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Designers with an edge

June 16, 2004 11:28 IST

Before restaurateur Sukhdev Makhija launched the Caribbean lounge bar called Carib in south Delhi's New Friends Colony last week, he was pretty sure about two things.

He wanted a food consultant who could develop at least 40-odd Caribbean cocktails, and hired Sonia Mohindra for the job. Second, he wanted the interiors to be handled by a fresh new designer who could reflect the aspirations and the spirit of the young spenders.

Enter Rohit Tewari of the interior design firm Studio Parrallele. Tewari, along with his partner M A Matin has designed 35 restaurants in Delhi, including Buzz and Yo China.

He has also designed Sahara group promoter Subroto Roy's personal nightclub in Lucknow. For Carib lounge bar, he created a 24-feet bar with a table top with computer-programmed, interchangeable light effects.

The lounge is likely to create a stir, but it's early to say if the 40-seater place will be a hit like the FBar.

The FBar was similarly executed by a young design company called Lotus, run by three partners -- Ambrish Arora, Ankur Choksi and Sidhartha Talwar.

The company shot into prominence for its cutting-edge contemporary design work in retail stores like Viya and eating joints like Khaja Chowk. And demand for its designs is growing.

Clearly, with fresh design concepts becoming a crucial feature in pulling crowds to restaurants, the interiors designers are on a roll.

Designers in metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are now getting assignments outside their territories including offers from overseas clients. Most designers claim working on between 8 and 15 projects at a time.

The number may not be surprising considering that in Delhi alone, nearly 30 new restaurants are in the pipeline. The city has about 3,000 eateries.

Market watchers say that despite a high churn, restaurants in the metros are growing at the rate of 15 to 20 per cent a year. Mumbai has nearly 5,500 eating joints with Bangalore inching closer to Delhi at 2,800.

Though estimates of the size of the interior design industry are not available, the construction plus commercial and private interior design industry market is said to be Rs 80,000 crore (Rs 800 billion).

Designers say that the sizes of the projects vary from Rs 80 lakh (Rs 8 million) to Rs 11 crore (Rs 110 million). "The consultation fee for interior design varies between 8-15 per cent of the total size of the project," says Arora.

Referring to the importance of interior design, Arora says that it's all about communicating through design and making a direct impact.

"It's not just about ambience but about catering to people's aspirations," he adds. Says Ankur Choksi: "Ultimately, it has to translate into revenue for the clients."

The enterprising designers are also responding to lifestyle changes. Says Iram Sultan, who has got the renovation contract for the Ashoka's Frontier restaurant, "people no longer go out for fine dining. Casual dining is popular and design must reflect that change."

Says Bangalore-based Sandeep Khosla, who's done Touch, a restaurant project for filmstar Nagarjuna, in Hyderabad, "We have to look at new ways to attract the customers as the target audience is focused."

Many others like him are working outside their cities.  Khosla, created the trendy Spinn bar in Bangalore and did Azurro in Delhi. He's working on a wine bar for a Colombo Hotel, while Tewari has done Addictive in London.

Needless to say, as long as concept restaurants are in demand, the young interior designers will have their hands full.
Maitreyee Handique in New Delhi