Q+A: Geet Nazir, Managing Partner, Mumbai

Perspective Sept Assets2

Conran Design Group Mumbai's Managing Partner Geet Nazir on the nuance of brand localisation – and why a blend of strategic and design thinking is key to driving commercial advantage.

Geet, tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to Conran Design Group in November 2020.

I’ve been working in the branding and advertising industry in New York and Mumbai for more than 20 years. My career began in New York, working agency-side for direct-to-consumer advertising clients in the pharma sector. This was foundational for me; it provided invaluable insights into communications as a key dimension of the brand promise.

Back in Mumbai, I learnt a lot working client-side, about the ins and outs of what makes a brand strategy work in support of a business strategy, and the intricate relationship between the two.

In November 2020, I was given the opportunity to help develop and drive Conran Design Group’s offer in India. This presented a unique canvas to work with – to take Conran’s global legacy and contextualise it for the India market.

Many brands in India, whether in FMCG, healthcare or retail, are on the threshold of transformation and are readying themselves for that next level of growth. And we’re seeing an increased need for strategic packaging, corporate branding and a well-structured, future-ready brand architecture. This, of course, is where Conran comes in.

Why branding? What about the world of brand design do you love?

I find myself drawn to it; the vitality of brands and how they respond to the dynamism of their environments to become meaningful extensions of peoples’ lives.

Tell us about your take on the challenge of localisation in pack design (or brand design more generally).

Localisation is key when creating packaging systems and individual pack designs as it enables brands to operate intuitively in a busy space and ultimately become the product of choice for consumers.

Retail environments in India present specific challenges in terms of navigation and building brand preference. This stems in part from the dichotomy within the key audiences of this market and the various retail formats that must effectively serve both urban and rural consumers. To address these challenges, it’s important to establish a baseline that allows for a consistent brand narrative and appeal. And this can be achieved through the strategic consideration of key elements like packaging design, typography and formats.

It’s also important for design to respond to changing consumer expectations. The digital transformation we experienced during the pandemic led to an onslaught of direct-to-consumer brands, designed with a digital-first audience in mind and with the ability to stand out online rather than on the shelf. Sustainability too is emerging as an important driver for consumers; brands are now thinking about the use of sustainable materials, minimising the use of plastics, and adopting refillable packaging options.

How do we help clients ensure their brands appeal to global audiences? How do we strike the balance between consistency and localisation?

Right at the outset of a project, it’s important to immerse ourselves in the client’s ambition as it relates to their global aspirations or portfolio. And it’s this thinking that becomes an important foundation on which to build a future-proofed brand solution.

When it comes to localisation, this means ensuring we’re consistently translating and transferring a brand’s legacy – the non-negotiables in its DNA and behaviour. But it’s also important that we’re strategically agile enough to express the nuances that allow a brand to behave intuitively in a local market. This approach isn’t new to a market like India, particularly in categories where regional preferences have a strong role to play, like in the packaged food and beverage category.

What are the biggest challenges facing the industry today? And how do we overcome them?

At Conran Design Group, our approach is built on tried and tested frameworks and robust insights. This means clients’ brands receive the full benefit of strong strategic foundations that then inform the design direction. And it’s this philosophy that helps us build relevant, sustainable and digital-first brand solutions – ‘designing advantage’ for our clients and their businesses.

What’s been the most memorable ‘a-ha!’ moment of your career – a moment where you figured something out for a client and delivered positive impact as a result?

Lots of projects have involved a breakthrough moment! It’s seeing the strategic rigour come alive in the attributes of a brand and its behaviour; whether this manifests itself in a packaging system or in the brand world design, it’s a matter of achieving the best outcome for impact.

‘Without foundations in business and brand logic, there’s a danger of design being seen as a driver of aesthetically-influenced, subjective outcomes.’

A recent example was developing a new logo for healthcare brand Zydus. The new logo featured a stylised visualisation of two hearts that held ‘us’ at the core; it spoke the language of the brand and symbolised the community that’s held at the centre of everything Zydus does. It also reflected the business’ focus on innovation, while capturing the patient-centric and empathetic essence of the brand.

It’s always exciting to make that leap from strategy to design and to see that come to life in the way the brand lives and expresses itself. I see the confluence of brand strategy and design as essential for creating impactful, long-lasting outcomes for our clients. Without foundations in business and brand logic, there’s a danger of design being seen as a driver of aesthetically-influenced, subjective outcomes.

The interaction between strategy and design establishes a future-ready stretch in brand behaviour, which means that when a strategic pivot or challenge arises, the brand can be responsive and fully embrace the opportunities ahead.

The Mumbai office has a number of clients in the FMCG space – tell us why you enjoy working in this sector so much.

The FMCG sector provides an opportunity to create differentiated and meaningful additions to clients’ well-established global brand portfolios. And the FMCG sector in India has huge growth potential. A particular area that these brands are seeking our support in is premiumisation; they’re looking to build out their global iconic brands into India-first innovations that respond to local market dynamics.

Many of our clients have portfolio brands that are leaders in their respective sectors, and it’s through continual innovation and brand investment that they’re able to keep generating that forward momentum.

‘The FMCG sector in India has huge growth potential: companies are looking to build out their global iconic brands into India-first innovations that respond to local market dynamics.’

The Mumbai office is growing at a rapid rate and winning lots of exciting work. Tell us about your aspirations for your team in the year ahead.

We not only want to grow but grow meaningfully and build ourselves into a world-class brand design hub that’s recognised as being a true partner to clients. We entered the India market less than three years ago and have since seen wonderful traction – so we want to keep this momentum going, while ensuring that our offer and narrative remains undiluted and that we consistently deliver in line with our global brand promise.

What inspires you – within brand, design or the wider world?

Creativity at large – whether in tech or product innovation – and the simplicity and impact of thoughtful and well-expressed design.

Favourite thing about life at Conran?

I’d have to say the ‘one Conran’ culture. And by this, I mean the way in which our three global hubs continue to grow together and demonstrate a shared passion for deep strategic thinking and design excellence.

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