Features | 5 min read | by Dysco

“We’re not just another agency,” says Mallika Kejriwal of The Design Bay Studio

In conversation with Mallika Kejriwal, Creative Head & Founder of The Design Bay Studio, a creative and digital house that identifies themselves as ‘not just another agency.’ Leading an all-women team that deliver a range of services including branding, stationery design, social media, wedding invitations, website design and more, Mallika shares more on the evolution of her agency, expanding offerings to cater to demand, and reacting to the dynamic and diverse consumer preferences. Chat with the team via their website chatbot to know more about how TDBS can help you build your brand, or if you’re looking at growing your own design portfolio.

With a tagline that states quite plainly ‘we’re not just another agency,’ you’d have to consider for a moment what parameters to judge The Design Bay Studio (TDBS) by. The same ones you’d think of when evaluating a… creative agency? a business? an in-house team? an outsourced consultant? Perhaps it’s better not to consider any common parameters, but simply expect open communication, customisable packages and extremely eager partners for your next project. With the lines in creative fields blurring, the women at this studio have an inclination to please their potential customers. They push forward with a ‘yes we can’ attitude that has won them an impressive client list including Asian Paints, Columbia University, Sweetish House Mafia and others. From designing a logo for her mother’s clinic, Mallika soon founded her own company while sitting in bed wearing pyjamas. Friends became clients and acquaintances became employees – her own network proved to be an enormous resource to explore the world of design, and venture into setting up her own design business. Responding to growing expertise and evolving consumer preferences, they just launched three new verticals, adding to the graphic design, branding and social media services they offer. We chat candidly with Mallika to know more about how she’s growing and expanding her studio, the kinds of clients and projects they work with and how they’re responding to current trends in the Indian creative industry.

Social media platforms have made strong branding and visual content more important than ever before, leading to a surge in both design houses and independent visual artists. How is The Design Bay Studio positioned in this context? What sets you apart?
We have worked with multiple brands right from their inception – even helping them come up with their brand name! Many a times those brands want the whole shebang – logo design, marketing collaterals, website design and social media management. That’s what sets us apart, the fact that we understand the brand in its entirety, even those who hired up just for a single service. We’re able to translate their visions on all mediums, by matching if not exceeding their expectations. Some clients give us complete creative freedom which is a designer’s dream, letting us go all out on their social media channels! We see social media platforms as mini, more engaging websites. Given that many young brands only have a logo and social media handles in place, this is a great place for us to start. I would say that even with just these two things – The Design Bay Studio can extend your vision with ease!

Low barriers to entry in the current market mean a lot more people are ‘starting up’ or launching their own businesses, and are looking for new ways to engage their consumers, both online and offline. How did you expand your portfolio of services to cater to this demand and find new ways to help your clients?
It’s pretty simple actually, we just apply learnings from our old school days: ‘the customer is king (or queen).’ We make sure to provide ‘value ads’ to our customers which helps increase their return and growth as a brand in the digital space. We don’t necessarily stick to what’s ‘in the scope of work,’ if we believe something would benefit the brand, we would always suggest it! In fact, some clients come to us looking for more services than they need, and we’re happy to redirect them to what makes more sense for their requirements. It’s not about simply doing business for the sake of business, but rather providing maximum benefit for each client.

The world is growing and changing so rapidly, you absolutely have to keep up with it. Our management team has a monthly session to analyse the current market trends and developments. We incorporate these findings to improve our services for our clients.

Do you feel like there’s a lack of knowledge or information in this field, particularly if customers don’t understand the difference and value of various services? How do you help bridge this information gap when clients approach you?
Yes, while it’s not always easy to educate clients about these services, that is the need of the hour. We take care to present to them the differences and advantages amongst each of our services. Digital marketing is a broad term, it involves so many subcategories. Not every service is essential or applicable for all brands and clients – we help them identify which are most relevant and where they should invest their time and resources to get maximum return.

What gets our clients interested, is that we provide custom packages tailored to their specific needs. We analyse their business model and marketing strategy, and divide it into phases, allowing us to plug in our services as per their unique growth map. This makes the entire process both collaborative, iterative and streamlined, rather than shooting in the dark & hoping for the best to come their way!

Your clients include One Street, Blue Sea, Ministry of Salads and others that are familiar names to Mumbai residents in particular. Do you feel like design needs to be localised? Is this something you factor in to your creative process?
Design cannot be localised! Design is inspired from all of these different localities/regions. Especially in India, there is so much creativity all around us. I went to Jaipur recently and my god there’s inspiration just bursting from everywhere. Even Delhi – within the F&B space in particular, I actually think they’re a notch ahead of us (as sad it is to say). From typography of roadside stores to local artefacts and crafts, our country is a creative goldmine. What we factor into our creative process, is getting a deep understanding of our client’s values and needs, and pulling together different threads to execute and improve their vision.

Which client or project has been your favourite to work on? Why is it one that you’re most proud of? 
This is almost like asking a mother to choose their favourite child! I’ve got a bunch of favourite clients, especially those that give us complete creative freedom. Sometimes, I go back to my archived client folders from 3 years ago to just reminisce and admire our past work, and see how we’ve evolved over time.

Recently, we designed & conceptualised a logo design for Columbia University, USA. They are launching a very cool initiative/challenge for their students, called Urban Works, focused on sustainability in different parts of the world. This project gave me a bunch of reasons to call it my favourite. For starters, the honour of working with such a prestigious brand in itself, Columbia University! Secondly, we really really worked our asses off. I saw the newest and freshest members of my team become responsible young ladies overnight. And lastly, the work that we presented really paid off! Despite the entire duration of the project being mind-bogglingly exhausting, bearing in mind that their wish was our command, it was a most gratifying and rewarding experience. It was a pleasure working with them and we hope to collaborate again soon.

TDBS is an all-women team. Do you consciously select female employees? How has this shaped your growth and company culture? 
Hahaha. Actually it really didn’t start off as me consciously looking for female employees, we did have the occasional male here and there – but they just never lasted! Perhaps the oestrogen levels were far too high for them. I did realise soon after though, who are we kidding? The future is female! Somehow we attracted primarily female applicants, and I happened to find their work the most impressive. It’s never really been an issue though. We’ve never been asked about the gender breakup of our team, and clients haven’t raised concerns about that either. More so, design isn’t gender based and I have never thought of it being so either. Maybe it’s the men who would have a harder time designing female products!

What’s on the horizon for TDBS? Are there any specific challenges that you foresee?
We’ve consistently been growing rapidly as a team, and our work, team structure as well as our deliverables have also become better. Our goals are to ensure we retain our current clients by providing stellar work. However, over time we’ve realised that catering to a specific target market and a niche audience helps us generate much better sales.

We just overcame one of our biggest challenges, where we restructured and redesigned our employee roles to allow them to focus on doing what they love! Through an internal interview and review process, we chalked out revised job profiles based on individual interests and strengths. I think that was great! All the ladies here, are doing what they love, isn’t this the best way to increase employee retention?

It’s not really a one-size-fits-all, different people have different requirements or different preferences. What kinds of clients, collaborators and employees should approach TDBS? 
We never say no, you can call us yes-women! We always ensure finding a way in which we can collaborate with diverse kinds of companies, brands, and organisations. Everything and everyone needs design, don’t they? Whether you’re launching a new company, venturing into the retail space, or building a blog, The Design Bay Studio always has something to offer!

However, we’re now beginning to explore retainer opportunities with MNC’s & corporates, especially after working with Taj Khazana by Taj Hotels, Reliance, Asian Paints & many more! It truly was an incredible learning experience working with organisations of such size and scale.

Chat with Mallika on Dysco App to know more about how she built TDBS or email them on hello@thedesignbaystudio.com to discuss collaborations, employment or hiring their services.