This Women’s day, MediaNews4U.Com is acknowledging women leaders of the Media, Marketing, Broadcast and Advertising fraternity who have given more than expected.
Bokaap is a multi-disciplinary studio that helps businesses transform through strategy, design, and technology. The boutique studio consists of a close-knit team of professionals who understand the inner cogs of brand and product development and execute winning brand and digital product designs.
In this segment, Niraali Parekh – Founder – Bokaap Design shares her experience as an entrepreneur and breaking the gender stereotypes and how she continues to inspire many other women who are true leaders in the making.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My great Grandfather was a plywood trader in Mumbai who started his shop in the early 1900s. My Grandfather took this ahead, who expanded the trade and was instrumental in Vile Parle becoming the hub of traders for construction materials, often giving loans to new entrants to become businesspeople. Eventually, my father took over, diversified the business and started multiple new ventures: some succeeding and some failing. I often tell people that our parents or grandparents had their own “startups” long before it even became a term. That too with having to support a spouse and young kids when they were young and starting themselves. I have seen the entrepreneurial spirit ever since I was a child. I saw the hard work in building something; I also witnessed many lows upfront.
My parents put a lot of emphasis on sports and arts. So not only was I a brown belt level 2 in Karate, but I was also a National Level Figure Skater. I represented Maharashtra on several skating championships across India, winning several medals and the best skater awards. Waking up at 5 am to practice, going to school, completing the homework en route to the second practice of the day, eating dinner en route to going home, sleeping and repeating. And the competitions themselves taught me tenacity, teamwork and discipline.
I applied (by sheer luck) and got accepted to study at the prestigious UWC Mahindra College for my 11th and 12th grades. Very few families would send a 16 yr old girl to live in a boarding school with 70% of students from all over the world. My Grandfather was instrumental in convincing my father not to let me pass on an opportunity to change my life. While I was always good at drawing, my introduction to creative thinking happened at UWC. The exposure TO DIVERSITY was tremendous FROM A YOUNG AGE. UWC prepared me to study abroad, and I graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in Graphic Design. While in college, my parents back home were going through a difficult time in business. I wanted to ensure that I did not add to their stress and worked through college for my own pocket money. I learned a lot about business, work ethics, time management, and the perks of being a humble and honest worker. I also experienced criticism and how to handle it. Eventually, graduating in 2004, I secured a job in the USA in the design industry and worked there until returning to India in 2009.
In 2010, when I started my studio, there were very few boutique design studios. The tech boom was also gradually happening. The market had opened up. More entrepreneurs emerged in India, producing d2c products or creating tech products. This resulted in increased awareness of design and the need for good design to stand apart and appeal to the consumers. “UX/UI Design” emerged globally as a new field like as an offshoot of “Web Design” and “Human-Computer Interaction” or “Interaction Design”. It is impossible to build a tech product without a good designer on board. We have become an integral part of any business. While there is still some way for us to go in India, I believe it will only get better from here onwards in terms of remuneration for design services
Inspiration & Inspiring the team
When I was a student in the U.S., I had attended a seminar where one of the partners of Pentagram Design was the main speaker. He was walking us through some of the firm’s work. Inspired by the idea of a collaborative studio environment, the seed to set up a boutique design studio where experts from different fields like design, content creation, marketing and technology can come together as a collaborative team was sown here.
I was a part of the “reverse brain drain” around 2009-2011. Like me, 100s of American educated Indians were coming back to India to join their family businesses or set up their own companies. So it was a natural conclusion that I would set up my studio in Mumbai, India. I happened to be at the right place at the right time as some of my early clients were from this group. At that time, there were not many design studios in India. Large advertising agencies would set up internal studios to take care of branding work, but there were very few standalone boutique design studios in India. So with my graphic design skills, web design, and web development, I set out to get any and every type of project that came my way. I was what they call today a “UX Unicorn”.
Ever since I started the studio, my goal has been to stay relevant to what is happening in the market. With every new technological innovation, we have improved on our service offerings. We continue to make that our mission. We are a lean team following a strict work ethics with a complete dedication to work, creative thinking, and timely delivery to all our projects. I completely believe communication between the members of the team is utmost important and try to have a healthy and fun working environment. Small initiatives like Fun Friday where we organize games or watch inspirational videos which keeps us motivated. We stay aligned and remind each other that we are part of the same team with the same picture in mind.
For me women empowerment is the ability and freedom to make choices and to live life the way one wants to. Women should do what makes them happy, whether it’s work or being a “stay at home mother”. The ultimate empowerment for a woman is the respect, peace and happiness she attains as a result of her choices.