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Interior designing spells money!

October 23, 2004

When Nitin Gupta graduated from the Institute of Environmental Design, Anand, in 1996, he found it wasn't easy to break into the world of architecture.

For a fresh graduate, opportunities in the Capital were few and Gupta was looking ahead at many years of struggle before he could come into his own as a professional.

This route was not for him and Gupta, a young man in a hurry, decided to take a detour. He shifted focus to interiors instead, turned entrepreneur and started offering clients a whole range of design solutions and an in-house product line.

Interior designing was a field just coming into its own then. What's more, the initial investment required was literally nothing- just a rent of Rs 2,000 for a shop in Palam Vihar and a few ideas. Today, when everyone from corporate offices to your next-door neighbour wants to hire a designer, Gupta's company is increasingly  in demand.

I trained as an architect at the Institute of Environmental Design, Anand, in Gujarat and finished in 1996. But I soon realised that a long struggle lay ahead before I could really make my mark.

At that time I decided to work for myself and turn entrepreneur. I decided to focus on interior design, which was a field just opening up at that time. I got my first project by chance.

Tata Tetley was opening up an office at Khan Market and they hired me. It was a small project and cost just about Rs 300,000 to Rs 400,000 but it really helped.

I decided to do the furniture in-house and the client didn't mind. I hired a shop behind the international airport in Palam Vihar for just Rs 2,000 because we needed a basic workshop.

With the advance I got, we bought the raw material and hired carpenters who made all the furniture in-house. Everything else was profit and I put it back into the workshop and into buying machinery.

After that I got some small office projects in Connaught Place. At that time Shahpur Jat was coming up and it was nearer to CP, so I decided to shift my workshop there.

Initially, I hired two rooms. From there, we've slowly grown, gradually acquiring more space and staff. Today, I have a full-fledged company with a staff of about 12 to 13 people and we are expanding.

In these years, there have been so many times when I have suffered losses, clients have not paid up, and I've thought of quitting. But I didn't, and things have worked out.

In a competitive market, it is tough for a young company like ours to survive. There's competition from the bigger players and sometimes clients don't take you seriously.

But one of the biggest challenges I have had to face is dealing with the mindset of my family. I come from a typical service class background -- my father was a teacher in the American embassy school.

As such, my family has always had a cautious attitude towards money and would not be supportive of financial risks a businessman often has to take.

I always had to prove myself first, show results and then invest. There have been so many times I felt limited by finances. For instance, when we were still coming up, Gurgaon was growing into a big market.

I wanted to tap into that and set up a workshop there but could not because of the capital required. So I was forced to take small steps instead. The company could never jump from 1 to 50, we've had to grow slowly from 1 to 5 to 10.

Apart from design solutions, I am very proud of my furniture line. In fact, clients like that because there is less hassle for them if we also make the products.

I trained under Pradeep Sachdeva, the person who has done Dilli Haat, on his product line and was inspired by that. Besides that, I am very handy with tools.

In fact, I am a decent level carpenter so I've always loved making my own products, which are contemporary and practical. I do a lot of work for corporates now, and the French, British and American embassies are also clients. But I feel the middle class is a growing segment and this is what I'd like to tap into now.

-- As told to Anoothi Vishal

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