Ubaid Zargar

Conran Design Group's India venture: a three-year recap

  • Conran Design Agency entered India in February, 2021

  • The agency has won multiple awards and landed some key clients since its entry

  • The managing partner of the agency breaks down its ambitions

In the trying times of the Covid-19 pandemic, most businesses sought refuge in cost-cutting and layoffs. But for Conran Design Group, the plans to expand were undeterred.

The design agency which is headquartered in London, entered India in February of 2021, under the aegis of Havas Group, a global communications company. In the three years of its operations in India, the agency has acquired some key clients including Nestle, Coca-Cola, Tata CLiQ, among others. 

What helped Conran in finding a solid footing in India, is the network of formidable clientele already established by its parent company Havas and Conran's sustained global legacy.

“We got a lot of initial support from Conran Global and Havas India to set up the right fundamentals. This helped us ensure that we're able to translate the trust and reliability that the group clients already have in us, and bring that global expertise and framework to Conran India,” says Geet Nazir, who is the managing partner of Conran Design Group Mumbai.

First things first

We started out cautiously optimistic because our entry in India occurred around the lockdowns.

The foray into the Indian market was in the works way before the Covid-19 pandemic engulfed the world. And while the entire advertising and marketing sectors were still grappling with the pandemic, Conran managed to land a favourable start to its journey.

“We started out cautiously optimistic because our entry in India occurred around the lockdowns. But for us, we had early indicators with significant clients. That sort of helped us build confidence in the Indian market.”

The agency has had Zydus as a client for more than three years now and credits a lot of its success to the pharma company. Since Zydus, Conran has had success in expanding its clientele, while also collecting some accolades along the way. 

Zydus redesigned by Conran
Zydus redesigned by Conran

"We grabbed gold at the Transform Asia Awards in 2023. Since then, we have strengthened our roster of clients with brands from the house of Nestle, Coca-Cola, etc.”

Design is your ally

it's important to look at design as an intuitive aspect of any brand

"Design is really about how we live our everyday lives," Nazir says, harking back to the founding principles of the agency’s eponymous founder Terence Conran who was the champion of the democratisation of design. She stresses the importance of design in enhancing the daily experiences of individuals, a belief deeply ingrained within the ethos of Conran Design Group.

She says, "For us, it's important to look at design as an intuitive aspect of any brand," highlighting the agency's perspective on the art as a fundamental element that shapes brand identity and consumer experiences.

The role of design in bridging the gap between business logic and brand intuition goes beyond mere logos and aesthetics. Packaging design, website interfaces, and corporate branding, all form a very intricately woven thread of creativity that can potentially make or break a brand.

"These are all examples in which design can really unlock the potential of a portfolio of brands and allow people to see why that brand becomes or can become a part of their daily lives," she explains.

Speaking of corporate branding, at its most foundational level, a well-designed corporate brand identity is a powerful asset to shift consumer perceptions beyond products to a larger, human-centric narrative. 

She says, “A well-conceived and consistently deployed corporate brand identity can become an organisation's north star, clarifying its purpose, driving business strategy and overall performance.”

Are Indian brands aesthetically mature?

"There are many brands in India that recognise the importance of design, and it's no longer a subjective or an abstract tool," Nazir answers, highlighting a positive shift in mindset among Indian brands towards design.

She notes that many Indian brands now understand the strategic significance of design in shaping brand identity and differentiation on a global scale.

These brands of Indian origin are world-class and increasingly prioritise design as a core component of their branding strategy. "Today, there are enough brands in India that are ready for the world, and we work with such clients very proudly," she says. 

"We're at par with the rest of the world, and we understand the strategic importance of design in branding and differentiation. And some sectors are doing this very well. The whole D2C boom that we saw in COVID is a testament to how brands are using design to differentiate themselves.” 

As per Nazir, consumer brands are slightly ahead of the curve in terms of design proficiency. Pointing out the category of brands that are more savvy with their design elements, she says, “ We are seeing a lot traction in categories such as FinTech, travel, healthcare, among others. These are all design-forward businesses today.”

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