Virtual Realty

June 20, 2011 7:59 am by
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As is befitting of a 21st-century company, Scarecrow Communications modeled its offices in Fort around the concept of a website. “On a website, a lot of things can be upgraded,” says Manish Bhatt, co-founder of the advertising agency that was established in February 2010. To physically realise the attributes of a virtual medium, Bhatt and his decorator Rachana Mehta deliberately kept the office all white, with the idea that the colour would come from the paintings and other embellishments. In the event of a redesign or a change of heart, the paintings could be taken down and switched out just as easily as you might upgrade a site.  Not surprisingly, Bhatt also incorporated the virtual world’s interactive advantages, making the office open plan and integrating an art gallery in the space. “The idea,” he says, “is so anyone can walk in and walk out.”

Located on the heritage building-strewn D. N. Road in Fort, the headquarters of this ad agency is a fitting mash-up of the classical and modern. Bhatt, along with founders Raghu Bhat, Arunava Sengupta and Vivek Suchanti, had initially wanted an office in Bandra. When that turned out to be more expensive than options in South Mumbai, the team decided instead on Fort. Bhatt, the creative head, volunteered to do up the 2,200 sq. ft. property, which was a stripped-down concrete space that had expansive views of the rich heritage architecture in Fort.

“Heritage gives a solid feel and since we were a new agency, we wanted something that would have credibility and make us feel older than we were,” says Bhatt, who today handles clients like Religare, Nestle and DNA. ”We wanted it to give a subliminal effect of authority.” Bhatt, along with his art director Devang Patel, began downloading thousands of reference images for every detail of the office, from the column plinths to the light fixtures. They trawled websites, photo databases and Chor Bazaar till they arrived at an all-white look that evoked a sense of solidity and playfulness (the work tables are derived from the form of a pool table). Bhatt, who frequently travelled to Cannes for work, drew inspiration from the classical French furniture he spotted at small heritage hotels. With Mehta’s help, he had almost every single piece mocked up to his specifications, filling in the rest with finds from Chor Bazaar. “I found this old school leaving certificate, which had this lovely ornate wooden frame, in Chor Bazaar,” says Bhatt, who replaced the certificate with his company logo, painted the frame white, and hung it inside his cabin. He then had Mehta replicate the frame for the flat-screen television in the lobby.

To stay true to their ethos of interactivity, the team made space for a gallery—currently they’re showing ad man KV Sridhar’s iPad portraits—and even set up a speaking podium and a mannequin, which displays products that Bhatt hopes to sell via a soon-to-launch e-retail site that will give industry folks a platform to hawk their designs. Today, the office, which was designed to accommodate 18 people over three years, is over-flowing, with about 30 employees and more on their way. “We’re already looking for additional space,” says Bhatt.

To see images of the office, click on the view slideshow button, above.