A major exporter of diamond jewellery across the globe, KBS Creations is a tightly-knit team working in a family-run business. While their export ties gave them exposure to global work styles and helped them establish offices abroad, they also retained some of the characteristics that gave them a uniquely Indian, joint-family ethos.
In a corporate culture, one person, or a department would have my project as one of its KRAs (Key Result Areas) and consequently, our work would proceed more-or-less to schedule – since it used to be the measure of their efficiency.
This is not the case in a family-run firm and I was apprehensive about the possibly ad-hoc ways of working I might encounter. But my clients’ persistence in having me gauge their project and take it on won me over, and I visited the site. The build involved tackling a 60,000-sq. ft., 9-storeyed stand-alone corporate office that had been stalled for over a year.
Through months of engaged listening, the design took shape and the client too, engaged closely with us since they wanted to understand our working as well. We conducted and sat in on conference calls and workshops, with the India team and their U.S. counterparts. The KBS lead team ensured that my team and I were given detailed walkthroughs of every department, to understand the flows and needs of each. I even visited their New York office for an induction, and there too, the strong sense of a family ethos continued.
The work-culture at KBS, here and abroad, is steeped in gratitude. Both, to a higher power and each other’s efforts, for where they had gotten so far. They radiated humility, in understanding that they aimed higher still and had a long way to go, and that we were on board to help their office reflect that aim.
From a design standpoint, this is a client who clearly stated in their initial briefing itself to me that they needed a prayer and puja space. Usually, the thought to include one will come after the first draft has been submitted, and someone notices that we need to carve out a space for one – not so at KBS.
Empathy and respect, like charity, ‘begins at home’. Similarly, the KBS team’s deep regard for each other, meant that our team too was welcome and respected right from the start – a rare and privileged feeling to share in with a client.
Irrespective of whom we were speaking at KBS, my team and I would receive a patient hearing and engaged attention. I have seen this being acted out by the leadership team in their dealings with team – it followed therefore that the behaviour of the ‘head’ of the family would reflect the culture of the household.
I remember that we were asked to provide running cold and hot water in the kitchen sinks for the pantry, so that the ladies who washed the pantry dishes could work comfortably – thereby cementing my belief that I was engaged, in fact, by a family to design their home, and not a large corporate house.
Today, the KBS building is a landmark in its neighbourhood, and is renowned as the ‘dot-dot-wala’ building – a fact my team cites with enthusiasm and amusement.
Aside from the joy all this brought to the project work itself, I have participated in two celebrations with the KBS team which only made me understand the essence of their values even more. I am grateful to them, and Mr. Kanu Bhai Shah’s family (the 2nd generation of whom appointed my team). From them, I came to appreciate fully how office ambience is made up of much more than furniture, fittings and décor themes. Good office design flows from the organisation’s culture, and in its ideal form, it amplifies and resonates that culture, to its team, management, and everyone that encounters it.