Tomador de Riesgos – ‘Nikhil & Madhuvanthi’

A Tapas Bar, loud music, and drinks on the table. It was an unwinding Friday night. Amongst conversations revolving around food, architecture and music, it slowly led to us speaking about our mutual love for photography and just, in general, inspiring visuals. Tissue papers were taken out and The Postbox was written. And thus began our exciting, challenging journey.

Being artists in a digital era, the two of us realized the need for an online space that would full-fill two specific pinpoints. One, a space that focuses on ethereal original prints, which are inspired by surreal spaces and popular culture. Two, we wanted this space to promote artists and their work by helping them monetize it. Think about it, there is right now, no single unified platform, which promotes art in all its forms, gives them a space and helps them monetize it. India is a country of a billion people, that in itself is a huge opportunity just staring at us right there. We’ve been doing a lot of research around graphic artists in the country and our single biggest takeaway is that, there is definitely a need for clean platforms that promotes such collectives.

The Postbox was a well thought out and structured plan. We brainstormed for over two months on how we want this platform to exist and what we should be working on. Six different products split into two different sections defined Postbox as an Art & Lifestyle brand.

We had to move fast because we had set the aggressive goal of launching in the second week of September. Even though we ended up launching in the last week of September, our respective roles were very clear. So, while I was working on Product development, Nikhil covered the entire website construction and operations piece.

After testing out the platform and going through product iterations, we finally launched in the last week of September.

Set of coasters inspired by the tranquil Marina Beach

Set of coasters inspired by the tranquil Marina Beach

There were very hard times, and in my case, I had already committed to a Masters program in Fashion Management in Milan, which was to start in October. But Nikhil and I strongly believed that now was the time. Our country is a beautiful place to be in, people are slowly letting go and taking to what they love. We may not realize it, but there’s a silent revolution happening. And we definitely felt The Postbox should contribute to this and not sit back and watch.

It’s been two months now since I’ve moved here. Trust me, it’s most challenging to run a “long distance start up”. Living simultaneously in two different time zones, I have been asked multiple number of times how I manage my deadlines. Very simply put, it’s the belief that keeps us(I speak for Nikhil here as well) going. We have come to understand that beneath every strategy, every goal that you set, it needs to be supported by a strong sense of hope and faith. Everyday is an opportunity, we are constantly learning, our research is always an on-going process. The key is to never settle. We are still very young in this industry. But there is no law that states the pace at which we should engage ourselves in. And that is something that sets us apart from the rest. For instance, a month into launching the online store, we got our first offline space at Chennai’s most celebrated boutique- Chamiers. Our first corporate order rolled in sometime before that. We’ve had people writing to us expressing how they connect with the photographs under the Fine Art section, how the colours have livened up their living space, and how the notebooks makes them want to write again. And most recently, we had an order from Karachi, Pakistan.It is these little moments that matters the most to us. To reach out to people, to connect with them, and touch their life. The idea of Posting is an age-old concept of just this- keeping in touch with your loved ones. At the end of 45 days, when we look back, we smile knowing that stories have been created, people have managed to reconnect in the most wonderful of ways, that they now, will always have a token of memory with them.

Notebooks based on all things symmetrical

Notebooks based on all things symmetrical

The ride from thereon has been a terrific, enjoyable roller coaster one. At the end of each day, it’s just a sense of gratitude that we have for all those who cheered us on right from the beginning and continue to do so.

There were testing periods. At the earliest stage, we’ve tackled situations wherein we got cheated by one of our vendors and at the same time we had to go through two more rounds of proto-typing for our coasters. Our packaging materials gave up in the very beginning. And all this happened in direct proportion to the pace with which we were progressing. At this point, we kept orders waiting but our customers understood us. In all best intentions we delivered to them what we had promised. And our clients came back to us. To let us know that they are thrilled.As goes the line in the movie, Into The Wild, “Happiness is real only when shared”, it stands testimony to every single order we fulfill. We attach a small note in every package to let our customers know that we are there to listen, to make their experience better, to understand what they want. This is also one of the reasons why we started our blog, www.thepostboxin.tumblr.com. Being staunch supporters of Communication, Nikhil writes at regular periods to keep our followers updated on what is happening behind the stage. We put forward all the chaos, the madness that persists only because we believe in transparency. Internally, we have regular meetings scheduled over the week (yes, I have woken up at 4 am here in Milan only to cringe at the sight of the team enjoying filter coffee in Madras) to reflect, discuss and decide how we will implement the lessons learnt. It’s always about moving forward, bouncing back. I have, personally, realized the beauty of mistakes. The harder it hits you down, the higher you rise above. Our advisory team has always spoken to us about Cricket matches. That it’s not just about playing a great T-20 but also giving your best shot at that test match.

Putting some fun on your walls

Place some fun on your walls

Today, The Postbox is not just a collective of designers and artists but people coming together to appreciate and acknowledge the skills of these insanely talented people. Our vision comes to life here.
It’s been a great ride so far, we’ve had close to 7000 hits on our website already and along the way we’ve learnt more than we ever could. I think for us, we’ve realized no matter what happens, you just have to keep at it. Your moment will come and you have to have faith that it will. And along the way, it always helps to have some fun. 😉

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 In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what this series is about, make sure you read the introductory post and the last two posts written by Mrinmayee & Sarojini.

Tomador de Riesgos – ‘Sarojini Dantapalli’

In the last post on this series we had a lovely young textile designer write about the thought process behind choosing between gathering knowledge of the work under an established designer and starting her own venture. In this new post we see that there’s more to a ‘title’ than just the literal definition. There is a primary skill associated with every job, but then there’s that one thing beyond it that makes you great. Think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson.

The perspective shown in this post by a young design practitioner Sarojini Dantapalli is a brilliant one. Having co-founded a firm called Design Experiment with designer Abhitej Velore, she shares with us what she believes is the most important lesson the last two years of her journey taught her. We hope that it helps you find the spark that brings you greatness.

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The designer and the story teller

“For a young design practice the only thing more dangerous than lying about what they do, is to not talk about what they do.”

One of the most important aspects of being a designer is to observe people – what they like, what they don’t, how they move, how they use what we give them, and how their surroundings can be improved. As engrossed as I was in studying interactions of human beings with the world around them, it’s the subtleties of human interactions that evaded me – the interactions between people.

As a child I remember being very bogged down by the constant nag of “what will people think?” (Watch how you behave, watch what you say, be careful how you speak, so on and so forth.) Not knowing how to deal with this array of uncertainties, I decided to lock those voices out. I told myself they didn’t matter and shunned them all out.

It wasn’t until I ventured out on my own, trying to sell what I believed was the “genius of great design”, that I began to take interest in people again. I learnt with time that the important question is not “what will people think?” but “what do we want, people to think?”

Let me confess that when I first started out I was just a silent observer of the world spending most of my days solving design problems or making products come into existence. I very naively presumed that when I do good work, the world will be my stage and I’ll have a very enthusiastic audience craving to know what I have for them. Hell! Of course that was far from reality. Well it is true that the world is your stage, however, the audience in question are the ones we need to earn.

This is how I understand the world- we are all creators, with different perspectives and perceptions; we all have our notions of right and wrongs, what should be and shouldn’t. We all have our stories to tell. We all play the audience and the performers at some level or the other.

The few people that stick out in our heads however, are the few performers that excelled at what they did. Not always because of the inventive products they made or the creative work they put out, but many times because of the brilliant stories they said.

I started to notice that most of the popular architects/designers/inventors were more often than not known for something beyond their products. People loved their work but more importantly, people loved them. I loved them. They inspire me because they show me not only their work, but they share with me their stories, their struggles, their beliefs, their aspirations and of course their successes.

I realized it’s important to take out time to speak your mind. People like to know about other PEOPLE. They like knowing about great work, but they LOVE knowing about great people.

This has till now been easier said than done.

Realizing my shortcomings, I started to observe all the designers/inventors who were great presenters and what they did right. Gradually it started to make more sense. The key, I noticed, was that every step of the way they not only thought about how people would use what they make, or the difference their work would make, but also what is the impact they want to make on the world. How do they want people to perceive them and their work?

Observing some of my favourite presenters from different fields, from how they drove their point in, to how they unveiled their ideas. How they explain and imprint the greatest strengths of their theories and stories in our minds, It slowly became apparent to me, that presentation was much like design. It relied heavily on understanding people. While designing they’re your users; while presenting, your audience. You need to understand what they are looking for, what their tastes are, what they would find enticing, and what they would overlook.

Presentation is basically like storytelling or movie making or choreography. You think about how you start, how you build and how you end. You need to know what points would excite the viewer and what would put them at ease. You need to make sure these absolute high energy points are separated by a sense of calm otherwise their impact would not be felt. You need to make sure that you build an expectation, let the audience know something is coming, and then give them the satisfaction of being right. You need to make sure you maintain the emotion you want throughout the presentation. You need to make sure you end with a lasting impact. At every point in choreography, you need to put yourself in the audiences’ shoes and think about how they would feel – just like how you would in design. Good presentation can only come out of a good understanding of people. The only way you can understand people better is to put yourself amongst them and embrace their presence.

I’m not saying presentation is everything. Design, in the end, is ultimately what satisfies or dissatisfies a user. However it is presentation which converts a viewer into a user in the first place. Presentation is what gives you a chance. For emerging designers, chances are vital.

Here is where my struggle from being a passionate designer to an aspiring story teller begins.

Blog - Sarojini - alternate

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In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what this series is about, make sure you read the introductory post.

The Art of War

One time I was told that I don’t bargain. That was in reference to some street shopping. Here’s the thing- I don’t like bargaining. As a businesswoman I find myself on both sides of the table. As a businesswoman I know what goes into bringing a product or service to the consumer- the effort, money and heart. And as a consumer I have a limit to how much I can and want to spend on something. So when I go to buy something, I can clearly see what’s gone into the costing and if the seller reduced his price then he wouldn’t make a profit.

I find that there are some consumers who want to negotiate to the point of either a no-loss-no-profit or a loss situation for you but either ways they just don’t want you to make a profit at all. They make it seem like a war. But profit is good! It’s good for the business as well as the consumer. If the business makes profit, they can put it back into the business and upgrade their quality and offerings. And of course some of that will go into their bonuses. It’s like that Axis bank ad where they show how one business transaction sets off multiple transactions. It is a domino effect. Of course, no doubt there are businessmen who are there just to steal from you and you should be vary of them.

In my business and position I sometimes feel resentment towards some of our customers who claim to be our friends and well wishers. Those are the exact people because of whom I incur a loss because they expect freebies or a heavily discounted rate. The way I see it, if you consider yourself my family or friend and if you don’t help me do good business and make a living, how can I expect a stranger to? Not just that, they also expect so much more that they know they can only pull of because my family is in this.

There are also times when customers say such absurd things that it makes my jaw drop. Like literally. One time somebody was arguing with me about how I’m increasing the rate every time that they are adding something new. I kid you not, that’s EXACTLY how the conversation went. I was stunned into silence for the next few seconds. Yeah like as though when you go to the super market you pay only for half your items. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes, some customers’ behaviour really gets to me. I get so angry that I know I can’t control it if I say a word. But unfortunately that’s not an option and the result of not letting that anger out is internal stress and mental fatigue. If only the customer wasn’t the king. I may have painted a very negative picture of customers though and I now want to point out that this isn’t always the case. On the other side of the spectrum there are customers who are so straight forward that they don’t bargain at all. It’s those customers to whom I willingly give freebies and accommodate all requests. Be kind and you will receive kindness (And brilliant service).

Then again, I never thought I’d be good at negotiating but I surprised myself. That is an art I learned in a workshop held in Facebook and through the process of revisiting my learnings and theories, I realized I learnt more about business than I ever did before.

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Sunayana Sen