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  • Writer's picturePalak Goyal

The making of Swadesh: The designers’ journey

What happens when a store design project becomes more than just another project, but a meaningful experience to absorb and cherish? Well, that’s what happened when the design teams at JGA and FRDC took on Swadesh store project, that was recently inaugurated at Hyderabad and

created quite a buzz. Ken Nisch, Chairman - JGA, and Sanjay Agarwal, Co-Founder & MD - FRDC, share the experience with Retail4Growth. 

Reliance Retail recently launched the first flagship of ‘Swadesh’ at Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, positioned as a showcase of Indian art and handicrafts. The store, which has already created quite a buzz, was designed by FRDC and JGA, with the design team diving deep into the brand vision and ethos to craft a unique experience.  

Ken Nisch, Chairman - JGA, and Sanjay Agarwal, Co-Founder & MD, FRDC, share with the thought process behind Swadesh and what went into the making of it.

Strategy and vision for the store and how it was translated into design

Ken: When we were approached by Reliance Retail regarding their Swadesh store project, we recommended that we partner locally, as we always do. In India we have always worked with FRDC right from the beginning; Sanjay and his team given their strong international perspective and work

in parallel with the JGA team right through a project. Likewise, the JGA team works closely with FRDC as true collaborators. 

For Swadesh, the briefing from Reliance Retail team included their whole vision for

the brand. The concept and strategy essentially focused on creating a world class store that also remained true to its Indian roots.  Thus, Indian craftsmanship, skills of local artisans and richness of Indian materials were an integral part of the thought process from the beginning. 

The key design objectives included:  

  1. Creating a sense of discovery 

  2. Fusing together the familiar and the unique 

  3. Capturing the interest of the local shopper, while making the shopper journey exciting for future international customers

Sanjay: At Swadesh, the idea was not only to help people explore and visualize, but also experience craft in its entirety. Hence, it couldn’t be a regular, transactional store space, but a space where people could experience the handcrafted merchandise in an evocative manner, where they could visualize the whole ambience and make it a part of their daily lifestyle. 

Cultural/social context that inspired the design strategy. 

Ken: Essentially the space had to highlight the whole experience around shopping, marketplace, the craftsperson and the customer. This meant a lot of interaction and engagement spaces within the store for demonstration of crafts, a master gallery for celebrating the best and finest and spaces for social interactions, like a café. 

Sanjay: We wanted every corner of the store to be inspired from India’s rich materials and craftsmanship.  Swadesh thus has more than 50,000 crafts made from more than 5,000 indigenous materials. The idea was that when people move through various zones, they get the feel of wandering through a curated marketplace, rather than a departmental store.

Choice of store elements - materials, lighting, fixtures, colour themes and others

Ken: The overall space has a very restrained palette - warm metals, honed and polished stone, handmade tiles, a variety of woods stained, painted or oiled. Essentially there is harmony between products and architecture and the degree of used materials varies in order to create a series of zones that are more dramatic - airy and bright, clean and contemporary, thus contrasting with the degree of texture and complexity in the product itself. The master gallery is the most minimalist from a material standpoint. 

Lighting is integrated wherever possible into the actual fixture system to provide strong highlighting, shadowing, and enhanced dimensionality of products, with the primary ceiling lighting also being focal. 

Sanjay: The entire design synthesis was based on local Indian materials, colors and accents, also reflecting how they have been applied over the last few decades in various public spaces such as restaurants, hotels, historic monuments and old houses. We wanted to capture that ethos and add a sense of nostalgia within the store. Overall the palette is contemporary but rooted in authentic Indian materials & applied in a very authentic way.

Integration of front-end technology to enhance shopper journey.     

Sanjay: Swadesh store uses technology in a very controlled and balanced way, as we didn’t want technology to overpower and take away the essence of the products and the ambience. The store has a good mix of large screens amplifying the products and its attributes, besides certain enabler technologies like NFCs and QR codes for people to explore the products in detail. Also, there are certain hidden technologies which help in faster checkouts and online purchases and some at the design center that enable global conversations for new project designs. The use of technology also extends to retail security with invisible human trackers in Master Pavilion, designed and deployed for the first time, which prevent people from touching the displayed items. The entire store is also digitally enabled to program HVAC, lighting, audio, music, etc. Read More

Source: N Jayalakshmi @Retail4Growth

Image Credit: Narendra P Reddy | Architectural Photographer

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