Ashish Sachdev

Founder & Principal Architect-ADEelite Design Consultants Pvt Ltd (Interview PART-1)

Ashish Sachdev an architect, graduated from Mysore University MCE Hassan in the year 2000. He started his journey into the world of architecture with Mathias Consultants.

In 2003, he joined RSP, where he was there till 2009, for almost 8 years. Post that, in 2010 Ashish started the firm AdEelite. In his interview, he expressed the satisfaction of completing the 21st year in 2021. His successes and enthusiasm are a clear reflection of the leaps taken to contribute to the world of architecture and building design.

A journey to dissolve boundaries and create sustainable architecture.

He said, my first office that I joined was Mathias consultants, we experimented a lot, both with architecture and interiors. Interiors gives you an opportunity to transform spaces, experiment with your creativity and deliver spaces that are much faster-paced than architecture. It takes a year plus for a building to come up, whereas your creative side is tested against time when designing interior spaces. That’s what brought me into interior design because I was very interested in fast work where there’s a lot of room for creativity. With access to global technologies and building that we use, it gives us an opportunity to be extremely creative and see the results of your creativity within a short period of time. So, when I worked at RSP, my second office, I learned a lot there, moved within the organization to the design cell, leading a team of architects handling large multinational projects. Very early in my career, thanks to the leadership of RSP that believed in my skills and my confidence, I was able to finish 2 campus projects by the time I was 27. I was leading a very good team of architects. What I realized in my career there working with two types of clients. One is the multi-national companies that come to India. There are a lot of expectations of how to replicate what they have globally been working with. Technologies are the same but the culture and behaviour is varied. What works in UK/USA cannot 100% work in India. Our people are different. Our needs are different, because there is so much diversity in our country. I was very attracted to working with both multi-national and Indian clients. I wanted to see how we could integrate the diversity of culture and behaviour into design of spaces which we could say are truly for people of our country.”

Further elaborating on his decorated career, Ashish reminisced the importance of creativity in every step along the journey of architecture and design.

Creativity is the fuel to human-centric design

“This is my 20th year of working. It takes time for one to develop a new idea and develop it into an established idea. 60% of the needs of every project that we do for clients is very similar. Most of these MNCs would have generic requirements for office spaces. What has been very interesting for us is to come up with design philosophies that our client’s business can resonate with. More importantly, our creative teams that we have hand selected form the industry also start believing in those philosophies / concepts that we develop over time. There is so much impact of every project on the team within the firm when we develop newer ideas, integrate technologies. If you’ve seen my website you would have noticed some of our design thinking.”

The importance of human-centric design

“Over the last two decades, that has been our focus and that’s even more important now during this pandemic is human-centric design. Human centric design is where everything is crafted around human behaviour. The interface of technology and integrating technology into the design spaces and the products we choose is something that is very important. I think human centre design would be one of the top philosophies. Well-being which is the very essence of living is another top philosophy we work with. Well-being in every way. Within an office, when we’re designing for our clients, the larger focus is on the organization’s brand values, the kind of money they want to spend, their lease period, what is the background of the company, all goes into the design brief. But our main focus is on the individuals who occupy the office. Be it the office boy who is within the office, even up to the top level. We have been fortunate to have great clients who have understood the essence of well-being, where they have really allowed us to be focused on each and every individual’s needs within the office.

Let me just quickly summarize human-centered design, well-being, and integrating new technologies that resonate with people over time. Right now, this Zoom software we’re using, you and I are talking like we’re sitting face to face. How do you do that within an office space or within your design where everything seems seamless? The usage of materials and designing for one person to a team of 5 people on the floor. Everybody must be satisfied. You may be within an office, an individual who just wants to focus on his call, or something that he’s writing like a code. You have another team that sits ten feet away who needs to have an open discussion, have a writing board pulled up. How interestingly we have been able to empathize with the needs of different people and treat them as families. The success we have achieved is through the right selection of materials. All of us, human beings, feel / experience through our senses, our senses are what allow us to touch or feel the materials. If you bring these materials together in the right way, all that I spoke about is achieved.”

As we understand the pivotal role of creativity and intuition in the design process, the Best Creators were eager to further delve into the brilliant mind of Ashish Sachdev. His insights were truly eye-opening and encouraging for the fraternity at large. He responded to our eagerness with insights into the success of his organizational values.

Creating an agile and open office culture

“We are a 20-member team by choice. I have worked in a larger organization where there were 400 people. For me to talk to my boss then, it would take 3-4 days because he has to meet many people during the day. One of the things that I have done within my office is that we’ve made it very agile, an open office. There are no cabins besides the meeting room. We can interact and I am able to give one on one time to each and every individual. That one-on-one time is extremely important, and that I think has really allowed my teams to be very creative. We have applied the design of open office agile concept. We have four television screens that can project a collaborative experience. We have implemented technologies for each and everyone in the office to project their work on larger screens and openly interact. There is ample space for us to display materials, use the materials. When you have a 20-member team, we have dedicated a lot of space within the office that allows our teams to exercise the same level of creativity that we are designing for our clients. We have integrated technology for our daily needs. We use certain software that allows seamless integration because when you’re handling four of five large scale or medium scale projects by interacting with 400-500 people across India, seamless interaction is the key. We are using some very good software that allows our team to be very effective in communications. What we use for our own communication, the decks are shared with our clients so that they are on the same page as well.”

Communication and working as a family

“There is no hierarchy. Everyone is heard. Everyone’s opinions are taken into account. We have regular design brief sessions, workshops, where extensive time is spent in the office on the selection chair, a selection of furniture or building materials. And clients participate in those sessions where our teams interact with the clients in the same space. Transparency with an open and agile approach for our own office design and an intentional lean structure has helped us. An architect’s role as a creator is to be at the centre and to be able to hear everyone, understand the client. A lot of importance is given to our vendors and suppliers. One thing that we learned very early in career, is that whether we get our fees in time or not, our suppliers and vendors have to be paid because they are a part of our team as well.When we have lean structure, there are no silos. There are no behind-the-scenes discussions. Everything is visible to everyone. With a 20-member team, we do roughly about 5-6 lakhs square feet a year. Compared to large scale projects, I think small scale also or medium scale projects give you a lot of room for creativity as well. We have supported clients for up to 10 lakh square feet pan India, keeping our team members at only 20 numbers. Of course, consultants, contractors, PMC teams are also part of our extended team. Driven out of empathy, when I was in Japan with a set of successful architects for India, it was an opportunity created to see some of the good works done by Nikken Sekkei in Japan. My intake from that trip was that the level of interaction with the client is so informal compared to what we are used to. They sit together for long hours, call each other home, they drink a lot together. When they are sitting on a design brief it can go up to 12 o’clock in the night. Unless you empathize with each and every need of the client and truly understand what they need, you can’t do justice through design. Our process of interrogation is so thorough that it has been the foundation of our organization. If you prioritize human needs, all the solutions present themselves. You just have to keep people at the centre and treat them as a family. One of the core things that we have been verysuccessful at is that the 20 people in our organization are part of our family, clients feel comfortable with us because there’s a balance being created. We’re not stepping on each other’s toes but we are all working as one family.”

With such admirable values for successful organizational culture, the Best Creators knew that we asked for the best creator’s insight himself. We wanted more and thus explored the expertise of Ashsih Sachdev as a creator and leader who founded creativity and intuitive thinking into the ethos of his organization. He further shared powerful ideas that emerged ashe gained exposure to various large-scale, medium and small projects throughout his career.

Luxury is making the ordinary extraordinary

“We were designing an office campus for a client way back and I realized that when you use materials that fit your design and creativity if your focus is completely on creativity there are two ways to approach it. One, where you buy expensive materials, durable, tested, sustainable and fit into your budget, are high-performing, and can be seamlessly integrated within the kind of technology, buildability, timelines and make a space luxurious. For me luxury is making the ordinary extraordinary. How do you use products in a creative way that even the highly priced products, high-performing products can be integrated into a low budget project? That has been the focus of our journey. When we work on a project which is 10,000 square foot to a lakh square foot, we’ve implemented this. We have been successful in making the ordinary extraordinary through our creativity, bold choices and bold use of colours. If you communicate appropriately to your suppliers, to your client, about why a particular design is in a particular way can bring everybody to the same platform. I would like to share that learning with everyone that doesn’t reject a material because it’s 3000 rupees a square foot but use it proportionately in your design. Don’t discard a technology which seems expensive to maintain. It’s important as designers that we embrace everything that can upgrade or enhance the lives of our users at offices.”

It was truly inspiring to understand the design process that guaranteed exceptional delivery known to be AdEelite’s forte. Ashish revealed powerful ideologies embedded in the very core of his work ethic and vision for the industry’s growth. His people-centric approach is a key definer of successful relations that have shaped his decorated career as a person who enjoys interacting with others.

Design is a relationship of people with the world

“When you’re trying to make people open and you’re bringing them closer, the process has to start right from day one and not just when you are presenting a design scheme. Design scheme presentation is the conclusion of how you have already agreed with a client. They have to see your approach come out. Design is a relationship of people with the world. 40% of our industry works that way.”

Ashish began to shed light on the trends in the industry that he sees as integral to sustainability and creative expression. To be continued. >>