Payal Kapoor, an interior designer of an international Repute and member of Association of designers, whose work has been featured in various publications and TV shows in India. Born and raised in New Dehli in India, Payal Kapoor is one of the leading Interior Design Houses of the country and is still growing
at a rapid pace, providing interior design services to clients both in India and abroad for all kinds of
residential, housing, commercial, hotels and other projects.
Payal Kapoor told Best Interior Designers all about her journey with interior design, what inspires her, and also the challenge of making it without an industry godfather.
How would you describe your early years and educational background?
Growing up as a young girl in the capital, I studied at the famed Carmel Convent School in New Delhi, except for one year when I moved to Mumbai. After completing my higher education, I chose interior design, studying at the Polytechnic College for Women for three years, and later took up hospitality, hotel, and commercial design. After graduating in 1987, and working for two organizations, I launched my own design firm.
What was your entrepreneurship journey like, in a nutshell?
After working with one of the leading design firms in New Delhi, I gained valuable experiences and nuances of design and later joined another firm which exposed me to sites-civil interiors and furniture making.
Putting together about three years in both firms, I decided to venture out on my own and launched ‘VISIONS’ in 1990. It was hard-hitting in the beginning since I neither had connections, nor ideas on how to acquire projects as I did not have a background in business. However, I worked with utmost honesty on any small assignment that came my way, meeting every deadline.
What were some of the challenges you faced breaking into entrepreneurship?
I did not have a godfather or a godmother or even a family member with a background in design. I was the lone entrepreneur.
There were many apprehensions entering a male-dominated profession, having to deal with labor and traveling long distances for work. Sometimes, clients were extremely unprofessional and never made payments on time and some would get the work completed, but never paid, in spite of a formal contract. These were extremely disheartening for me as I was just in my twenties. To work hard, not be paid for it, and to undergo severe criticism was discouraging and ever more demoralizing.
However, It taught me necessary interpersonal skills and the art of dealing with difficult clientele and circumstances. Apart from learning to be patient, I held on to my self-respect and stayed strong, focusing on the work at hand. Such experiences meant that I was ready to handle any situation professionally.
What was your moment of epiphany that set you on this path of what you do today?
There were a few. In 1991, I bagged my first independent hotel consultancy project, The Imperial Hotel, Janpath, New Delhi, which was my first milestone. After which, The GD Goenka School, Vasant Kunj, the USI building for the President of India, The Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, and The Palace On wheels which were the absolute highlights until today.
I never wanted to be typecast as doing only a particular sort of work. I always wanted to experiment and take up challenging projects and after successfully conquering all hurdles, I also got much-deserved recognition.
What would you consider as being the most momentous accomplishment of your career?
The Palace on Wheels luxury train project, converting it from a meter gauge to a broad gauge, was a significant turning point for me, despite being associated with previous multi-million projects. Out of the whole country, I won this project and successfully completed it, bringing the Palace on Wheels to a number 1 ranking. Previously ranked number 10, this luxury train received much press coverage with its bespoke décor that depicted the rich cultural history of India. After that, I became a force to be reckoned with in my field.
Who are the people you draw inspiration from, your role models?
The people I admire the most are the ones who have the character of humility amidst the fame, money, and luxuries as well as the people who give back to society and are willing to lend a helping hand to others.
I have high regard for the Royal Family of Jodhpur, particularly Maharaja Gaj Singhji, Maharani Sahiba, and their late Uncle Thakur Raju Singhji, from whom I learned so much while working at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur for about 9 years. Also, I think highly of Mr. Ratan Tata and the way he conducts himself.
What fuels you to do what you do every day?
I need constant excitement and challenges in my work to keep me motivated. I take pleasure in working on turnkey projects which are fast-paced; also anything stereotypical and conventional brings boredom. Apart from designing hotels, I have also designed trains, ships, and aircraft simulators, working on exhilarating projects both in the US and in Europe.
I am highly passionate about what I do. There were times when I was not very enthusiastic about some things, but I worked on it by discovering small ways to keep the level of excitement high. Despite the challenges, the show must go on!
What is your definition of success?
Success is subjective. According to me, it means having a name, fame, recognition, and appreciation for the work done. To have made it in the industry without anyone to endorse me has been my mark of success. I also believe that being able to grow and adapt to the trends and to evolve, yet staying afloat despite hitches, is a success. Although the monetary aspect plays an important role, hard work and honesty are something to be treasured.
Illustrate your ideal “me” time.
For me, it is being alone with my own thoughts, in the lap of nature. I can sit for hours at home, gazing at the hills and the lake. Fresh flowers, beautiful weather, pristine air, and my cup of tea are all I need, but this only happens on rare occasions.
My “me” time in Delhi mostly entails sitting quietly listening to music and doing nothing. Occasionally, I do hit the spa; it is a luxury I love to indulge in.
What advice would you give to professional women?
Working women need to be respected as they are the embodiment of the art of balancing work, home, their lives, everything.
I believe that time management is essential to being an organized person, so delegating and outsourcing must be made use of wherever possible.
More importantly, love and trust yourself, also be motivated by setting aside some time for self-care and enjoyment with friends. Learn to laugh and to let go, as there are some situations that are beyond your control and you cannot please everyone. Furthermore, never ever compromise on your self-respect and dignity, because you are worth a lot more than you think.
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