Director-CRE, DSP Design (Interview PART-1)

The following extract is from the Best Creators interview with Shweta Grover, an industry leader in the field of architecture and design. As we explore the experiences and learnings of the industry, we take to the pioneering forces in the world of architecture and construction. The excerpt reveals powerful ideas that fuel the progression of modern architecture into the forefront of innovative technologies and best practices.

Emerging with the changing world of architecture

“I did architecture from Delhi and I will not say that I was totally tuned into what being an architect was. More than two decades back, we di’t have that kind of exposure to what field we choose to take. I spent my college years, 5 years in Delhi. I was always a self-ambitious and driven person, insisting that whatever I did should be done well. I started working with top professionals, like pioneers of architecture in Delhi. Ranjit Sabikhi, Sumit Ghosh, and other top firms comprised of my six years after college, mainly large scale developments in commercial and residential. It was a coincidence that in 2006 I started dabbling with interior architecture. I did a bit of hospitality experience. Workplace Design was opening up as an exciting new vertical. I happened to meet Anurag Srivastav from Space Matrix who interviewed me and insisted that I join the team. That’s how my journey started in workplace design. I was with them for 3 years, and that was my foundation. I was exposed to the whole industry of workplace design, understanding the processes, design and build, RFPs, Business Development, various facets of Workplace.

Thereafter I met Bimal from DSP and I started the Delhi NCR studio for DSP. It was a venture with risk and excitement both to start up something at a young age. It’s been 13 years now. It’s been a very eventful journey to come this far and make a place in the industry for both DSP and me. When you are running things and driving business, teams you have to think like an entrepreneur and not just as a designer. You have to think beyond your given tasks. You have to create tasks and scale to the heights that you have envisioned for yourself and the company. A lot of great projects delivered across many cities in India from my end with my team. Some great client and industry relationships created. A lot of people mentored. Everybody does not get that exposure or that opportunity at the right time in life. I was very lucky to get that and to be able to prove myself.

At architecture school in TVB, the learning was very global and progressive. It has a very wide exposure through my global travel and interactions which has taught me how to deal with various subjects and issues. That thought process has got me this far. I make sure I impart my knowledge and streamline the process for young team members. That’s very important for me, teaching and mentoring. That’s the only way to build up this ecosystem of learning and being collaborative. We still have to give design that importance, like it is globally, where architects and designers have a huge platform and play a vital role to create a beautiful nation. We’ve come a long way in the last two decades, I’m sure the next two decades will be much better. Technology has brought about this change by shrinking the world and getting people to talk to each other.

During COVID-19, everybody has become comfortable with digital technology and working from anywhere, that this learning phase has been very good. It is going to improve certain patterns in our work life. Though forced, there could be some great takeaways from it. I never thought that Shweta could work from home even once a week. I would feel the lack of control, not sure whether that model works and in six months I have realized that all of us have become so independent, that I don’t need to chase my team and my team doesn’t need me beyond a certain number of hours in a day. If work comes, everybody knows how to manage it at their own responsibility. We are working better now across cities as well. We are seeing better synergy among people across geographies, because of how we are working online with virtual collaboration. And you don’t need to take a flight and go meet a client for everything, or run across the town to make sure you are there for a face-to-face meeting. Some things have improved drastically.”

A journey to empowerment

“When we talk about women empowerment, I have been lucky. When I started DSP when I was very young, everybody was sceptical about whether a young girl could run a unit. In fact, run a lot of things, not just about business, responsibilities for every project delivery, mentoring and leading the teams etc. Though there was scepticism, everybody accepted and became part of a larger team and I feel amazed how things have fallen in place. Competing with the legacy of known architects and coming up to their level is a very thrilling experience. It shows that yes there are challenges but there are ways to overcome it. Being in NCR, people say you it is the toughest market and how do you manage it. I don’t think people have problems with me. If you’re good to people, good to clients and good to your work, people just accept you. It just merges with the well-being of the fraternity. I am amazed that for 13 years, I’ve been doing it all by myself. At one point, I was very young and people would say that I was going to fail. But it’s good that I played the game right.”

Building your career holistically

“I always believed that you should be a well-aware person. I always tell my team members that I can only teach you to a point. It’s all about how much you self-learn. You have to always be on the learning curve. It has to be a self-motivating, self-driven initiative. The more knowledge you have and the more you bring on your projects, is how you’re going to increase the scale in life. You have to keep learning and analysing what you’re learning. That’s the most important skill

If one understand the subject well and delivers the work successfully, the industry and clients speak for it. Design is a very intuitive and bespoke process, everyone has that unique way to solve or address a project. The successful outcome is more than enough appreciation for a designer. To be continued. >>