“To be completely candid, a late night thought of being in a new city and the desire to study in a completely different school of design brought me to Switzerland in October 2010. This thought translated into applying for the Master of Advanced Studies in the field of Landscape Architecture at ETH in Zurich. I arrived here on a lovely autumn morning with a bag of clothes and some Indian food. Ever since, I have grown to admire this place with its gorgeous landscape, appealing architecture, enthralling change of seasons; its people, culture, work ethics, quality of construction and impeccable attention to detail. Not to forget its cheese, chocolates, Rösti and Butterzopf,” says Ankita Thaker in her bubbly and charming style.
Namaste Switzerland asks her some insightful questions:
IS SWITZERLAND HOME? HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE OF SETTLING IN?
Home, such a complete word by itself. Yes, Zurich is definitely home for me. I have been blessed with some amazing people in my life who have contributed to this feeling.
The journey from a student to being an entrepreneur has been extensive and eventful. From trying to learn new languages, to understanding the legalities of starting a company; from working with various authorities on the viability of a design company led by a foreign architect, to building a team of lawyers, accountants and investors; the days have been filled with hard work and, at times, with serendipity.
At some point, the authorities in Switzerland came to know me on a first name basis, which cracks me up even now! With time and effort, things always work out. My overall experience has been phenomenal.
How did you decide on being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur is something I grew into. I had started taking up projects alongside my undergraduate studies in India. While studying at ETH, I worked with people from diverse nations and distinct design approaches. Gaining some work experience in Switzerland was the next step.
Survival and curiosity led to the formation of Purple Peepal GmbH in Switzerland.
In the initial years of business, I undertook some web and logo design projects to start building a company reputation. Later on, bigger projects came along; some in collaboration with local Swiss firms. My role as the President of Indian Association of Greater Zurich in the latter half of this year helped forge new relationships in Switzerland.
What is the USP of your firm?
Design. Dedication. Delivery.
Purple Peepal is a design collective and its services range from architecture to graphic design. This works in our favour. At times, a client approaches us for brand design and eventually extends the scope of work to plan their office space, or vice versa. For the client, it is easy to deal with one firm rather than approaching several firms to realize their project.
The exchange between Switzerland and India in terms of skills, resources, thoughts and, most importantly, craft is one of our greatest strengths. In Switzerland, great value is placed on the use of the latest construction and material technologies, precision and quality. In India, there are a lot of skilled artisans with a deeper understanding of traditional materials.
My vision is to combine these two approaches for my clients so that they can acquire the best of both worlds. In other words, a contextual, climate-conscious and a customized design approach. Our Principal Architect in India, Juhi Sinha and team have been actively involved in making this a reality. Currently, our team consists of people from diverse backgrounds including architecture, landscape architecture, graphic design, software development and hand-craftsmanship.
Could you elaborate on getting Indian skills to the Swiss market?
Carpenters from the Suthar family in Gujarat have been working with wood for decades and know the material extensively. Purple Peepal is looking forward to bringing the handmade solid teak furniture to Switzerland. Tejas Patel and the team of ‘The Log Story’ in India have been very resourceful in shaping this exchange. We have our own fair trade policy wherein part of the profit is shared with the carpenters. We are looking to encourage hand-craftsmanship and small local businesses. You can see some of the products at http://purplepeepal.com/products/
Tell us more about your footprint in Switzerland
My goal is to continue building a diverse team in Switzerland and in India so that the exchange remains fruitful and evolves with time.
Purple Peepal has had the opportunity to collaborate with Enea Garden Design in Switzerland
and has worked on several projects such as Lindt & Sprüngli Chocolate Museum in Kilchberg, International Community School in Zumikon, private terrace garden for the Godrej family in Mumbai and several other projects across Switzerland, Italy, Germany and UK. Some of our clients include GTSG (Geschäftsführer Gehirn- und Trauma-Stiftung) in Graubünden, local Swiss businesses such as Kdogami, Naturalive, Olgu Transkulturell, EE transport and more.
Currently, we are in the process of establishing a collaboration with ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich and SwissHaus AG.
Your advice to budding women entrepreneurs
Thoughts become things. They really do. Just believe and keep at it. The KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) helps keep things in perspective. At the end, it is all about the ‘majja’ (fun/joy).
For more on Ankita’s foray into entrepreneurship, visit: www.purplepeepal.com
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