney in the re­tail world for the last ten years has brought with it a set of valu­able lessons. Hit by the re­ces­sion in the ini­tial years, the firm quickly learnt to fo­cus on ra­tio­nal­is­ing cost, will­ing to work with ev­ery client that ap­proached them, give re­al­is­tic de­sign so­lu­tions and fol­low a highly process driven sys­tem.

Speak­ing about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween de­sign and a cus­tomer, San­jay be­lieves that a de­sign should evoke a feel­ing of love, joy, ex­pe­ri­ence and de­light. “If store de­sign doesn’t evoke these four feel­ings for the con­sumer, I think it’s not worth a de­sign. These four feel­ings is what gen­er­ates busi­ness at the end of the day,” he ex­plains.

Un­der­stand­ing the brand, its tar­get au­di­ence and what they look for in re­tail has been the big­gest strength for FRDC. Equat­ing his de­sign firm to that of a good doc­tor, who digs deep to un­der­stand the ail­ment, San­jay ex­plains that FRDC looks closer to see how its de­sign so­lu­tions can profit the brand. “We look at where the brand is com­ing from, where they want to reach and how our de­sign can help it.”

And while delv­ing on the sub­ject of strengths, San­jay be­lieves that his team of 30+ tal­ented pro­fes­sion­als is the back­bone of the com­pany. In an in­dus­try that is filled with finicky cre­ative minds and a high rate of at­tri­tion, FRDC is blessed by a good bunch of peo­ple. “It’s all about the team and the team is not some­thing which I can hire and fire. I need to en­sure the growth of the peo­ple who are with me.”

Ex­e­cut­ing re­tail projects for the last decade, San­jay ex­plains that the re­tail land­scape has evolved dras­ti­cally over the last few years, where the same clients’ ex­pec­ta­tions are chang­ing by the day. “Brands fu­elled by e-com­merce en­ter­ing the brick and mor­tar space or vice versa, is the boom I think that In­dia is gonna be pre­par­ing for the next few years,” San­jay pre­dicts. He quickly adds that de­sign in In­dia is tricky due to tight bud­gets and high de­pen­dency on im­port­ing ma­te­ri­als.

Armed with a great team and in­ter­na­tional al­liances such as US’s lead­ing de­sign firm JGA, FRDC has not only been able to de­liver in­ter­na­tional projects but also take In­dian brands to the in­ter­na­tional mar­kets. “This is what we have been striv­ing to do suc­cess­fully in the last few years and that is where our next phase of growth will come from.”

Shar­ing his mantra for a suc­cess­ful busi­ness in de­sign, San­jay con­cludes our chat and says, “De­sign is a busi­ness where if you are not pas­sion­ately in­volved it will die out. I also be­lieve that you have to hand­hold the client or any project in­volved till the end.”

“I know they want a good de­sign, which is ob­vi­ous. But we look at where they’re com­ing from, where the brand wants to reach and how our de­sign can help it.”

San­jay Agar­wal, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, FRDC

FRDC Team at their Of­fice in Ban­ga­lore

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