Meet the SHEROES - Mridu Sahai

Published on 18 Jun 2014 . 6 min read

Mridu S.  is COO The Design Village , she graduted with a Fashion masters degree. Her love for design lead her to starting The Design Village with a team of 4 people. Mridu tells us about design and careers in design in India. Read below her interview with SHEROES- 

Tell us more about you. 

While pursuing my Masters degree in Fashion from the University for the Creative Arts in UK, after completing my undergraduate studies in  Leather Design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi, I came to realize the stark difference between the way design education is imparted in India and the west. This led me understand that despite being from a premier institute in the country, there was still so much more to absorb and understand about design than what prevails in the current status-quo. The opportunity for creative students in India was limited by the embryonic design gamut and the formalized “spoon feeding” methods of teaching in our country. With this thought in mind, I returned to India to join a young, architecture and design firm, clueless about what role would I play in the organization.

Despite being trained as a fashion designer, I will not consider myself as one, as my work is adequately driven by architecture, criticism, and methods of product design. Whether it is in developing concepts, researching new ideas to reviewing a design work, I am constantly looking for connections, inspirations further away from the realm of design, drawing comparisons, finding resemblances, questioning differences, excavating relationships, redefining their contexts and causing relocations in the roles and associations of entities.

I met Mr. Sourabh Gupta from Studio Archohm, - a visionary, an inspiring architect, a passionate design entrepreneur, a man on a mission who happened to share the same vision of bridging the gap between Design in India and  the West, except that he came with a deeper conviction and provided us with the means to do so.

Isha Talsania and Siddharth Bathla were two other young like-minded design enthusiasts who came together to form a team to crystallize the idea of the village - To make the ideal design school for India and the world. 

Our modest team of four had a few things in common.

1) A love for Design

2) An affinity to India

3) A global design education exposure to understand the opportunity

4) A hunger to learn

5) A will to do something we had never done before.

This naivety 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 2 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. 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 an pivotal role. From interacting with professors, students, policy makers, practitioners to visiting renowned campuses to imbibe spatiality, 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. We were fortunate to hungrily study the design education scenario worldwide  by visiting all credible design schools in India, Europe, USA, China, HongKong, and Singapore. Now, after battling various unforeseen challenges, without compromising on our vision, we have, as a first step, begun with Master Level programs for Interior Architecture, Graphic Design and Transcultural Design.

What is the idea behind The Design Village?

“There are 150 million students studying in colleges in India. This number is expected to rise to an astonishing 450 million by 2020.” states the Minister of Communications and Information of India at the THNK festival in 2011.

The current education system of the country is unable to handle the population boom thereby making colleges aspirational just because of the number of students applying for each seat rather than the quality of education imparted.  In design education too, the glaring gap between the number of students applying for such college education and the number of seats available in the existing colleges, leads us to realize that the number of design schools in India is just a mere two digit number.

The exceeding number of applications for the existing seats in the Design schools as well as the focus on development in the country defines the opportunity to create an eco-system solely for design. Thus, The Design Village

‘The’ signifies the aspiration to be a premier center in its league.

‘Design’ philosophizes the focus of this center

‘Village’ brings in the flavor of a mix of institutes, associations, studios, industries and centers.

This Design Village has been conceived as an interdisciplinary industry centric design campus, aimed to create a global hub that educates, promotes and supports development through design.

Are there any challenges you face everyday? What are they?

It is a challenge to make Design a more respectable vocation in India.

If one chooses to study art or design, parents aren’t exactly pleased with their children. In our country, a career choice is barely and rarely an individual’s decision. Since parents bear the cost of education, they play a pivotal role in deciding what avenue their child should opt for. Various socio-economic factors influence this choice- which leads the student to pick a course, not because he is interested in the field and passionate about it, but because it is what will make him/her employable or earn him a respectable status in the society. It is a sad reality, but students today study to earn and not to learn, because our society is still functional and not experiential.

It’s a challenge, however things are changing, since numerous young creative artists in the country have an engineering degree to please their parents and a masters degree in the arts and design to pursue their true passion.

A tip to someone who is going to start career in design. 

Expose yourself to different cultures, different flavors. Travel, experience, and develop yourself. The biggest lesson is the one learnt when we are out of our comfort zones. Read. Write. Be aware of the field you’re going to practice in.

Message to all SHEROES out there. 

The designer is not just an individual anymore. The designer is a team. Cross-cultural, multi-disciplinary collaborations lead to effective design solutions. Let’s forge interesting partnerships to get creative results. 

Mridu Sahai
SHEROES - lives and stories of women we are and we want to be. Connecting the dots. Moving the needle. Also world's largest community of women, based out of India. Meet us at @SHEROESIndia

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