Point of View How did you make the decision that Fitch should be in India? RF: I came here as a part of the WPP delegation in 2006 to explore the Indian market. I made two presentations, one in Mumbai and one in Delhi. I fell in love with the place. I was overwhelmed by the interesting questions and the people. This was all happening in April of 2006 and I determined that we would open a studio as quickly as we could. We were up and running by November the same year. And how was the experience? RF: Fantastic! We started and hit the ground running. I started by bringing people from London and America to do the work and to add resources to the work here. That went very well. We had some very interesting clients - Godrej, Reliance, Aditya Birla Group. We had only eight people then and established our own space inside JWT; then we outgrew the space - 35 people - and I hear they are again moving to bigger premises. When you started what was your business objective in India? Did you have any targets? RF: Absolutely. I wanted desperately to support the organized retail sector in India. I really wanted to see local brands. I am an absolute supporter of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). I wanted to see local brands established as major retail players, so my objective was to work with people who saw their future in the retail business. I was clear about the people that I could work for; who I thought could deliver on that ambition. When you decided to come in, you obviously felt there was a void you were filling - the services that did not exist before you started offering them. Can we talk about that? RF: Yes. I did feel that while there is a tremendous talent here and a fantastic, wonderful history of visual culture, what the organized retail sector needed was an organized design capability and I thought that we could provide that. Do you see a change in the last few years since you came here first? RF: India is a work in progress. The landscape is changing forever and I have seen that change occurring. And I have seen the organized sector grow, become
more professional and realistic. When I first came here, there was a good deal of over-ambition, over-hype and overexpectation. I have seen that become much more sensible. And I have seen some very good things happen that I predicted back in 2004. Did your experience in India in any way influence Fitch anywhere else in the world? RF: Oh yes! I organized a triangulation between our studios in Singapore, India and Dubai. The studios collaborated on projects; the Indian studio collaborated on Dubai projects; and the Singapore studio collaborated on Indian projects with great success. Our people who have been out here working have absorbed something of the Indian culture. One of our staff even got mixed up in the terrorist attack at the Taj; she survived the attack and it was an extraordinary experience for me to be talking to her on the telephone while she was locked up in her room with terrorists firing their guns outside. When Fitch came into India, what did you think about the competition here? RF: I don’t want you to interpret this as arrogance. I did not feel that there was another design organization which was competition. The competition either arose from the established advertising industry or it arose from the ambitions of incoming western design businesses. But I really did feel that the resources that we had at that time were incomparable and we had established our credentials so I did not really feel like there was a similar sort of competition. And what was your experience with talent here? RF: Our experience has been very good. I keep saying ‘we’, and I am not a part of Fitch anymore! The studio here is terrific. We joined forces one time with a small architectural firm with offices in Delhi and Mumbai. We brought people from Delhi down here. The studio now has 40 people and it’s a wonderful mixture of Indians from different parts of the country, besides a Canadian, several English people, an Australian and a Swede. I think that an international cosmopolitan studio in India for Indians is the way forward.
Now that you have moved on from Fitch, what are you doing? RF: I’m in education. I’m a full professor; I’m running a Masters course in Retail Design in Europe from Delft University in Holland, and we are running an executive course with similar content here in Mumbai. Besides that I am involved as an advisor with various companies, which is both creative and financial. And where does India figure in your scheme of things now? RF: India remains high on my agenda. I love coming here, the work here and the potential that this country has. I love it all, the challenges, the people, the frustrations and the whims. My ambition is to build the course which will contribute to a better understanding and better resource for retail design here in India. Do you see professional engagements beyond academic engagements in India now? RF: I would like to see myself working as well as teaching here. What would you advise Indian studios which want to grow big? RF: Well I would not want to be presumptuous but I do have some suggestions. I think Indian studios that want to grow would benefit by making their studios international and cosmopolitan. Their internal resources would benefit from having another perspective apart from the Indian perspective. Secondly, they should concentrate on quality.
At the end of the day anybody can sell cheaper products but very few people deliver quality work, and those that do better work are always sought out by clients. www.rodneyfitch.com
Pankaj Sapkal if they were gonna decide the economic symbol of the nation, they should pay the designer
a lot more - maybe like 25L or something, if not more...
August issue of POOL Magazine