Two digital workspaces reinforce a long-standing design principle: Offices can be extremely effective platforms for brands to express themselves. And when a company’s primary assets are virtual, its brick-and-mortar spaces must work even harder to communicate its brand values.

Usually, these values reflect the founder’s beliefs. This is my conclusion after meeting the heads of two digital companies, Mukesh Bansal of Myntra.com and Dippak Khurana of Vserv.mobi.

Office as a brand platform

Myntra’s Bangalore office reception has a department-store-window-type display

But perceptions begin to change at the reception. Visitors are greeted with vibrant, department-store-window-type mannequin displays, showing off the latest in-house collections. The fashion theme continues inside the 30,000 sq. ft workplace—each of the company’s 14 meetings rooms is named, and designed, after a leading international fashion designer, such as Coco Chanel or Gianni Versace.

The 4,000 sq. ft Mumbai head office of Vserv.mobi, a leading mobile advertising exchange, is more compact, but similarly crafted. The office address, on the ground floor of a bland corporate building close to the highway in Goregaon, is not particularly noteworthy. As one approaches the building, however, one can see a band of quirky characters wrapping the outsides of the ground floor in large vinyl stickers. This set of mobile-themed characters is the company’s signature branding element. It is present on office walls, on the company website, on Khurana’s T-shirt and in his small, white-walled cabin, which lacks any other art or personal accessories, apart from a small shrine and some family photos. A tongue-in-cheek sign outside Khurana’s room says “Mayor", highlighting his role as the co-founder and CEO.

The characters depict a “mobile city" and represent the “the mobile ecosystem, which we love. This office has been conceived as a mobile city. My cabin is the Mayor’s office, there is a hangout area called the Mobizen Lounge and the boardroom is the House of Lords", explains Khurana.

Myntra’s core values are painted and illustrated on columns across the workplace
Myntra’s core values are painted and illustrated on columns across the workplace

Bansal endorses this three-dimensional approach to branding. “We are very passionate about the business of fashion. The entire office reflects that," he says, adding that while thinking about how to design the office, “we thought a lot about what kind of a culture we want in Myntra and what values we want, because an office space is an embodiment of an organization’s beliefs".

The company’s core values, and business tenets, are painted and illustrated on columns across the workspace, urging employees to “do more with less", “work hard, play harder" or “wow the customers". The values are also expressed in the office layout, through the one-size-fits-all philosophy. “All of us work from the same workstation, which was very important to us to symbolically communicate equality. We really, really believe in equality. No special things for senior management," says Bansal.

He sits at an open-plan desk, just like everyone else, alongside a team of business analysts that works with him. When he needs to make private calls or have meetings, he just pops into the closest available meeting room. “Hierarchies are not very conducive to productivity, as people don’t speak up," Bansal points out, highlighting that even lateral-entry senior hires from outside the company have adjusted easily to the more democratic work environment.

Multiplier benefits

Vserv.mobi’s office in Mumbai has mobile-themed characters, the company’s signature branding element, on the walls

Bansal is seeking to establish Myntra.com as one of the largest national fashion retailers—offline or online—in the industry. “Last year, for the first time, we held a brand meet where we called the heads of national (fashion) brands. They were floored when they saw our office; their perception of the company and our relationship with the brand went to a different level," Bansal says.

Khurana aspires to be the leading emerging markets mobile exchange, connecting advertisers, app developers, publishers and telecom providers. Vserv.mobi is already a global start-up, with offices in six cities around the world, apart from India, and it is important for it be perceived as a trans-national enterprise, independent of geography.

Dippak Khurana, co-founder and CEO of Vserv.mobi, in a T-shirt with mobile-themed characters. His cabin is called the Mayor’s office

“Today, when someone comes to our website, they see it matches any global standard," he says.

A creative concept originally intended for office design has now become a branding tool across various touch points. “On any given day, up to a third of the office will be wearing the company branded T-shirts," says Khurana. The shared, casual look helps in getting people to open up, he says. It also impresses new recruits and potential hires, especially those from new geographies, who are encouraged to visit the office.

Consistent communication

One of the hangout zones at the Vserv.mobi office

Aparna Piramal Raje meets heads of organizations every month to investigate the connections between their workspace design and working styles.

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