Arjita: Hi Anshul, welcome to the Creative Operations Podcast by Artworkflow. Thank you so much for taking out the time for doing this with us. And I'm really excited to understand more about your entire journey, working through different kinds of companies, high growth organizations in India, as well as working with some of the MNCs as well.
So for our listeners, Anshul is a seasoned brand designer. Over the past few years, he's contributed to Web3 experiences, worked with notable brands like Razorpay and Zolu, and even explored the realms of aerospace studies during his academic years. Let's welcome Anshul to the Artworkflow podcast and dive deep into his journey. So Anshul, feel free to introduce yourself as well to our audience here.
Anshul: Yeah, thank you so much for having me over. It's a great opportunity as well as a very lucky chance for me to be able to convey my journey through a creative event. It has been about, what, 12 years now that I've been working in design. So yeah, I mean, I've worked at, so my journey started at a very small scale startup, which I'll tell you later about.
But then yeah, I've gone through a lot of startups, I've gone through, I've worked on multiple big companies, MNCs sort of, and IT services as well. So yeah, that journey has also molded me. I've molded a few things along my way as well as that has also changed me in a lot of ways how I approach things. So yeah, that has been pretty good so far.
Arjita: Interesting. So, you know, one thing I was really interested in the role, like how did you transition from studying aerospace to transitioning to this entire field of design and brand? Like, how did you skill yourself? How did you go about that whole experience?
Anshul: Oh, okay. So this is how I was in second year college aerospace engineering. This is 2010. I'm going back to Jaipur from Dehradun. So the bus is passing through Delhi during daytime and Commonwealth games prep is in full form, right? So everything is branded, all the tracks are being built and all of that. So this is like a precursor to the story that I'm going to give to you.
So it's like basically you start a journey and you never know that your mind has registered that this is what is something that you would want to do. So that day is gone, cut to like placement year. I got placed in Infosys, cut to two years later where I realized I don't want to pursue this and then what do I want to do?
So I kind of started picking up on tools that are the tools that designers are using and how to use them. getting into technicalities of softwares and stuff like that. But what I was missing was a bigger picture. And I started applying to a variety of firms. Of the firms, one of the firms that I had applied to, the person kind of called me up and said, will you be okay or open to having a Zoom call interview? This is like 2015. So I kind of preferred going in person. So I suggested, how about I come to Bangalore, we interview, and then we decide upon the entire process and how it is.
Anshul: So I landed in Bangalore on 26th January. That's a long weekend. I took a day off from the office and I kind of made it a long weekend because it was somewhere in between Thursday and Friday was not off. So I did that. We interviewed and then after the interview, they said, we'll let you know in a few hours because it was a relatively small firm, about 20 people, I guess. It was a design consulting firm. And so while I was going back.
I went to a bus stop in Bangalore and then they were so the buses were going in both directions. So before I was getting onto the bus to the airport, I kind of called them once again and said, like, this is in a span of one hour. But if you want me or let me know, I'll probably go to BTN. Otherwise, I would probably take the bus to the airport because coming from BTN all the way to the airport would be a lot difficult. And the firm is like in the outskirts, it's near Yelangar somewhere. It's like bang in the middle of the two spaces.
So when I said that, they said, can you wait for 10 minutes? And after 10 minutes, they called back and said, when can you start? So I said, next Monday? They were like, cool, we'll see you next Monday. So that is how my design journey began. It was a very small firm called Spread Design. And I knew this while applying to that place, that the person who was the creative director and co-founder of that firm was the person who did the branding for Commonwealth Games in 2010.
So that was the inspiration for me and like, you know, kind of develop this. I want to work with this person and see how and what is the scale of things that they influence when it comes to branding and through design. So it kind of started over there. That is where I got the big picture sort of a thing. Before that, it was mostly me trying to match up things and trying to figure out what kind of, you know, people.
that I would be working with the clients. So the output was always lacking in terms of having an overarching thought or like what is a brand? And like that kind of a thought was missing. What does the brand represent? What are the values that it comes with? Those things happened to me at a spread where I saw and worked on a lot of variety of political campaigns. I worked on a lot of rebranding work. I worked on creating pitches for FutureTech, which was like around.
leap motion was around augmented reality and that kind of stuff. Also like you generate 3D dome experiences. So that was the kind of work being done there along with the branding. So that gave me a very wide perspective on how the branding is not limited to just your color choices, type or all those things. It needs to expand and flow into N number of mediums and it has to be cohesive while doing that. So that is what I kind of picked up at spread. Yeah, that was my journey. Like that was a transition, I would say, that I took from aerospace to design.
Arjita: That's really interesting and I must say that you're a very good storyteller because I could actually imagine like, I mean, living in Bangalore, it's always difficult to make choices and optimizing time in which direction to go, right? And like having that journey from, you know, landing after working for a few years, landing a stint at a design firm and then really starting at the bottom and making your way up. That's incredible.
Arjita: Yeah, great. So we'll continue. So yeah, I mean, incredible, you know, entry. Now, would love to know more about, you know, I would love to know more about, you know, your understanding of how, how you said, right, the brand needs to go into different mediums, right?
What was that building for say a company like Swiggy or a Razorpay for example, right? These are all digital platforms and extremely widely used, right? And the impact that they've had on the Indian consumer and Indian ecosystem is huge. Like I use Swiggy every day to order groceries. So for a company like Swiggy and for a company like Razorpay, what does brand really mean? And as designers, how did you transition? Their positioning and customer understanding into day-to-day creative assets or creative projects and how did that flow into business metrics?
Anshul: So here I would say that is also a tie up question to one of the things that we were looking at. So while working at Swiggy and Razorpay, the end goal is to get impressions, right? What you're doing and the creators that you're building needs to turn that number and then you kind of experiment. We can create better creators out of the previous ones.
That is the flow of learning that happens at Swiggy or like Razorpay. While like at the same time, the brand building bit needs to happen in the initial few days of the brand itself. So while at Swiggy, I think there were only 350 people when I had joined Swiggy. This is back in 2017. 350 to 500 people company.
The decision making was generally was quick and the pace was really fast. We used to create like full blown out of office coding campaigns in like probably a week. That's all like with the whole full proof, proofing, getting things ready, copy and like campaign and like other assets. So there it kind of like Swiggy kind of taught me how to build a 360 campaign design.
Creating and generating awareness around a singular brand. So while at Swiggy, I was kind of working on one of the food fest or something like that for out of office campaign design. It was all supposed to be printed, but then the creative director there said that we should also look for inbound as well as outbound marketing. So for inbound, we started creating similar looking Google ads.
And then we also started adapting those ads and other creators into Facebook, Twitter, and a number of social media platforms as well. So, and then the digital product design came in, they kind of saw the campaign being built around this sort of like a message they offered us that we would also integrate that message or like, and any creative that they would, we would want as marketing team into the app. So do you read? For the duration of the campaign being run, that app will also have a ticker going, which would also. So that way it was like, you know, it's on your mobile app, it's on the outdoor holding, it's on your social media. We had a radio spot, so radio as well. So it was like a full 360 campaign that we kind of worked on. And that whole thing came together in about one and a half weeks.
It was a lot of assets, but it was amazing. Like it came out really well. We got about 1 million plus impressions for the entire campaign, which was great. Uh, like given the time that we are like a company of 500 folks and everyone is talking about SIGGY and the campaign that goes out and those kinds of things. It was a great learning experience. Similarly for Razorpay, I would say it's very different and it's a very niche sort of environment or the audience is very niche, you're working for businesses or small to medium business owners. Those are your primary folks. Larger organizations will get you, because they already know, and they rely on the security or the, what do you say? Back-end services of Razorpay. And these medium and small business owners rely on Razorpay's ability to generate new features to cater their specific customized issues that they might face, like let's say a farmer or let's say a clay pot salesman or as well as a paint seller, like, you know, those kinds of things. So those folks would want Razorpay to come up with a very specific sort of, you know, solutions, design solutions. So the product team will work on that. The project managers and the product marketing managers would work together on generating or creating a content strategy. And the idea itself, like, why do we need this feature? There's a lot of research that goes into it.
Creating or prioritizing the actual feature that they want to launch. So once that is prioritized and they decide that this is a feature that we're going to launch while that is being designed and developed, there is a parallel marketing strategy which is going on, which is around content strategy and then visualizing that content strategy into a proper marketing campaign. So as soon as the feature is ready, the creatives in place, we take, you know, so there's a way function showcasing their product.
As in the forefront while Swiggy and other users, sorry, what do you say? Yeah, user facing versus business facing business. Yeah, B2C and B2B, exactly. So B2C companies focus on messaging. The B2B company focuses on content like the product showcase. That is how different the two things are. So in face tech, it took me a while to...
Arjita: Right, B2C and B2B. Yeah.
Anshul: Actually wrap my head around like what is it that we are selling. So Razorpay when I had joined, I knew only for what do you say that UBI transaction backend service provider, but then I went into the system and then I kind of saw they're doing a lot of very niche kind of products and features that they are building. So when I was gathering those information from the information for the let's say marketing or campaign design.
or like brand building itself in the entirety of the whole thing. It needs to be aligned with the campaigns that are just an extension of the brand. It's basically like limbs that are like reaching out to your customers by like it's sort of like you reach out to your customers through a brand campaign. The personality remains the same. It needs to extend and kind of become that kind of where the consumer or the customer that you're touching with the campaign needs to know that.
This is the brand that I'm interacting with. That kind of builds through, I would say, experience and iterating and a lot of, you know, rejections when it comes to like creators that you're not doing. About, I would say 90% of the work that I've done has been lying on my hard drive. Only 10% of the work is actually out there, which is, you know, working. 90% of your work would probably be not, you know.
Anshul: Aligned to one thing or the other, but the 10% makes it all worthwhile.
Arjita: Yeah, that's interesting. Yeah, when you, so when we do, you know, client pitches at Desworks, it's the same, you know, you pitch five concepts and one gets selected and every other four go into a drive that never gets used. So I'm interested in the brand personality thing that you mentioned, right? And especially for say companies like Swingy and Razorpay. So what do you think the personality of the brand is? I mean,
Arjita: I'm sure they have a brand book so they would have defined but I'm just curious to know like where is you know and it's very interesting because these are new age companies building for Indian businesses and Indian consumers so you know any insights into how you know how the brand is thought about from a personality perspective at either of these companies.
Anshul: So at Swiggy, we did this activity where we kind of asked the leadership team about what would Swiggy wear to a bar and what would it drink and who would it interact with. Right, so that is how we came up with a quick solution to what is Swiggy as a person. That was like a quick hack to understand what they think about Swiggy and where they would want to position themselves in the market that is getting saturated. This was the time when FoodPanda, Uber Eats, Zomatoes, and Swiggy everyone was competing. Now we have like two clear winners but yeah like that is the era and everyone was trying to copy each other but the creative director at Swiggy wanted to have a distinct identity.
Like this is different from your regular Uber, it's different from food pandas, different from this. So that kind of gave us insights into what they think about speaking as the leadership team and what are the values that they want to uphold when it comes to the company, like culture building or the kind of people that we are. So what came out was basically quirky, funny man or woman, it was not that important back then, but it was just, I'm just kind of trying to keep it gender neutral. So it was like a fun, quirky human being who would probably have like gin and tonic at a bar and probably interact with folks and kind of win them over with wits. That was the idea that we wanted to build.
So the campaign designs, the copywriting, everything became around that central idea and that is how we grew into so like you would see a lot of ads that we put out were mostly like fun though there would be like a lot of serious element to it but there would be like rarities and anomalies
Arjita: When you say that, I get reminded of a lot of Twitter stuff and a lot of memes that I've gone around with Swiggy and some of their cute little features like changing the icon of the rider. So I get how those dots connect.
Anshul: So like once you have that brand personality in place, but it needs to come from the correct owners, like the right participants need to be a part of that particular exercise when you're doing it. So we were lucky that way, actually, we were like the access to the founders and like, CMOs and CBOs were really easy and just walked up to them and spoke to them. So it was a really flat culture, I would say. That is how I kind of understood. What is a brand persona?
Arjita: Interesting, very interesting. So, you know, you know, now, like, working at, you know, very high growth startups to transitioning to an MNC, like, how has that transition been like? And I also read that you also have experience in Web3 creating XR stuff. So tell us more about your journey after that. Like, how has that been? One of the intent of this podcast is also to educate our readers in terms of, you know, what are different career options and how to upscale into different roles. So I would love to know more about that.
Anshul: So what do you want me to speak first, Web3 or MNCWit?
Arjita: Maybe MNCWit and then we can do like a deep dive on technology
Anshul: So, this is not my like first MNC thing. I had worked at one of theMNCs before my career started there Infosys and then we kind of moved away from the whole thing because I felt there's too many processes in place and like the work is not happening. In fact, I can't see all of that. So I moved away and kind of started working on smaller, smaller companies that way you could actually see the numbers and you go up to people and ask them like what is the number of impressions that you see on these particular set of ads or the creatives that had done for this brand. They will tell you and then you can improve.
Right this that did not exist at Infosys like you would by the time the numbers come in the campaign has stopped running. So there is no point in this, no room for improvement or tweaking and then you just take your learnings and apply it in the next project which might happen after six months. I don't you don't know you never know. But let's say right now where I'm at this place has a very quick turnaround time like you need to grasp what the client wants and what is it, what are the requirements. So if you get the requirements on point, your delivery times would shrink down to probably four hours. So there are times when we have to work and deliver things on an eight hour, six hour notice. And those are like, it's not even their fault. Like the design was never considered as a forethought. It was like an afterthought. And then they actually want the presentation or the pitch or let's say the product that they are working on needs to look better in terms of you know visually. So for those clients it's just like face lifting design. There are other clients who you would work with where it is more like they want to know what the potential of this entire thing can or us as designers push that envelope further.
So those kinds of projects and clients run are like a long term relationship. You kind of build it up and then kind of try to work your way around. How can you give them quality of life improvements as well as, you know, so those kinds of work is where you have the scope to explore. How can you spill the brand a bit into different mediums?
So by mediums, I mean, augmented reality experiences, virtual showrooms, or let's say you like having virtual concerts, entire meta-verses, those kinds of things. So if you have that kind of relationship with the person that you're working with, they would want you to explore those things. So yeah, so like coming from like the previous organization that I worked at, it was a very short stint, but we kind of built the entire thing from ground up. And it was just a meta-verse advisory.
So all the projects that came to them were around AR and VR and metaverse. So we worked with VH1, we worked with Titan and these kinds of brands to showcase. Let's say with Titan, you are showcasing a watch in an AR space or like a VR space, a new watch launch that is happening. Similarly for let's say VH1, we were working on animating an entire logo in AR when you scan the QR code or like the festival, there is a festival called supersonic by VH1. So we worked on that. So like the brand was in place, but we had to convert and understand how that brand can flow into AR experiences. We created full augmented reality experiences for them. So now I'm taking those learnings from the previous organization and applying it here, once the brand is built, I kind of push the envelope by saying, can you also, you know, do you want to see this in like your brand in motion, but in like AR and VR space and generally the answer is yes, of course. So we kind of provide that as well. So that is how we work internally.
Arjita: Interesting. Very interesting. Yeah, in fact, yeah, I see that. I mean, how consulting and then, you know, working with different clients would give one exposure into how different technologies can be applied into retail just out of curiosity, any, like particularly successful use cases that you've seen for these kind of like Web3 technologies where a business has, you don't have to obviously you know, any kind of use case where there has been success in implementing such kind of an experience in a retail store or a launch or a festival.
Anshul: I think a lot of brands are now shifting towards augmented or virtual reality product launches. Like Nike did one of these campaigns recently where they kind of showcase the entire shoe in a glass box at a store. If you walk into the Nike store, scan the QR, there will appear a box like a hologram of a proper shoe in place and then you can interact with the whole thing. That was a product showcasing that they did for a new shoe launch that was about to happen that I felt was a very moving thing to do because a lot of people interacted with that. Similarly, there are a lot of people now moving towards leap motion and those kinds of tech where you can interact with the...
AR experience with your bare hands. You don't need a phone or you know, that kind of experience that they're trying to do. It's just a device. You put it on a table, ask the person to interact with it. It'll create a holographic image or like a projection image for you. You can interact with that. So those I feel are like really successful use cases because it's immersive enough for the person to have that entry to interact with the product.
If you're creating an AR experience or let's say any XR experience for that matter and the person feels like they feel compelled or you know pushed into experiencing it then it's not a successful like experience that you've created the person also needs to have that like self motivation to kind of interact with it or like you need to have enough you know quality of experience should be high enough for the person to experience it and then want more out of it So that is what I would say like those are like my two cents to this all but three thing that's going on.
Arjita: Interesting. I haven't explored a lot, but I think it sounds, I mean, I am aware of the news and the different experiences, experiments that people are doing, but I was just curious in terms of business, how is the, you know, industry evolving as such. So Anshul, any, so, you know, JNI is the thing that everyone is talking about. So as a designer, brand design or even, you know, in terms of doing VR and AR and building some of these 3D experiences. Have you personally explored it and what is your thought process on where it can actually grow and show impact in actual business sense over the next few years?
Anshul: So I feel like what I feel is like right now there is a transition that is happening with a lot of companies and a lot of folks are experimenting in that space. What is missing is people being open to taking like a big step with the AI thing right. I have not seen a single brand campaign which was done using Gen. AI like probably one or two, but at max that is a very less number for the amount of buzz that Gen.ai has right now. So for me, the implementation or utilization of that lies with the fact that like in packaging design, you need a hero image for something. You kind of generate that quickly using any of the N number of tools available out there right now. Take that imagery, put it in, and then you are done with the packaging design.
Anshul: Similarly, let's say if you're generating imagery for a brand design, you want a very specific sort of a look and feel to the photo, but rather than you going out to a photo studio, asking them to take a picture and then process post-process and then give it to you. That's a full one and a half week long process that could be cut down to probably four hours if you're good with your words and you know, the space of let's say the AI image generators that are out there.
Anshul: And you're good with your wording, you can generate a similar look. It won't be real, of course, but it would be as close as possible. And then you're cutting down a lot of costs when it comes to, you know, hiring a photographer or a studio and then going out for it's not a real, it's not, I would still go for that, but like sometimes the budget doesn't allow for it for the campaign or the brand that you're building. So in those spaces, these kinds of tools come in really handy. These are like very.
Anshul: Quick life hacks that have made my life so easy as a freelance designer that I don't have to go outsourcing for different people. So similarly if I'm writing a copy, if I have the bad personalized place in place and then I want to write copy for a creative that they might need, they would ask me for like hey we are long saying we want to this is a campaign or this is the message that we want to put out on LinkedIn. Can you come up with something creative?
So you use ChatGPT open AI for copy, you use mid journey for the imagery and then you have your design skills in place to combine all of that into a creative and you give it to them in like probably four hours. I think four to six hours is what I would say to the group.
Arjita: Yeah, and it also really helps to just do ideation and like a visual representation before you go into an actual execution. So it saves time for everyone. So yeah, interesting thoughts. I think we've come, it's been a really interesting conversation. We aimed for 20 minutes. We're already at 30. So very interesting stories. We just have this last, you know, short rapid fire round for you Anshul, like a fun thing.
Anshul: Yeah, cool.
Arjita: So we'll get into that. So what's your favorite constellation?
Anshul: I would say Cassiopeia.
Arjita: Okay. Um, what's your favorite band?
Anshul: Favorite brand or band? Brand. Music band. Oof, that's a tough one. I am... I would say Led Zepp. Or... It's a very close competition between a few of them. Like Rolling Stones, Led Zepp and this other one, Pink Floyd. Yeah, these are like really tough people to choose between. Who would you go for?
Arjita: Yeah, I would go for Pink Floyd, but I mean, you've got your favorites. If you could go back in time, where would you want to be?
Anshul: Go back in time. I think after college, before joining that job, those 7 months was a really good self-reflecting period for me where I kind of explored a lot of things that I wanted to do. Yeah, so that was pretty fun.
Arjita: So here's the last one Anshul, so you know you've had an interesting journey so far. What's like that, so if you had to define or you know tell us your dream job, what would that be?
Anshul: Hmm. Um, probably working at Google Creative Labs. The pipeline. Yeah. So like if I could ever get into that and probably work on researching design solutions rather than providing design solutions, like I want to get into research and that kind of like, you know, prototyping design that you've not seen or heard of.
Arjita: Hmm. That's a good one.
Anshul: Like you've seen a lot of, I've seen a lot of these kinds of work where they would have an interactive wall, which works on infrared light. So you move your hand through something. Things will move or you would get a different kind of sound or let's say if you switch off your light and just have your mobile phone flash on, there are walls and there are museums where you
Have a full story going, but if the lights are on, you can't see any of that. You have to switch off your light and you see the story in the shadows through your flashlight. So those kinds of things, that is something that I would want to do in life.
Arjita: Interesting. Great. So that was a really interesting conversation, Anshul. And thank you for taking out the time. And it's really late. But still, I mean, I do this with people on the East Coast, West Coast as well. So I'm used to this timing. But thank you for staying up late. Yeah. Great.
Anshul: I understand thanks for having me though. It's a breeze.