At BrilliantRead Media, it is our constant endeavour to identify and share some of the unique and compelling stories from the startup ecosystem. As part of this, we invited yet another passionate entrepreneur Mridu Sahai Patnaik for an interview with BrilliantRead Media. She is an Entrepreneur, Leader, Interior Designer, Mentor, Consultant, Coach and Trainer. Mridu is the Co-Founder of The Design Village and Partner at Studio Archohm. Let’s learn more about her background, her inspiring journey so far and her advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Mridu:
We are aware of your contribution to the ecosystem of design and architecture, talk us through your background and your journey as a design entrepreneur, please;
While pursuing my Masters degree in the UK, I came to realize the stark difference between the way design education is designed and imparted in India vs. the other parts of the world.
This led me to understand that despite studying at a premier institute in the country, there was still so much more to absorb and understand about design than what prevailed in the current status quo.
The opportunity for design aspirants in India was limited by the idea of décor and the pedagogy was formalised with almost ‘spoon feeding’ methods of teaching. With this thought in mind, I returned to India to join a young, architecture and design firm called Archohm, clueless about what role would I play in the organization.”
Despite being trained as a fashion designer, my work and interests have been spread across the gamut of design and architecture. By DNA, I have always been driven to look for connections and inspirations further from the restricted silos of design, drawing comparisons, questioning differences, excavating relationships, redefining their contexts and seeking new meanings.
I met Mr Sourabh Gupta principal architect of Studio Archohm, a visionary and a passionate design entrepreneur, who happened to resonate with the same ethos, except that his conviction came with the means to take the first steps.
We put together a modest team of like-minded design enthusiasts to make the ideal design school of the 21st century for India and the world. The naivety and the idealism fuelled the team with the energy to explore and experiment.
There was synergy and clarity of single-mindedness in understanding that the project needs to be dreamt and delivered. We undertook a 3-year journey to develop a school of thought that attempted to encompass not just the different ways in which design is taught, adapted and accepted across the globe, but the novel, experimental, path-breaking insights that can lead to building the ideal school.
We were fortunate to hungrily study the design and education scenario worldwide by visiting all credible design schools in India, Europe, USA, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore.”
Inferences have been drawn by meeting relevant people worldwide in the design eco-system and supporting fraternities of Management and Technology, where design can play a pivotal role.
From interacting with professors, students, policymakers, practitioners to visiting renowned campuses to imbibe speciality, and simultaneously engaging with the design Industry to understand the need of the hour and how to carve a need that doesn’t exist yet.
This exposure really opened our minds to position ourselves as a design institute of the 21st century. Battling various unforeseen challenges, yet without compromising on our vision, we initiated our first batch of students in 2014.
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
Being a designer, one is used to living in one’s own whimsical world. I was never cut out for a 9 to 5 corporate role. I always wanted to do more with my time.
For a creative person, entrepreneurship didn’t come naturally to me. I am an enterprising person but I was a reluctant candidate in the beginning. In order to make our vision come to life, I somehow found myself in the driver’s seat.”
For someone who was averse to numbers, I have realized that entrepreneurship is less about “financial” things than it is about developing, organizing, running and scaling an organization. More than anything, it is about understanding “how to make something work”
‘The Design Village’ is such a unique name; talk us through more about it, please. Our audience would also love to know what kind of problem you are solving?
‘The’ signifies the aspiration to be a premier centre in design education. ‘Design’ philosophizes the focus of the institute, and ‘Village’ brings in the flavour of a mix of domains, associations, studios, industries, faculty members and students.
The Design Village (TDV) is a design institute based out of Noida, New Delhi offering undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Design.
The idea of TDV was initiated in 2010 by design practitioners by undertaking an extensive worldwide research to conceptualize ‘the design school of the 21st century’ with an ambition to train students to become thought and design leaders. The Design Village created its curriculum with professors from TU Delft and commenced operations in 2014.
The Design Village believes in impact through design. For TDV, the design does not only solve problems of today, but also proposes new ways for the future. In order to design for impact, TDV believes that one must investigate what impact one’s action will have.”
TDV employs design thinking methods to empower students to become responsible and vision-driven “leaders of change” where design-driven innovation is the leading paradigm. Design Villagers dare to rethink processes, undertake systemic challenges and have the courage to address any societal issue.
The Design Village graduates today successfully command a variety of roles across sectors with sustainability, entrepreneurship and technology as their core DNA.
What are your institute’s USPs?
The Inception – The Design Village has been initiated by designers and social entrepreneurs, with the sole intent of uplifting the design quotient of the country –honing the best talents and providing an inspiring platform for design discourse.
The Journey – The journey undertaken to develop a design school was a special one. We researched and travelled to al-most every continent of the world, to understand the way design education is imparted, to arrive at a pedagogy that is unique to us.
The Curriculum – Education at TDV is based on certain beliefs that drive the pedagogy –
(1) Intrinsic motivation – TDV believes that education is successful when motivation to learn is intrinsic: when students understand WHY they are learning what they are learning, how it matters to them and eventually to defend what they stand for.
(2) Personal Responsibility – Education encompasses the following tasks – learning to learn, learning to dream and learning to do – the TDV way, by taking personal responsibility for one’s learning journey.
(3) Lifetime learning – Villagers are learners for life. Learning and teaching is shared among students and teachers.
The Campus – TDV is housed in a former abandoned Kattha (catechu) making factory, which has now been retrofitted and rejuvenated. The Kattha factory was set up in 1987 and as many as 150 workers toiled here to produce 30,000 kgs of Kattha each day.
Due to the increased levels of pollution, it caused to the neighbouring vicinity, it was shut down. The space is now reinvented and reinterpreted for imparting design education.
It is designed to inspire and evoke curiosity by the sheer simplicity of its aesthetics and ethics of adaptive reuse. It is a space to enlighten minds, break stereotypes – a place to create yet make mistakes, to learn and unlearn.
The Eco-system – The TDV campus is a thriving ecosystem in which every aspect of the design process is organically cultivated. The institute co-exists with various design organizations in and around its campus, where ideas manifest into solutions and experiences.
These include – an architecture studio, an experience design firm, a product design lab, a furniture work-shop, a textile studio and a social entrepreneurship venture.
In addition to student projects and placements, this ecosystem allows real-world projects and design deliverables to form a part of the curriculum.
The International Board – TDV has an inspiring International Board of professors and professionals that was instrumental in developing its curriculum.
The International Board, ensures that the philosophy flows seamlessly in all TDV’s activities – focuses on monitoring the quality of content through Faculty Development Masterclasses and gives TDV an international network of visiting faculty to come and inspire students.
Faculty at TDV – The key to making designers for the world is not just about the content of the curriculum imparted but the way in which it is being imparted – education is learning-oriented and not teaching-oriented.
Therefore the TDV faculty forms the core of the village. The faculty is a great mix of experienced course leaders as well as young enthusiastic academicians. A great network of visiting members come in to take specific workshops and design coaches from the industry mentor student projects.
‘Villaging’ Activities – The curriculum explicitly includes – Villaging as a part of its credits. Villaging helps to engrain in a student, the TDV DNA –the qualities of awareness, compassion, courage and perseverance.
TDV believes that these values form the core of a good designer. It refers to all activities undertaken for self-development and learning, as well as participating in evolving and maintaining the village itself.
What are your biggest challenges? How do you handle these, what drives you?
Standing by philosophy and not compromising on its essence has been our biggest challenge. Almost everything credible comes at a certain cost – especially financial. It is the easiest to sell one’s soul, we haven’t done that – thanks to the aligned mentality of people who are invested in our story.
At this stage, almost everything that one handles has some element of “crisis” to it. I wouldn’t say I have become great at handling these, but I like any other peer, have become accustomed to it.”
I feel at the core of it all, we are creating something extremely purposeful and impact-driven. We are shaping young minds to be more responsible while helping them make their place in the world. Nothing can be more gratifying than seeing a student scale height by doing projects that make the world a better place.
Who do you believe has been the biggest source of motivation in your daily life?
I am fortunate to work with a bunch of talented individuals. Their drive and zest, keeps up my spirits. I also feel mentors play a key role in motivation and navigating one’s professional life.
What are some of the strategies that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
I have some unpopular beliefs that have worked for me –
Investing in relationships, participating in activities, without thinking of their immediate transactional and financial benefits, is something that has always worked for me. This requires courage as opportunities come knocking softly and compassion – for one to be a decent human being.
I feel excellence requires sacrifice – if you have to be the best in your league, you have to do things differently and more. Therefore, I don’t always believe in ‘balancing’ things. Perseverance is key.
The harder one works, the luckier one gets. One must be a learner for life. Awareness of the self and the world around is important for anyone’s personal development.
In your opinion what is your definition of success?
According to me, it is not the awards, the accolades, the numbers – not even the measurable “impact”, success is when your reality was once your imagination. When you see dreams coming true.
Last but not least, what are the three most important lessons you have learned in your life?
Be resolute in your vision but flexible in the ways to get there.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Dreams demand hustle.