Sandeep Sharma

Founder Partner at DesignICON Architects (Interview Part -1)

Sandeep Sharma is a 1995 graduate and he has been practicing for almost 30 years, out of which he was in the job for almost eight to nine years. Then Sandeep started his practice under the banner of DesignICON Architects as a Founder and Partner with his friend and partner Subash Menon and till now they have been together working in this industry for close to 20 years of hands-on experience in the field of Architecture Planning and Interior Design in DesignICON Architects. He started working on healthcare projects and we have worked for Fortis Healthcare extensively.

The Best Creators (TBC) connected with Mr. Sandeep Sharma to share his experience as he has come a long way with a lot of different project handling, challenges, and learnings. So, it should be available for the people who are upcoming in the industry. So, by reading this blog, newcomers can understand things from the experiences of people like Sandeep Sharma and it will be a guiding light for them.

Professional Journey: A Brief

Mr. Sharma explained his professional journey when he started working with his partner Subhash under DesignICON Architects, he started with healthcare projects and worked for Fortis Healthcare extensively. 

He continues further that after the healthcare segment, I got a chance to do some prime location office buildings in Gurgaon. After that, I worked on some infrastructure projects like airports, in Pondicherry, and Sikkim, and one of the first heliports of India, which is in Ritala, Delhi for Pawanans, for commercial flights. I worked on making the terminal buildings for all these three cities. 

Then me and Subhash got into interior architecture by persuasion from one of our clients for whom I made the design of an office building complex. Then people who leased out their offices in that building, sort of designed most of them. That’s how my interior design journey started. 

He stated it is a mixed bag, basically of architecture and interiors. And within architecture also all kinds of buildings he has done. As well as in interiors he designs residential, commercial, retail, and every kind of interior design project. So here we are. We are not a very big company. We are a 20-person company. And the latest thing since a year or two he has started is turnkey projects for interior design only. 

Sandeep said If the client insists then we do PMC also if the client wants it to be included along with our design consultation. My organization has a varied portfolio of projects as well. With a varied portfolio of services I render.

Changing with Time and Adding New is the biggest challenge: Mr. Sharma

Sandeep was asking about challenges he faced during his professional journey, he said that changing with time and adding and subtracting what I have been doing and what I can do is the key to challenge. He stated, he never thought that I would ever get into interior design ever. But the demand of the market and the client pulled us in. And I can say the first interior design project I delivered was for an office of 50,000 sq.ft., a very big multinational firm called Erisant Group in Gurgaon and it was a challenge because the client asked us to design. So that’s how we backed this project and the journey started. 

Sandeep further continued, I guess once you’re a designer, you are a designer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re designing a chair, toilet, window, or wall. So you are capable of designing anything. It is the question of whether you want to try your hand at designing and entering into a new area itself. We have been open to the demands of the market if it is possible. So, that flexibility has given us a platform where clients can pick and choose the kind of services he wants from the table.

Principles of Designing Architectures

Mr. Sharma explains briefly about his design principles that in India at least, our construction industry is not that refined and I would say so forward, it is at least 50 years behind compared to other European countries. So here the architect job is very difficult. There is no end to what service clients can expect from you and what kind of knowledge they can expect from you. I have worked in foreign countries also, but your work is very much defined there. The business development manager within the company, who is an architect too, does business development only. The construction documentation team makes drawings and the company supports you in your software.  So here you are working as a one-man army. 

He further continued that this is not our expertise. Our team of engineers can guide us. And the kind of clients you get is from every sector, from a personal residence to a professional. So you are always unprepared. So whatever principles you set go for six. 

The kind of clientele you are open to, some people specify that I will not deviate from this line of plantage. Projects we have are like babies for me and my company, I want to wind it up in the best way, that is the principle for me if I want to explain it in one line. A project has to have a personal involvement right from the start with the client. Put any of my employees in the forefront for the key decisions of a project design. That is one thing which has kept the clients which have been with me for the last 10 to 15 years. 

As far as possible I always try to ensure that the expectations of clients are met in terms of space, in terms of budget, and in terms of timely delivery. And every architect by default, works on certain ethics that if scope is there in terms of space, and design, we fight it till the end. Let’s modify this, let’s do it better and these are the better ways. These are our principles that give them the best in whatever time and money he allows us to use. 

Client’s Expectations while Signing of the Projects for designing and construction?

Mr. Sharma briefed about what exactly customers and clients expect during designing and constructing their space, the things are given if somebody is hiring an architect, the client is of a different level, the architect is of some other level and things are at different levels altogether. 

So decisions taken in those projects about the timeline and cost changed drastically compared to the smaller mid-sized projects that we handled already. It also depends upon in which sector you are serving, What is the magnitude of the project that you are serving? The projects that we delivered earlier like the projects, interior design projects, turnkey projects, etc, and at times we execute also. 

The day lease is signed for the rental space, whether it is 50,000 sq ft or 1,00,000 sq ft it has to be delivered in two months at any cost. The person from the bare shell, sitting at his computer and working within two months because if we delay that, the landlord starts losing his rent, the tenant starts getting the pinch of extra or the rental of the space which he is supposed to occupy, that’s why, this is a different ball game altogether. So it’s different kinds of projects, clients, and sectors of the industry that we are serving that define what principles will fit in.

(Interview Part -2)
It's so easy to Update Yourself about New Design and Trends: Mr. Sandeep

Sandeep said it is much easier nowadays to keep yourself updated with new designs and trends with the help of Social media, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. You can keep reading about the different architects, and what work they are doing, then attend conferences where all the architects gather or the suppliers also come together under one roof and they display their products. There are a lot of panels talking about the industry, and even the contractors are also involved. They cross-question each other, they talk about different projects, different aspects of the industry. 

There are a lot of ways you get to know about new products and the way people are working nowadays as there is no end to it. It completely depends on how interested you are to learn more. The suppliers or the companies who have the marketing and sales team on the ground, I keep meeting them. If somebody calls me from any company, saying that this is our new product, I will call them, show me your products as that is one big way of getting to know new products coming into the market. If somebody is coming to your doorstep and showing you the variety of products that they can supply and suddenly we are looking for something and we find it at our doorstep. These all are the easiest ways of updating yourself and learning many different things in our day-to-day lives easily.

Convincing Clients to Pay What they Deserve is the Biggest Challenge

Sandeep Sharma said, challenge for me, I would say architects always want to deliver a beautiful project that is appreciated by all and that comes with a cost. Even if the client agrees to pay you what you deserve in the end, the challenge comes with the cost as when you start designing things and you come up with different options and the cost is something or the budget is something that dilutes your design at times. We have proposed a certain XYZ thing or material, the way it has to be put up. So there are limitations which are the result of the budget of the client which dilutes our design at times and that challenge is always there. 

Clients want to have a beautiful building, so we create drawings and show them to them. Everything is appreciated by everyone, their team, but when it comes down to cost, they ask us to remove many things for cost-cutting like let’s remove this element, It is very expensive. The drawings and pictures are fantasy and then there is a reality. Those are the challenges we face.

He continued, we have some clients who say that the budget is no problem, go ahead. Our clientele line is a bit of a developer kind of people who are always a personal house owner who can go to any limits to get their space design done in the way they want.

My First Project was a Defining Moment of My Career: Sandeep

Mr Sharma detailed that the defining moment in my career was when I started my firm and got my first project with my partner in the firm, Subhash Menon. The first project break we got was a hospital project. That time, when we opened our office, we directly got this project was a defining moment to start our practice with such a big client. And the second project that we got was a 5 lakh square feet building in Gurgaon with 500 car parks. So I feel we were lucky that we did not start with small projects or anything. The first two projects we got were flagship projects, renowned and the size of the project was quite huge.

Contractors should take the Ownership of the Project

Sandeep briefed that my recommendation to contractors is to take ownership of the project and consider it as their project. The blame game is one thing with which we are dealing day in and day out with the contractors, clients, and everyone. They used to make excuses that this cannot happen because this is not ready. Ownership, nobody takes it apart from them. I would say we face this challenge.

At times I am standing on the ground and I want to get the stuff done and the contractor does not cooperate. At that time, the ownership planner from the contractor side also for the smooth finishing of the project was very important, and rather than fighting over small petty issues like this was not approved because this closure doesn’t happen and extra work always comes up in the projects and you can’t avoid these works. 

Making fast decisions and implementing them is something and contractors have to be well equipped with the machinery and equipment. Many times when we are shortlisting contractors, the way they portray their work and they show their work, the sky’s the limit and when the actual ground action starts, there are a lot of disappointments. So choosing the right contractor is a bit difficult and the budget of the client also matters a lot. Clients would like to have the cheapest contractor with the highest capabilities and these two things rarely match.

According to Sandeep, building ma

Building Material Vendors should Actively Advertise on Digital Media

terial vendors should start actively advertising on digital media, which people are quite frequently now. He stated that I would say they need to frequently visit architects and keep updated about their products and what they can offer. They should be trying to link with the architects on their digital media because that’s where nowadays people keep turning back towards liking digital media, browsing through different product lines, that is one place they can be active and we can know what new products they are offering.

Newcomers should Do Work with Some Good Firms Initially

Sandeep gave some suggestions for newcomers that the new entries, designers, and architects who are new to the industry should do work with some good firms in their starting years and follow some good leaders whose footsteps they can follow and think out of the box. That is one thing the designer has to always have to be open to thinking beyond the box and should be very honest with their client. Newcomers have to practice some ethics as they have to be ethical when they are delivering their services and no shortcuts taken to complete their work.

Leadership is Exciting

On asking about leadership, Mr. Sharma replied, that leadership is exciting because nowadays things have changed. A leader should have friendly behavior with his colleagues, that’s what’s most important. They should just explain things and do’s, just prepare the team members for meetings that this is your new goal and this is our combined goal. Leadership is all about asking team members about their point of view like What do you have to say about it? 

To work better with the team, a leader should conduct some informal discussions, team building exercises, and outdoor parties together with the team weekly, or alternative weeks, so that every team member feels free to contact you and have the guts to express himself rather than an 


And, leadership is about respecting the least experienced person. If there is a problem, the leader should take advice from him and it should be open to everyone. So that’s where he gets to know, the least experienced person can do this thing better. So versatility in terms of getting work out of people can be perfect leadership.