Star India is one of the very few to get its design right: Kyoorius’ Rajesh Kejriwal

At a time when content and disruption are mentioned in the same breath in every digitally charged summit, design often takes a backseat. It’s an open secret that several marketers, be they traditional or digital, neglect design. In fact, a couple of years ago the understanding of the subject or its importance in driving brands was practically not there.  Very little was done in the country to drive conversations around design and innovation.

Things would have remained the same, were it not for Kyoorius, a one stop place that connects designers, brands, creatives and every stakeholder in between. Kyoorius founder and CEO Rajesh Kejriwal welcomed the change that his endeavour brought to the industry. Its flagship awards show, Kyoorius Creative Awards and design and innovation conference Kyoorius Designyatra have set benchmarks year after year. Now the Kyoorius Creative Awards is in its 3rd edition and has the likes of R. Balki, Kartik Sharma, and Fergus O'Hare on board as jury members, while Kyoorius Designyatra celebrated ten years during its last edition. Kyoorius has also expanded with a marketing and communication division with MELT, where it focuses on emerging technology and digital marketing.

In a candid chat with’s Papri Das, Rajesh Kejriwal opens up on the state of design in the industry, what to expect from Kyoorius Creative Awards and MELT 2016 and how most of the media brands haven’t cracked the design code.


Is there anything new that we can expect at MELT 2016?

This year at MELT we will have 14 halls with parallel sessions. The content itself is massive compared to last year with almost 60 speakers on board. We don't like to emulate the whole ‘panel’ system as that gives the audience an information overload with no real crux.

We have reached out to GroupM, SAP, Kinetic and Happy Finish who we expected to participate in this year’s MELT in Delhi. Now that we have postponed MELT and we are likely to hold it in August, we are actually looking at two expo areas. One would be heavy on new  technology that might interest marketers such as Gear from Samsung etc., and the other would have the GroupMs’ and Genesis, etc., of the industry.

Why was MELT 2016 postponed?

In every event we do, we ensure that the content we put out is very strong. I have to hand it to the curation team that felt the content and line-up for MELT, which was scheduled earlier this year, didn’t match up to standards, and therefore we rescheduled it.

What have been the game changers in the design and creative industry?

Digital was no doubt the biggest game changer. From the Indian perspective, in the last five years, the major change has been the acceptance of design by corporate India as a strategic tool, not an aesthetic one.  It is not looked at with a fresh perspective by business leaders now. Consider this as an immense change in the mindset of people. This has led to designers being treated with a lot more respect and seriousness. Because it is only when you have good clients with big budgets can you work wonders for them. If you are paid peanuts there is only so much you can do.

According to you, which brand in India has made the best use of design in recent times?

In the FMCG sector, I would say Paperboat is a success story when it comes to brilliant use of design. Right from the material it uses for packaging, its layout and how it is branded, Paperbaot has paid attention to detail, not just in terms of looks, but what that look conveys to its consumers. I am glad to see a newcomer in the field understanding and using design creatively. Fastrack from Titan has always stayed ahead of the design curve. It has nailed it down perfectly well.

Royal Enfield India is currently using design very strategically. Flipkart and Myntra too have done a good job. But these are all what I call the new Indian businesses.

What about the media brands?

When it comes to media and broadcaster channels, I feel all of them really need to redo their designs except for Star India. If you look at their packaging logo and interface from a visual perspective, Star has got it right. All the other broadcasters do not understand how important a cohesive language branding identity is. Design defines the DNA of a channel, and its identity. It surprises me that they don't understand its importance, because some of these networks have global reach. One would expect them to see how international media use their design.

If you look at the packaging, and everything, it doesn’t reflect the brand identity of the channels. If one were to take away all text and show the channel to us, I can tell which one Star is, but any other brand would be a hard guess, because the visual language is missing. It is sad because that is what binds the consumers to the brand. Being in a mass consumer industry, broadcasters should get their design right.

There is a tendency amongst some media organisations to rebrand themselves, and while they are at it, they change it in parts and pieces. I would hear from them that they have changed their show packaging without changing their identity branding. I think that is the wrong way to go about it. Design can’t be done in bits and pieces.

What according to you is going wrong with the design industry in India?

Where most designs go wrong is when the company or CEO decides what design suits the company. Design isn’t an opinion, it's a solution. The right design isn’t as per the CEO’s fancy, but as per the consumer needs.

Let me tell you the difference between the old India and new India. For old India designers, you would go to them as a client and ask for a logo. They would show you a logo and tell you it's the best for you as it was ‘fresh’. Has any client in the world has asked for a stale logo? It clearly means the designers created a good looking logo, and told a story to fit the logo with the company, whereas a good designer will find that story before designing the logo. A good designer will figure out the strategy, the positioning, the brand identity, the target group and manifest that into a design. New India does it the latter way. But there is still a lot of India stuck to the old ways.

You initially were from the paper and printing industry. What made you take interest in the design and creative field?

Predominantly we were paper merchants who would purchase paper manufactured in other markets, bring it to India, brand it and sell it here. One of the ways to fuel these purchases was to influence the decision makers, i. e., the creatives and designers. Designyatra was first thought of to reach out to our clients and start a design revolution in India.

To fuel this design movement, we had to expose the industry prevalent in India to what was happening globally, and make them feel proud of being designers. To do away with the bureaucracy involved in the entire system, I decided to go with the non-profit format.  Suddenly from being a vendor to the industry I was their friend, so Designyatra and Kyoorius definitely helped my paper business.

From being a promotional method to becoming the actual business; tell us how did Kyoorius evolve?

It happened soon after the paper industry slid downhill, though it didn't happen overnight. Gradually the entire set up changed. While being a business man it wasn’t too difficult for me, it was a difficult transition for Kyoorius. Earlier it acted as promotion for my paper business. Now when the model changed, Kyoorius had to be sustainable or profitable.

When it really came down to making a difference in the industry, Kyoorius actually had to be profitable, not run up losses. It had to be actually profitable and use that profit to make a positive difference in the industry. So that transition from not caring whether it made money or not to making Kyoorius sustainable was the real challenge.

How did you manage this transition?

Prior to this realisation we didn't have sponsors. When we decided to make it sustainable, one of the obvious means for any conference to be functional is to have a sponsor. So we looked for one. This wasn’t easy because no one believed in the design industry in 2008 and 2009. In those days if you did something in the advertising sphere, major broadcasters would easily come on board. But design was an offbeat road to travel on that only a small breed of people was interested in.

We were lucky in 2011, we managed to get Zee to take cognizance of the fact that design was important for the industry and the country and that's how it came on board. And since then, Zee has remained a partner for Kyoorius and signed on year after year. We also started looking at pricing the tickets right, something which we didn't pay attention to earlier.

Post transformation what is the current structure of Kyoorius now?

Currently we have two sides to Kyoorius. One is the marketing and communication section where advertising, media and digital, social media and emerging technologies or MarTech is covered, and the second is the design and innovation side.

These are the two broad headers under which we operate, mostly because if you have a capable team, you can't have a single event a year to keep it occupied.

What is your take on sponsorship for events?

For the creative awards, we have Colors, HT, Rishtey Happy Finish and Kinetic. Apart from this we have supporting partners like etc.

If an award show has to sustainably exist for a long period of time, in an ideal scenario, 80 per cent of the revenue should come from the ticketed sales or entries in guest registration. In India it is actually the reverse. Sponsorship is between 70 to 80 per cent while the rest is maybe tickets or miscellaneous.

In our case thankfully, we have struck a healthier ratio with 60 per cent from sponsorship and 40 per cent from ticket sales. I hope we can soon invert this ratio for Kyoorius Creative Awards, as we have done for Designyatra.

MELT is a difficult IP when it comes to ticket sales as it will always be about partners. I can't charge each person Rs 20,000, so the prices for MELT tickets will always be lower. Given the content we showcase in MELT, the budget can only be met through sponsors.

Last year it was Rs 8,000, and this year we are planning to have another optional ticket without dinner included that will be sold for  much less. It’s for those newcomers in the industry or students who want to attend, but for whom budget is an issue.

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