Elephant leads Indian design agencies

By 26 Sep 2014

The homegrown strategic design and brand consultancy Elephant, with its headquarters in Pune, Maharashtra, has been named India’s No 1 Agency for design in the Brand Equity Agency Reckoner for the year 2014, published by the business daily, The Economic Times.

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Partho Guha, Ashwini Deshpande, Ashish Deshpande; co-directors at Elephant

It is a great honour indeed, if you consider the other names in the reckoner. Among the top five in the design segment, trailing Elephant are respectively Fitch, Designsutra, Ray+Keshavan and Red Lion.

Incidentally, this year, the independent multi-disciplinary design shop, which has also opened offices in Gurgaon, Singapore and an outpost-office at Bonn in Germany, completes 25 years of its existence.

This is what ET has to say about Elephant: “Amongst the exciting work done recently, the agency counts the work for Daimler where it became a first ever design partner outside Germany to design their brand. The Bharat Benz identity for Daimler trucks was cast keeping the legacy as well as cultural alignments in mind. Other notable work includes rebranding for Praj, a B2B engineering giant; naming, visual identity and packaging for a range of ethnic drinks for Hector Beverages’ Paper Boat brand; launch strategy rollout for two international brands from Godrej portfolio and the design partnership for Champion’s League T20 for three consecutive seasons.”

“We have consistently delivered ideas and solutions that come alive as winners in the emerging markets. What makes us dependable is our experience and knowledge of Indian consumers, our eye on global trends, our co-creative approach, our effective blend of insights and innovation,” says Ashwini Deshpande, founder, Elephant.

A silver jubilee is a milestone for any organisation; it is especially so for an independent multi-disciplinary design agency, especially considering the fact that it was started and grew in Pune, not exactly a mainstream business or media hub.

“We believe Elephant pioneered “business of design” in India, says Deshpande. “We have stayed profitable in the entire journey, though initially, for at least a decade, we had to painstakingly explain and prove the power of design-led thinking to Indian businesses.”

The firm grew through its work across India, SE Asia, Africa & Europe, leading to deeper understanding of global trends and consumers. Overall, the focus has grown from delivering design projects to partnering with clients for design thinking and strategy for a sustainable success, says Deshpande.

As of today, Elephant has more than 80 people, most of them based in Pune. The Gurgaon office, which celebrated six years, has 25 people, while the Singapore office has been running for three years.  

Deshpande says Elephant’s relevant experience in design-led innovation found great traction in South East Asia with clients from diverse domains, including hospitality, spa, beauty products, art, education, etc.

And how does Elephant work?
“When you always want to do the new, and discard repetitive, templatised solutions, the challenge is to the keep teams consistently curious and engaged,” says Deshpande. “We celebrate every festival, encourage multi-cultural ethos, have our own band, Elephant Premier League cricket internal tournament, celebrate Fruit Day on 10th of every month, make eco-friendly Ganesh idols, and have our own café called Palm Beach. We strongly believe that we are unparalleled in keeping a vibrant culture alive at work among our fraternity.”

Apart from the ET recognition, in the last two years, Elephant received two ReBrand 100 (USA) awards, CII Design Excellence & Designomics for CI Programmes. The crowning glory remains when Daimler chose Elephant, a first ever design partner outside Germany, to design the Bharat Benz identity for Daimler trucks. While Praj, a B2B engineering giant invited Elephant for rebranding, Elephant had also worked on the original Praj branding in 1996, which was up for change due to newer ambition & global growth. The new brand was launched in 2014.

Elephant has been the design partner for Champion’s League T20 for three consecutive cricket seasons including one in South Africa for creating brand livery for communication and venues. Meanwhile, IPL cricket team, KKR, invited Elephant to design the stadia livery for last season of IPL.

In FMCG brands, Hector Beverages partnered with Elephant for naming, visual identity and packaging for a range of ethnic drinks. Paper Boat is considered the most successful beverage brand launch of the decade (the last successful one was Appy in mid-eighties, which later launched Fizz). Other successful packaging launches include Good Knight Fast Card, Good Knight xpress system, Hit Anti-roach gel, Lacto Calamine rebranded range, V wash, Britannia Tiger, Marie Gold, NutriChoice, Cakes, Devaaya rice & staples, Colgate Visible White, Eraser skincare, Tzinga beverage, Kara skincare wipes, Kyron Brandy, Jolly Roger Rum, Venky’s sports nutrition, Heinz MaPlan, Galaxy & Snickers Festive packs, Haldiram’s Festive packs, rebranded Chandrika, rebranded Glucovita & many more.

Not just branding and FMGC, Elephant is also involved in product design. The company designed two highly successful air-cooler ranges Diet & Storm for Symphony, the world’s largest air-cooler brand with reach in 30 countries. Elephant also continues to design range of products for India’s leading cookware brand, Nirlep.

In retail, Elephant won two consecutive VMRD awards for best retail design for QSR chains Venky’s Xprs & Krustys Bistro. Its long time partnership with Axis Bank was instrumental in getting them CMO Asia Award for Impactful Retail & Merchandising Programme.

Elephant has contributed to a global award winning social impact project with a couple of workshops and visually appealing and cost-effective packaging for the laddoos once the recipes were finalized. The Laddoo Project is aimed to provide nutrition to under-privileged children and was executed by DeepaGriha NGO with support from Design Impact, US. 


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