Raahil Chopra
Aug 01, 2023

Dept launches design vertical in India

Campaign India catches up with Franklin Schamhart, global head of the unit, to learn more about the offering

Franklin Schamhart
Franklin Schamhart
Six months after entering India through the acquisition of Tekno Point, Dept has announced the launch of its design wing in the country.
Based in Mumbai, the design services company aims to specialise in UX/UI and digital product design. At the time of launch, the design department has six staffers and two clients.
Dept’s design department was launched globally in 2016 after the agency acquired TamTam which was relabelled to Dept.
Franklin Schamhart, head - design, Dept, who was with TamTam, was in the country to formally announce the launch, during which he caught up with Campaign India, to chat more about the offering.
Edited excerpts:
Can you tell us more about the team in place? Who will be heading this unit?
We had a couple of designers who were a part of the Tekno Point team aiding with supporting work for clients. In the spring of this year, Dimi (Albers, CEO, Dept) asked me whether it made sense to launch this unit in India, as we were getting more and more requests for design services. We saw this as an opportunity. I had a couple of chats with Himanshu and Yash Mody (founders of Tekno Point) along with Vishnu (Mohan, partner and chief growth officer, Dept), before deciding to come to the country and put together a team.
My first goal was to hire a design lead who will help translate the design philosophy we have in Europe and the US to India. We hired Sreerag Nath to head the vertical who joins from Red Baton. He was our first actual hire for the team.
Currently, the team has six employees dedicated to the unit. What are the growth plans?
We hope to be adding two people in August and if everything goes well we want to be at around 10 staffers by the end of the year.
The potential of this vertical is huge. If you look at the portfolio of Tekno Point, there are some really big clients like Tata Capital and Bajaj working with us. The first step is to extend our services to these existing clients.
We have already started working with India First Life and doing a big project for them which includes redesigning the marketing website and redesigning the customer portal, buying journeys and distributor portals.
How big is this vertical globally?
Our design practice globally has around 400-450 designers, mostly across our offices in Europe and the USA. If you look at our portfolio, it has three main pillars - web design(which is our biggest), e-commerce (this focuses on the buying journey) and product and immersive design (extends a bit to the advertising campaign design and consists of landing pages, microsites and things like that).
We don’t do a lot of actual product design work and create apps like Zomato etc. In the US and Europe, such design work is usually done in-house. Our focus is going to be on big B2B and B2C clients. 
In India, do you project most of your clients coming in from the existing base or do you think you can secure new clients for design in particular?
I expect a lot of them to come from our existing Adobe client base. It has a lot of potential. If the design practice matures a little bit and has more experience, we might end up having design-only brands. For now, it could be about the existing base who want to take our design services.
We’re seeing clients giving more value to design as a vertical and in particular UX as they understand more about this. Clients are receptive to our story because of the experience we have across the globe. We have to be able to serve them with the same level of quality and skill in India. We want to be among the top three choices for UX and design in India. That’s the focus point.
What's the timeline to achieve this?
Give us two years and I think we’ll be in a good space if we play our cards right.
Who is your major competition and which design companies would be in the top three currently?
It depends on who you ask! In the UI and UX space, we have a lot of competition from consulting companies like IBM, Deloitte and Accenture in India. They serve very large clients. Alongside rice, tech is India’s biggest export and tech companies have clients with immense capability. We want to compete differently though. There are a lot of agencies that focus on design too like Lollypop Design Studio. Bigger network agencies like Media.Monk and other small ones also operate in the country. 
What is unique is that the position for Dept is that along with design, we can do the implementation. That’s the area in which we can excel and be competitive. We can provide more nimbleness to the design and that’s our sweet spot. Also, having all the services integrated within the company is something clients love. A lot of companies offer design services but come from different backgrounds. However, we can do the design and implement it.
With all the talk around AI, how will this impact this category?
AI is disrupting for sure. It’s exciting and changes our way of working. AI will shift and propel the industry. We (Tekno Point) have built an application within our CMS that uses the power of AI to use it as an authoring tool. That’s supercharged our workflow already.
We also use ChatGPT to quickly get mock text, and come up with headlines or written copy. For imagery, we are using Midjourney to make creatives which are exclusive to the brand. We are a year away from AI helping us with design, layouts and giving us data insights. It won’t take away design work for now. You always need to add a human bit to the design, but the science bit can be done very well using AI. Design has that layer of personality and character to it which is hard to be taken away from the equation anytime soon.
How can this be differentiated from an advertising agency’s design unit?
Completely different. They have amazing creatives, but that’s not the same as amazing designers. Communication designers are not the same as UX/UI designers too. They look at different sources for information and their output is completely different. If you have an organisation or agency that has a legacy in certain domains, you always think in an advertising mindset.
The market is big and growing so everyone wants a piece of the pie. But big brands will want to work with a player that has a rich history and a better track report.
Campaign India

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