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