One of the most gratifying aspects of being a start-up entrepreneur is having the absolute freedom to design an unconventional office. The 2,400 sq. ft office of Bang Bang Films, a four-year-old production company in Mumbai, is a contemporary, informal workplace with accents of eccentricity, including a cow-head tap in its managing director’s office and a bathtub “table” with baby sharks in the conference room.
Although the office decor appears whimsical at first glance, it is a carefully crafted expression of the company’s desired brand positioning: “India’s international production company”. A closer look at the fine print offers several insights to young entrepreneurs who might seek to leverage their workspaces as marketing tools for their businesses.
The global start-up
Bang Bang Films was founded by Roopak Saluja, 35, a former advertising executive who spent a number of years working in Europe. Saluja, in partnership with Kirk Dias, 46, an advertising film producer, set up the Bandra-based production house to make television commercials which specialize in engaging international creative talent to direct and style the films.
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“We are building a production brand, a shop where advertising agencies can come and find the right director for their needs,” explains Saluja. The business model subverts the established archetype of director-led advertising production companies.
Bang Bang Films seems to have found a niche for itself in a crowded marketplace. Its showreel includes work for brands such as Pepsi, Hero Honda and IndiGo. It has exclusive arrangements with two commercial production companies, Independent Films in London and Believe Media in Los Angeles, to work with their creative talent in Asia-Pacific.
Office as identity card
The company’s business approach is underpinned by two tenets: an international orientation, and emphasis on superior production quality. Both these are reflected in its office design.
It is a resolutely urban, global workplace. The space also has the imprint of a production designer, rather than an interior architect, highlighting the nature of its inhabitants’ occupations. Sonal Choudhry, an independent production designer who runs her own company Crow’s Nest and who had previously worked with Bang Bang on several ad film productions, was asked to create a collaborative workplace, where the company’s attention to aesthetic value and detail shone through.
Choudhry’s response included minimal interference with the fundamental geometry of the space (sliding doors were inserted to maximize space without altering walls) and maximum attention to framing the space for its actors, just as one would conceive a production set.
White desks and walls and open-plan furniture are part of a deliberate attempt to foster a contemporary work environment that resonates with visitors from Singapore or London. Saluja’s overseas experiences led him to emphasize ongoing communication between colleagues, as he felt it results in better collaboration and more effective project management. Choudhry’s design solution was to “try and keep people facing each other, not walls”. Bang Bang’s producers, in particular, share a table without any partitions, almost analogous to attending a continuous meeting—a working style prevalent in Europe but less popular in India, where eye-level partitions often separate co-workers.
Surfaces are largely neutral, as Choudhry felt “people are the colour in the office. I didn’t want unnecessary distraction in the form of too much colour.” Select accessories, such as graphic prints and a yellow coffee machine, add vibrancy without overshadowing the space.
Choudhry also drew on her understanding of Dias’ and Saluja’s individual personalities to create customized spaces for them. For “rock star” Dias, she printed a tour itinerary of the legendary rock band, The Rolling Stones, on the sofa upholstery in his room, with cushions that have prints of hairstyles from the 1970s. The walls in Saluja’s attic-style office were painted cobalt blue, his favourite colour, and lined with prints of comic hero Tintin, of whom he is a huge fan. Saluja’s storage units were also specifically designed to accommodate his multiple gadgets, documents and books in an accessible, elegant manner.
Choudhry salvaged curios from Mumbai’s second-hand markets to serve as tongue-in-cheek metaphors. The cow-head tap in Saluja’s room reflects that “he is full of ideas, which flow from him”, she says. For Dias, a 1970s refrigerator functions as a filing cabinet for ideas that he wants to “put into cold storage”. The bathtub in the conference room, which acts as a table with a glass tabletop, was intended to be a conversation piece, as well as a “semi-facetious point—I’m going to throw people to the sharks when they don’t pay me”, grins Saluja.
Bang Bang’s expenditure on its office interior fitout, Rs20 lakh, may seem disproportionately large to some observers, particularly for a small enterprise that only recently became profitable, with a revenue of Rs22.5 crore in 2009-10. Saluja admits that “my partner and I would have been much better off if we hadn’t spent on such a nice office”. Equally, he contends that they have “already broken even on the investment, which has contributed to the equity of Bang Bang” in just six months, citing the increased number of client meetings that are held in the office, rather than at an outside location.
Some of the company’s visual metaphors may seem contrived: an autorickshaw miniature at the reception, for example, is a hackneyed cliché of Mumbai. But Bang Bang’s office clearly illustrates an important principle for astute entrepreneurs: the potential of interior design as a tool to project a company’s identity in a three-dimensional way.
Client: Bang Bang Films
Interior design: Sonal Choudhryof Crow’s Nest
Built-up area: 2,400 sq. ft
Cost of interior fitout: Rs20 lakh
Renovation start date: October
Completion date: March, ongoingin parts
Accommodates: 30 people
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