What sparked your interest in design (particularly architecture), considering you had chosen to acquire a degree in Chemistry?
I had a creative bent of mind but I couldn't articulate it. Also Chemistry seemed more macho! But within a couple of years I gave up my Chemical Business and began making things that I needed in my own home. A small shop followed. The arrangement of accessories around furniture got me interior offers. In a span of five years from the shift I was also made an architect when we had to add some space to an existing interior assignment. People have seen a potential in me and I have responded. I never had anything except just a search for beauty in my mind....
What were some of the challenges you faced while setting up Etcetera in the 1980’s, at a time when design stores were still a nascent concept in India? And are some of those challenges still prevalent today?
In those days there was no merchandise. Every product needed a backward integration that often didn't exist in the city. So I would travel to the remotest of craft centers in rural areas to put each component of a product in place. But the hard work was rewarding. The few buyers who existed were pedigreed patrons whose curiosity for design was out of an intellectual pursuit rather than mere consumerism.
Today millions of products are readily available from any corner of the world without leaving my desk! The untrained buyer has more options than he can handle. His need for design is reduced to styled objects. He hesitates to buy because he is always unsure!
How has the move to Alibaug impacted the way you approach your designs?
The move to Alibaug brought me in communion with nature. It's ever reinventing itself and offering me unlimited inspiration that is uplifting and energizing. It lets me enjoy beauty, reflect upon it and then create it. The city bombarded me with more inspiration in numbers, but its depth and therefore effectiveness was limiting.
Your catalogue of work cuts across mediums and time, it is in constant evolution and contains an experimental quality that is both expressive and memorable. What is the one piece from your body of work that continues to remain close to your heart?
My work like my body is a complete whole in itself. My body needs different parts and delivers different actions, yet I can't choose one over another, can I? Similarly my work is a seamless holistic activity dependent on each other and not separate from one another.
What keeps you awake at night and what motivates you to wake up every morning?
Nothing can, believe me! I flake out by 9pm. Waking up is a physical routine that hardly needs any motivation. Getting out of bed is fun because it's never a work day as such!
*Photo courtesy: http://pinakin.in/