In-house creative agency head Ruchika Narang designed the AB InBev studio to encourage innovative thinking. (Photo: Jithendra M/Mint)
In-house creative agency head Ruchika Narang designed the AB InBev studio to encourage innovative thinking. (Photo: Jithendra M/Mint)

No walls, but there’s a beach inside this office

A well-designed work environment instils positivity, joy and a sense of identity. Our objective was to provide a space where our colleagues can work in a collaborative environment without any physical walls to hinder conversations or productivity, says Tanushree Mishra

One of Ruchika Narang’s favourite spaces in the office is the area where the senior management committee sits—not because she loves the pulse of power but because of the message they send out about the company culture at brewing and beverage company Anheuser-Busch InBev (Ab InBev).

In the centre of the open plan office, the management committee, or ManCom as it is known in-house, sits around a Budweiser bow tie-shaped table. From the business unit president to top directors, all of them share this space. “Having the senior leadership so accessible is encouraging. We can just walk up and talk to them instead of having to block dates and set up appointments. This flat structure is motivating for employees and everybody feels connected," says Narang, associate director of marketing at the company.

Having worked as a marketer in several companies, including food delivery startup Zomato, earlier, Narang says it’s rare to have senior management so accessible. “We are a dynamic company and have to be ahead of the curve. So, being able to break through process barriers is a huge advantage," explains Narang (32), while taking us on a tour of the 25,000 sq. ft office, which is home to about 300 employees.

The world’s largest brewing and beverage company Ab InBev recently renovated its India headquarters in Bengaluru’s Embassy Manyata Tech Park “to emulate the company’s values of community, openness and innovation" says Tanushree Mishra, people director—South Asia, AB InBev.

“To achieve this, we broke down all walls, literally," says Mishra of the open plan office that has been built without any cabins, and with everyone sharing the same floor space. Enclosed with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, including in the meeting rooms, the office lends an impression of openness, while letting in ample natural light.

Creating brand corners

At first glance, the AB InBev office may look like any other workplace, but cleverly designed brand corners, which double as breakout areas or informal meeting spaces, make it stand out. For instance, the Casa Corona corner reflects the brand’s Mexican roots with the re-creation of a beach. One wall has a hand-painted mural depicting the sea, next to it is white sand from Mangaluru, and there’s the sound of waves playing in the background. A mini amphitheatre overlooks this idyllic scene, where we catch a few employees working on laptops. Narang explains that this corner is also used for team meetings and impromptu sessions, when a meeting room may not be required or available.

The Hoegaarden corner comes with a faux grass carpet and trailing vines on the wall, while Beck’s Ice has a tent and shelves lined with paraphernalia associated with outdoor or adventure sports.

The impact of these spaces is two-fold, Narang explains. “Having our brand stories brought to life and represented in a visual manner is inspiring. At the same time, these spaces are used by employees who might want to step out from behind their laptops for a few minutes, or if they want to have a quick chat with a couple of colleagues without blocking a large meeting room," she says.

Colourful, soundproof phone booths for people who need to have private chats without disturbing their colleagues are a useful addition to the space. There’s also a lounge, decorated with empty Corona bottles filled with fairy lights, and nooks with seating pods for a quick huddle, which break the monotony of the workstations.

A compact game room, equipped with a foosball table, bean bags and carrom board, is popular with the younger employees. A large cafeteria, called Bud Land, occupies pride of place at one end of the office. Equipped with a bright and well-designed pantry, there’s also a bar complete with beer taps. While there’s no beer on tap, the company will be serving non-alcoholic beers from its portfolio soon.

Free rein for creativity

For Narang, who heads the company’s in-house creative agency, Draftline, in India, her pet project is the studio space within this office that she has had the freedom to design and decorate. This 1,800 sq. ft space comes with murals on the walls, circular work bays, a breakout area and music playing on the stereo.

“We wanted Draftline to be different from the regular corporate environment. I wanted to add a layer of creativity so that it encourages people to think freely and open up their minds," says Narang, who spent several weekends hunting for carpets, cushion covers and furniture for the studio. “My family jokes that I didn’t spend so much time planning and designing my own home," she adds.

Echoing Narang’s sentiments about the feeling of positivity that permeates the workplace, Mishra says, “A well-designed work environment instils positivity, joy and a sense of identity. Our objective was to provide a space where our colleagues can work in a collaborative environment without any physical walls to hinder conversations or productivity."

In Work Tour, an employee gives Mint a tour of his or her favourite spaces in the office.

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