We have been immensely busy, doing very diverse set of engagements, exploring the length & breadth of what design thinking can do, and enjoying many high points. Here is what has happened at Elephant in the last 2/3 of years: It is a long note, but I think you may enjoy going through it.
Big deal: Elephant completed 25 years this May; the only independent multi-disciplinary design agency to reach this milestone in India. We are rather proud of this achievement considering we started & grew in Pune, which is not a main-stream business or media hub. We believe Elephant pioneered “business of design” in India. We have stayed profitable in the entire journey, though initially, for at least a decade, we had to painstakingly explain & prove the power of design-led thinking to Indian businesses. Elephant has also been a launch-pad for many of its former interns & employees who are now successful design entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs in various corporates.
Growth: through work across India, SE Asia, Africa& Europe leading to deeper understanding of global trends and consumers. Overall, the focus has grown from delivering design projects to partnering with clients for design thinking & strategy for a sustainable success. As of today, Elephant is 80+ team with largest number being at Pune, its centre of excellence. Delhi team celebrated 6 years, with 25 people. Team recently moved to Cyber City at Gurgaon in a swanky place, closer to many clients. Singapore team, now in its 3rd year has grown too and remains housed at a plush business complex off Orchard Road. Elephant’s relevant experience in design-led innovation found great traction in SE Asia with clients from diverse domains including hospitality, spa, beauty products, art, education etc. An Elephant outpost near Bonn in Germany has been activated recently and it also won couple of strategic projects in the consumer goods domain for brands looking to enter emerging markets. This outpost may soon become a full fledged office.
Elephant Culture: When you always want to do the new, and discard repetitive, templatised solutions, the challenge is to the keep teams consistently curious & engaged. We celebrate every festival, encourage multi-cultural ethos, have our own band, Elephant Premier League cricket internal tournament, celebrate Fruit Day on 10th of every month, make eco-friendly Ganesh idols, have our own café called Palm Beach. We welcome interns from USA, Turkey, Singapore, Germany, France & most frequently, The Netherlands. We strongly believe that we are unparalleled in keeping a vibrant culture alive at work among our fraternity. We have Monday Morning Meetings as a ritual at Elephant where we come up with a new group engagement every single week. This helps us keep a positive mindset despite trying deadlines to solve wicked problems.
Top work in 2/3 of years:
Brand: Last 2 years got us 2 ReBrand 100 (USA) awards, CII Design Excellence & Designomics for CI Programmes. Daimler chose Elephant, a first ever design partner outside Germany to design their brand. Elephant team designed the Bharat Benz identity for Daimler trucks. The brand was cast keeping the legacy as well as cultural alignments in mind. Praj, a B2B engineering giant invited Elephant for rebranding. Talking about long term relationships, Elephant had also worked on the original Praj branding in 1996, which was up for change due to newer ambition & global growth. The new brand was launched in 2014. We facilitated an ‘integration through branding” exercise for a group of 10 companies led by Bhogales from Marathwada region. The group is now called AITG, that stands for Applied Innovation & Technology Group. We also rebranded another very ambitious engineering company called GrindMaster last year.
Elephant has been the design partner for Champion’s League T20 for three consecutive cricket seasons including one in South Africa for creating brand livery for communication & venues. The most happening IPL cricket team, KKR invited Elephant to design the stadia livery for last season of IPL.
FMCG Brands: Hector Beverages partnered with Elephant for naming, visual identity & packaging for a range of ethnic drinks. Paper Boat is considered the most successful beverage brand launch of the decade (the last successful one was Appy in mid-eighties, which later launched Fizz). Other very successful packaging launches include Good Knight Fast Card, Good Knight xpress system, Hit Anti-roach gel, Lacto Calamine rebranded range, V wash, Britannia Tiger, Marie Gold, NutriChoice, Cakes, Devaaya rice & staples, Colgate Visible White, Eraser skincare, Tzinga beverage, Kara skincare wipes, Kyron Brandy, Jolly Roger Rum, Venky’s sports nutrition, Heinz MaPlan, Galaxy & Snickers Festive packs, Haldiram’s Festive packs, rebranded Chandrika, rebranded Glucovita & many more. Elephant was also invited to work on two international brands from Godrej portfolio; Stella, a homecare brand in Indonesia & a hair brand across 5 countries in Africa. The former has had a very successful launch, the later is almost ready to go to market. We can easily claim to be in any Indian shopping basket through at least one brand designed by us.
We published insights & trends around “new woman” on International Women’s Day this year. They can be read at http://issuu.com/ashwinielephant/docs/elephant_trendswatch_2014.
Product Design: In our 25th year of design partnership with Symphony, the team designed two highly successful air-cooler ranges Diet & Storm. Symphony is world’s largest air-cooler brand with reach in 30 countries. Elephant has designed their products since 1989. We also continued to design range of products for India’s leading cookware brand, Nirlep, another very long & strong design partnership.
Other work includes a global award winning milk chiller for Promethean Power Systems. This project was a partnership to achieve solution for rural milk-collection eco-system that faces huge challenges due to inconsistent power supply. Most exciting moment for this team was to get invited by BCCI to design an exclusive memento that was presented to Sachin Tendulkar on his last outing.
Retail: Two consecutive VMRD awards for best retail design for QSR chains Venky’s Xprs & KrustysBistro. Our long time partnership with Axis Bank was instrumental in getting them CMO Asia Award for Impactful Retail & Merchandising Programme. Branded experience design work also includes Suzlon Global Campus, Eon Campus etc.
Digital: Elephant has been involved in creating highly engaging digital experiences. As part of our long association with Delhi Duty Free Stores, Vir Sanghvi was signed on as India’s first Facebook editor for the brand. His deft inputs on Facebook and his engagement on luxury brands with bloggers and the DDFS team added an important dimension to the communication. When every TV channel went hoarse with their analysis on Lok Sabha election results, we launched itsmytake.com, a website for user generated infographics to express opinions on events of interest. This was a self initiated platform brought to life with IT giant Persistent Systems and Sakal media group as partners. We will be exploring immense potential of this platform in the near future through various participatory triggers.
Social Impact: Elephant contributed to a global award winning social impact project with a couple of workshops and visually appealing and cost effective packaging for the laddoos once the recipes were finalized. The Laddoo Project is aimed to provide nutrition to under-privileged children and was executed by DeepaGriha NGO with support from Design Impact USA. Elephant has been chosen as a design partner by Delivering Change Foundation that is working towards “Draught Free Maharashtra by 2019”. The same team also partnered with Elephant for “Pune Bus Day” which was a huge success in November 2012.
Elephant was invited by HK Government to be part of “Colours of Asia”, research project that culminated into an exhibition, seminars & book that was edited by me, with contribution from design experts across 13 Asian countries.
For the Design Fraternity: Apart from speaking & jury engagements including ICOGRADA Design Week in Vancouver, Business of Design Week in HK, Design for Asia Awards (HK), Spikes Awards (Singapore), Pioneer Design Awards (China), Design for Change Awards, VMRD Retail Awards, PrintWeek Awards etc, co-founders of Elephant have played a key role in building Association of Designers of India. As Vice President of Association of Designers of India, Ashish is actively involved in supporting and promoting design as a profession and in convening Pune Design Festival for eight consecutive season since 2006. The Ministry of Industry & Commerce, Government of India invited Ashish as honorary member of India Design Council and of CII National Committee on Design. Ashish was awarded certification in Good Design Awards system from Japan as part of cooperative initiative between Japan Institute of Design promotion & India Design Council. He has been on the jury of India Design Mark since its inception in 2011.
Elephant is celebrating 25 years of being a pioneering strategic design consultancy of India. As leading multi-disciplinary experts on emerging markets, our teams based out of Pune, Delhi & Singapore get to work in variety of domains including FMCG, Healthcare, Banking, Energy, Automobile & Lifestyle products. No matter what the domain, our approach is always user-centric and always starts with design research. We observe, meet and farm life-stories with users and turn our understanding into insights that lead to innovative design solutions. Usually, rich insights lead to two significant sets. The first set gives an overview of shifting mindsets, transitions, beliefs and emerging aspirations. This typically can be called Trends-Watch. The other set comes out of analyzing the observed trends along with visualization of future. This is called Trends Forecast.
We believe our insight-led work has reflected positively on the users. But we want to share the benefits of these insights with more users, marketers, brand owners as well as students of design & branding. So we decided to publish what we learnt in the last year and make it an open source by publishing Elephant Trends Watch 2014 online.