The Godrej township in Vikhroli, an eastern suburb in Mumbai, reflects many of its owners’ attributes. It respects the unique ecology of the place—the mangrove wetlands—echoing the industrial group’s century-old reputation for ethical business practices. It is vast and disjointed, consisting of offices, warehouses and manufacturing sites, in keeping with a Rs12,000 crore conglomerate whose disparate products include forklift trucks, animal feed, padlocks and hair colour. Several of its buildings are decidedly old-fashioned, correlating with a corporate reputation that rests on lineage rather than dynamism.
Refreshed by youth
However, the new Space office—a suite of ground-floor workspaces in one of the cluster of buildings on the Godrej campus—offers a sharply contrasting view. With its gleaming white surfaces, cutting-edge gadgets and open-plan layout, the 8,660 sq. ft workplace is more Google than Good Knight. Part office, part showroom and part lounge, the multi-purpose space is the brainchild of Nisa and Navroze Godrej, two of the family’s younger members. They hand-picked existing in-house talent—industrial designer Darshan Gandhi and architect C. Satyanarayanan—to design and execute the project.
(left) Employees from across the group can experience a moment of tranquillity in the “hammock”. (Right) The “square”. Photograph courtesy Godrej Industries
“We wanted a showroom where we could explain the language of the brand and showcase our products in a more consumer-centric, design-oriented way. This is a different way of representing ourselves, built into the office. Space is a working office and also a central point where people can meet and brainstorm in an open, collaborative way. It’s a prototype of a future Godrej,” says Nisa Godrej, executive vice-president (business development).
The area comprises 10 zones, connected by a stream of white moulded Corian, a high-end material which functions as both architectural device and work surface. Employees from any part of the group can sit cross-legged in the “baithak” seminar room, brainstorm in the informal “bodhi tree” lounge or confer in the “tool shed”. They are free to grab CDs and books from the “oxygen bar”, recline in a “hammock”, or step outside into the “square”.
There has been substantial investment in technology—lighting and projection facilities can be controlled by individual laptops in meeting rooms. The “polo room” facilitates video conferencing, and digital writing screens are placed in the “exchange”. The liberal use of Corian binds the different zones, and its stylized curves balance the starkness of the white floors, walls and ceilings.
Space also serves as the permanent home for Godrej Industries’ elite corps—the strategic marketing, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and strategy teams. Vivek Gambhir, chief strategy officer and a former Bain consultant, says: “I was amazed, I never imagined that a space within Godrej could look like this. I like its narrative nature; it is very well-choreographed and really brings the brand values to life. The location and the design are very comfortable and functional, fostering camaraderie and creativity.”
Towards a brighter future
“The reaction to Space has been unbelievable, very positive,” says Nisa Godrej. “Everyone’s proud of it, and how it has integrated with the new brand identity of Brighter Living.” In fact, as a physical manifestation of the company’s desired vision, it is far more progressive than the print version of the new brand identity.
Senior teams sit at open-plan workstations in the “palette zone”. Photograph courtesy Godrej Industries
As a driver of behavioural change, however, its effectiveness is debatable. When we visited the office, the occupants were mostly full-time residents. Widespread usage by other group employees, as its creators intended, will evidently take time. Its lavish budget and custom-made workmanship might also lead critics to dismiss it as a vanity project by enthusiastic family members, not replicable on a large scale for a mass manufacturer. However, this assessment would overlook the project’s biggest achievement—the fact that a young, well-trained and focused team could single-handedly deliver a radical and inspiring environment, setting an enviable benchmark for future innovation in the group. Watch this Space.
Interior designers: In-house
Client: Godrej Industries
Built-up area: 8,660 sq. ft
Cost: Rs3.5 crore
Year of completion: April
Some beds truly deserve the title ‘king’ or ‘queen’. Particularly those with the regal arch and scalloped contours of Gustavian furniture, named after 18th century Swedish king Gustav III. Visiting France, Gustav fell for the neoclassical decor in fashion after archaeological digs yielded the wonders of Pompeii, Herculaneum and other Greco-Roman ruins. But it was given a distinctly Scandinavian spin when Swedish craftsmen traded fussy embellishments for clean lines and understated elegance. Gustavian-style furniture remains popular, such as this Francoise bed created for the UK-based Conran Shop by British designer Tristram Mylius . ©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
It is the season to sit out among your plants with a late evening cuppa. But you soon realize there are others, such as mosquitoes, who like your garden, patio or terrace just as much.
Get a little organized:
• Place a pedestal fan near your chair. Or get a ceiling fan fitted.
• Wear long trousers.
•Plant mosquito-unfriendly plants.
Our entrance was once a happy hub for mosquitoes: Every time the door opened, one or two flew in. Then I read about mint (‘pudina’). Apparently, mosquitoes don’t like mint. We planted it in tubs of ornamentals at the entrance. It seems to work. Most evenings, there’s not a mosquito in sight. BENITA SEN
Currywursts in Berlin
Yet another speciality museum, the Deutsches Currywurst Museum, opened in Berlin on 15 August. And no wonder. Berliners consume 70 million currywursts a year. It’s the capital’s trademark fast food. The story: In 1949, former shop assistant Herta Heuwer experimented with tomato puree and 12 Indian spices to create the spicy sauce. She kept the recipe secret, patenting her “Chillup” sauce. However, museum visitors can make their own virtual currywurst on a touch-screen game. There’s also a spice room with information about ingredients. The museum is open 10am- 10pm, daily. BLOOMBERG
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