The news of Sudhir’s departure from Elephant has come as a big surprise to many,
because more than anyone else, he has been the most articulate face of Elephant
Design, and also Indian design in recent times.
Whatever be the cause of the rift at Elephant, it is sad because they (Elephant
partners) have become role models of many young start-ups. Elephant has also
demonstrated the fact that designers can work together, keeping aside their proverbial
egos and grow. The success of Elephant must be attributed to great teamwork,
confidence and of course, performance. But I suppose everything and everyone has
its own shelf space and circumstances! And I wish both Elephant and Sudhir all
success. Sometimes circumstances shake our inertia and clear stagnation. That’s not
bad for any relationship – professional or personal, even if it means a new beginning.
I have known Sudhir for 26 years, ever since he, along with all other Elephants and
my kid brother Saikat, joined NID in 1983. Since Sudhir and Saikat had been close
friends, I had always treated him like my younger brother. In that sense, anything I
say about him will be indulgent.
Sudhir has always kept in touch and we met in conferences and exhibitions once
in a while. Ever since he has floated “designindia” yahoogroup we have been
communicating more often, sometimes vehemently disagreeing with each other’s
views. Later he had also invited me to become one of the co-moderators of
There are many qualities to Sudhir, which, if I write may sound sentimental and
flattering. Let me try.
Sudhir did not have a godfather, nor an impressive post or affiliation of a big design
institute (apart from being a pupil). And yet he has been able to bring together the
professional designers cutting across disciplines and institutes, forge alliances with
trade bodies like CII and promote Indian design with feverish zeal. Formulation of
Designindia is a big achievement. It has become the de facto mouthpiece of Indian
design, where Heads of design institutes post their farewell speeches and the new
ones discuss the roadmaps for future. Where such important issues like formulation
of Design Council is discussed passionately.
Sudhir didn’t just float this peer group but had successfully taken it offline as
one of the organisers of yearly CII-NID Design Conferences. Be it Designer
portfolio of CII or promoting Kyoorius Designyatra, he is relentlessly trying to bring
Indian designers together. Something he has succeeded in more than any institute
ever managed. It is to Elephant’s credit that they made it possible for Sudhir to carry
out his work. But then, Sudhir and Elephant were never thought of separately till
now. He travels widely and connects with designers everywhere whom he didn’t
even know. True, there are people who also say that he is a publicity seeker and a
networker. But then that option is open to everyone. Why don’t critics invest their
time and effort for the profession like he does without personal benefit?
Before Sudhir became one of the voices for Indian designers, it was always
monopolised by academicians of reputed design institutes, many of whom have
no connection with the ground reality and issues of professional designers, and yet
routinely represented designers in Design forums at home and abroad. Today, thanks
to his efforts, professional designers have found a foothold in decision-making bodies
on design. He has also been recognised and rewarded, as he became jury member in
prestigious international creative forums.
One of the admirable qualities of Sudhir is his intension of taking everyone along.
He is a good organiser, motivator and taskmaster. On the positive side he has all
the qualities of a leader. He is a forward thinker and strategist and will be an asset
wherever he goes. He has humility to seek opinion from people and never shies away
admiring good qualities of others. I remember he once wrote that he was deeply
inspired by Tesseract Design and Amardeep Behl – his successful senior designers
On the negative side, in my opinion, he lacks political correctness and a diplomatic
demeanour. He can be a ruthless opposition and is not afraid of taking on the holy
cows, even when not called for. Personally I wish he had more patience and a slower
In a strange way his story resembles the story of the great Steve Jobs – that one day
the company you have dreamt of, helped nurture and grow unceremoniously shows
you the door. But like Jobs, that may very well be a blessing in disguise waiting for
Sudhir. Job’s second coming is the stuff of folklores. Knowing Sudhir, I can only say
he will not sit idle in past glory.
Here is an excerpt from Steve job’s inspirational speech at Stanford:
“…Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped
by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the
noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have
the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what
you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth
Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow
named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with
his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop
publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was
sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was
idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then
when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I
was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early
morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were
so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their
farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always
wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”