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LOCAL STORIES

September 5, 2023 at 3:16:29 PM

A filmmaker who designs spaces!

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How a lad who set out to dream wild things found himself in the enchanted forest

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September 5, 2023 at 3:16:29 PM

Ignite Business Insider shares the stories of businesses that are making an impact in their local markets. We highlight their stories in order to inspire entrepreneurial growth and to let readers learn more about businesses across the world that are growing and scaling.

Featuring

Satish Babusenan

Founder, Principal Designer

The Pebble Drop

Thank you for taking the time to sit with us and share your story. Can you share a little bit about you and your company?

Thanks a lot, Joseph, for wanting to find out more about our interior design studio, The Pebble Drop. We’re located in India. We create spaces of ‘happiness and contentment’ as we like to call it. Be it homes, cafes, boutique hotels or even mock apartments for builders who want o showcase quality living spaces.

A question so many people are interested in, is how you got started. Can you share a little bit about what you were doing before this, and what that moment was like for you when you decided to start this new journey?

I started out as a multimedia designer at a time when multimedia was new here, in the early 90s. Then I shifted to cinematography and went off to Mumbai and began to work for MTV. You see, there used to be an existential bug that was hiding inside my brain which wanted answers and so, my brother Santosh and I (he was a successful photographer in Mumbai) packed our bags and returned to our hometown, looking for answers to satisfy disturbed minds. After some 15 years of groping for answers in the dark, we decided to make our first feature film. We’ve made 9 arthouse movies afterwards. Production design of feature films slowly spread out to interior design and when I fixed a water seepage problem in the courtyard of my family home (the city corporation wasn’t helping much), it turned out to be a bit of a zen-like enterprise. Soon I was asked by friends and neighbours to redo their houses. One thing led to another and soon we launched The Pebble Drop and moved into a pretty studio right in the heart of town.

Let's take a little bit of a detour, and rewind the clock a little bit. What did you want to be as a kid? And how did that influence the person you are today?

Mmm…interesting question. I think was a bit of a dreamer as a kid. I wanted to be a writer, an inventor, and even become enlightened when I grew up. (laughs). You know, I think our childhood dreams often live themselves out through us, if we don’t do much to prevent them from happening. So, when I look back at it all, I write my own movies, I invent ways to make beautiful spaces and…as for enlightenment, the less said about it, the better!

Have you fully let go of that childhood dream? And where do you see yourself going in the next ten years?

We see older people take up quaint hobbies, don’t we? I think this maybe their childhood dreams playing out to the surface. If they suppress those dreams violently, who knows, maybe the dreams become nightmares! On a more serious note, I certainly did not let go of my childhood dreams. I remain a dreamer to this day. Except when I am driving (laughs).

Now, I have found that with successful people, there is always someone pivotal as either a mentor, parent, teacher, or someone that you look to for advise, that helped set you on this path. Could you share who that person was? And what impact that had on the person you are today?

I was telling you earlier about leaving Mumbai and going looking for answers to existential questions. At this difficult juncture in my life, I met my teacher who showed me how easily we humans fall into the trap of supplying convenient answers to troubling questions. From him, I learned to question my philosophical concepts. I noticed that my mind was becoming free of unverifiable ideas and concepts (noticing that these were what are normally considered to be ‘significant’ or ‘worthwhile’ human enterprises. I am lucky to have met this man who became, to use a cliché, my friend, philosopher and guide. Sometimes, cliches express things pretty damn clearly.

What was one take away that you learned from that person? And how did it translate into your business today?

His name was Rajendran. He passed away a couple of years ago. A key takeaway…well it was that a free mind, a mind devoid of preconceived ideas can see things with clarity. This has deeply influenced my thinking as a filmmaker. And also in the design process of my studio.

When we work with businesses, we focus a lot on their "Why?". What is your "Why"? What is the driver behind your company, and why you and your team wake up each day and give it your all?

Good question. I am allergic to trends (laughs). I hate extensive recessed lighting which I see in a lot of homes these days. These make a house look like a child’s flashy toy or worse, an artist’s worst nightmare. I prefer to create a sense of well-being and joy for the user of any living space. We work with each client and guide them in ways which can help them achieve this. It can even be about achieving a look of luxury with little more than sensitivity to colour and form. You see, it is a challenge to create things of beauty for other people to use because, as the saying goes, there is no dispute to taste. We love this challenge.

Let's dive deeper into your products and services. You already gave an overview, but how do your products or services help your customers? And what makes them different from your competitors?

Most of what we see in our competitors is a willingness to take the easy route. I am referring to fashionable trends. People do not really know too much about what it’s they’re really looking for. After all, that is the designer’s job: to guide them through the route of sustainability, sensitivity and utility. We are not overburdened with work, for this very reason. But we like it this way. We do not market our product aggressively. We take up projects which come to us through word of mouth. In fact, one of our early clients actually read about the ‘filmmaker brothers who also design interiors’ and then sought us out. Our website offers thoughts on our views on design. Only those people who vibe with our ideas and aesthetics come to us. We like it that way.

Let's unpack that even further. Let's pick one aspect of your business. What makes it so unique? And how does it change you or your customer's experience?

We believe that clutter is the major killer of good design. Of course, there are maximalist geniuses who create incredible spaces, but there is always a string which holds the beads, so to say in good design. The very word Design also means Intentionality, as can be seen from the idea of doing something by design. Clutter can be in terms of objects placed without reason or rhyme, or it can be visual clutter in terms of colours or shapes, or whatever. A method is always good in any form of madness, as the old bard said. We strive to achieve a sense of sublimity in our work. It is a forever, ongoing chase. The subtle is an enigmatic creature and needs to be hunted with care. Or perhaps one just needs to keep a calm mind and wait for it to come drink for the quiet pool. Whatever it be, this is what makes our work tick for us at the studio and our happy clients.

Let's dive into your customer's journey a little bit. Can you share with us, how do your customers discover you and your brand? What are their next steps? And what is the experience you would like to see your customers go on, when working with you and your brand?

We decided at the very outset that we would not market ourselves aggressively. We allow forces that are often unknowable, and are always unseen to operate in the process of generating revenue, the ’bread and butter’ of the people who work with us. Things work out every time. We are, in that sense, operating like the Zen Buddhists who believe in the way of the water. I see it in action every living moment. I’ve no regrets. Neither does our team.

Let's rave about your customers for a minute. Can you share a story about one of your clients or customers, that either touched your heart, or made an impact with you and your team?

Yes. One of our clients fell into a bad space. Like in an old folktale, her business collapsed and she approached us with the regretful information that we could not proceed with the contract as planned. You see, Covid walked like a spectre among people of all walks of life, taking souls and crushing many under its invisible wheels. (sigh), We are a small design studio where we can take desperate decisions at desperate times. WE simply cancelled the contract and drew up a new one which downsized everything. Our client now lives in a house a quarter the size of her earlier project and, the best part of it is, it looks as good as the original plans were meant for it to turn out. Our charges were waived. She is getting back on her feet with a new business. These are the little things that makes it all worthwhile. We have found out, through experience, that money, (another cliché alert) isn’t everything in life. As our partner Sreekumar (who is also Exec Producer of our films) is fond of saying, “It’s not true that money cannot buy happiness. It can. You only need to give some of it away.”

Everyone likes an inside scoop. What detail or secret about either you, or your company, is something most people might not know? 

Ownership of ideas. That is something I rarely speak about. I have found, through my years of filmmaking, design and general passage through life that I, as an individual am not the owner of my ideas. It is, in fact, the other way around. I shall leave it at that.

Final thoughts. What feeling or benefits would you like your customers or clients to take away when working with you and your team?

The feeling that our studio respects their desires. We understand and appreciate the fact that once the design process is done with and the space is ready for occupying, we move out of the equation. The space belongs to them and it is they who must live there for however long they chose. It is our job to respect this truth.

Last question. How can people find out more about you and your company?

People can look out for us on our website https://thepebbledrop.com/
They can find out about my film philosophy on https://babusenanbrothers.com/

Thank you so much for sitting with us and sharing your story.

Thank you for wanting to hear about our studio and the work we are trying to do in our small way. I hope it will be of some use to anyone who will read it. Thanks a lot for featuring us, Joseph.

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