From a life in the army to owning a design brand, Manjeet Bullar has charted his journey by taking the road less travelled. In the interim he also had a stint with furniture design. “I did not become an ­interior designer overnight. This has happened after a considerable phase of intense soul-searching. I keep thinking about reinvention.”
Speaking about his journey, Bullar says, “I joined the army as it was a ­family ­obligation but design has always been close to my heart. As luck would have it, I came to Chandigarh where I pursued my degree in ­anthropology. In those days Chandigarh was only starting to take shape as a city. Hence, it had little character or history as far as architecture was concerned. It will not be incorrect to say that the city helped me to experience a new dimension in terms of art and aesthetics.” During his university days, Bullar was involved in the art of sculpture and held solo shows. This won him many accolades, including the Lalit Kala Akademi Award.
Then he joined the Indian Military Academy. “I was in the artillery regiment and saw action in Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh where I got the opportunity to study high altitude architecture yet again in Tawang. I was very close to getting caught in an avalanche but was saved by my sevadar. This incident remained fresh in my memory for a long time afterwards. So, when people warned me about some obvious perils of civil life I wondered what could be more dangerous than facing enemy bullets. That’s when I decided to ­follow my dream of doing interior design,” he says.
A small initiative with ­the Sikligar lohars (community traditionally known to polish swords, sharpen knives, scissors etc) outside Chandigarh set the ball ­rolling for Bullar. “I learnt the traditional techniques of sikligar and gadia lohars, adapted their techniques for contemporary usage and converted it into marketable products. Then I sold the products to the world’s top boutiques, stores and designers.”
Getting into interior ­designing was a calculated risk, says Bullar. “There were many ­challenges of which finance was undoubtedly the ­biggest. Banks were not helpful because I did not come from a design or art background. Plus, I did not have any ­family support in terms of loan undertakings. This ­coupled with the fact that I had no ­references in the ­business world made it a very tough start. People had written me off saying that I would fail.”
The essence of Bullar’s design philosophy is everlasting appeal. “Though I know change is inevitable, I strive to create products of lasting value. A few days ago, one of my clients had come back after 20 years to ask for the same design. That day was very ­special as I felt that I had graduated as a designer.”
Talking about the industry, Bullar says, “Today, we are investing huge amounts on marketing our crafts. Ironically, not a single penny is being spent on emerging technologies that can support these crafts. We need national policies that can give a facelift to Indian brands so that they establish a niche for themselves in the global market.”
All you need to know about interior designing as a career
While some say that ­interior designing is the art of putting some furniture together, interior designers beg to differ. Experts say that interior design is a ­creative process that ­understands the client’s needs, creates a conceptual design, reviews the design, and produces a final design document or plan. From concept to completion, an interior designer has to be involved in all stages of the project. There is an ­unprecedented opportunity for growth in this industry. Nowadays, real estate developers hire specialised interior ­consultants to add value to their projects through well designed and theme-based interiors
* Institute of Indian Interior Designers, New Delhi;
* National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi;
* International Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi; www.iiftindia.net
Over the years this field has become more specialised and employers give more importance to professional backgrounds. Studying engineering/architecture can be helpful. Design schools either offer interior designing courses or masters (fine arts) with a specialisation in interior design
Skills and traits
* Ability to handle both aesthetic and technical aspects of designing spaces
* Strong knowledge of materials
Design to value
An interior designer is involved in all stages of the project from concept to completion
Rs. I take home
Rs. 50,000-Rs. 5 lakh a month
I love my job because...
Every day is a new ­opportunity for me as an interior designer
The future and ­consumption of design ­totally rests with the fact as to how we develop a national policy towards design