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Crowd-sourcing talent and funds to build a great brand identity business

Rahul Aggarwal (Left) and Varun Aggarwal, Co-founders, Designhill
A 10-minute-long YouTube video on a collage of kick-starter design firms, asking the public for funds to bankroll the manufacturing of their products almost a decade back, had a lasting and life-changing impact on brothers Rahul and Varun Aggarwal. Hundreds of hours of research later, the two came up with Designhill, a concept that completely leverages on the crowd for not just funds but the talent pool as well.

Started in 2014, New Delhi-based Designhill is an online graphic design platform that connects global graphic designer community and potential clients. Varun, the graphic designer among the two, recognised that brand identity was no longer just a concern for a large businesses, but was fast becoming a norm among smaller and individual enterprises as well.

“The platform looks to address the concerns designers have while providing an array of alternate design solutions to business owners at a very affordable price. Over the last few years, we have expanded the range of design services to include design contests, DIY tools, one to one project, custom apparel marketplace,” he said.

The company depends on a pool of global designers catering to businesses of all sizes. The global network helps in not only getting access of quality talent, it helps in making operations hyper-local as well. It in turn means that the firm is able to attract a larger set of customers.

“All that a brand needs to do is drop a brief along with timelines and designers from across the world will put forth custom made designs for selection. It is an easy one-stop shop where business will find a range of brand identity solutions that otherwise would be a very costly affair in an agency set-up. In addition, we provide round-the-clock customer service to facilitate the design transfer process,” says Rahul, a graduate in Chemical engineering from the University of Manchester who also did his masters in Management from the Cass Business School, London.

Rounding up the crowd

The brothers understood that crowds can be an important tool in getting both funds and orders. With every order they managed to get more funds. With more funds they managed to bring on board new designers. They expanded the business literally one client, one designer and one order at a time. The believe the process helped the business grow organically.

After convincing friends and family for some funds, the company started with an initial capital of Rs 3 crore. After that it relied on customer orders as well as some additional funding from some of the bigger customers for funds. During the past few years, the company has managed to grow the number of orders per month to close to 4,000, with a monthly transaction value of $250,000.

“While we are based out of India, majority of our clients and vendors are based out of the US. Further, we’ll continue to develop our strongholds in India, Canada, Australia and the UK. As an industry, the global graphic design space is worth $64 billion -with the online space growing at 25 per cent annually. Owing to the rapid globalisation, increased internet access and relevance of visual identity, the industry is set for continued momentum,” says Varun.

Designhill has a global network of over 350,000-plus designers from 150 countries. Its customers are spread across the world, including the US, Canada, UK, Australia and India, among others. Till date, Designhill designers have catered to over 100,000 clients globally. The company aims at 10x growth within the next year.

But finding the right kind of talent has been a challenge, as a majority of the designers are based abroad. “Online marketing tactics helped us to on board somewhat. Over time, we have tried to enhance our credibility and support. Our round-the-clock customer support service is one such initiative. Further, the creative content and world-class designs on offer helped us build the required trust in the platform,” says Rahul.

Working with a small and nimble team of 65 people, the company has its corporate office in Gurgaon and a subsidiary firm and office in Delaware, US.

Making logos intelligent

The company has come up with Logo Maker, an AI-backed designing tool that offers 1,000-plus logos at an affordable cost within minutes. It is one of the many services provided by Designhill for MSMEs and start-up entrepreneurs looking for cost-effective, quick designs for their businesses.

“Constant listening to our customers made us work towards a pocket-friendly graphic design solution, especially in India. We aim to ease the pressure off our clients by offering real time design solutions without compromising on the desired quality. We are expecting our Logo Maker, which is available at a price range of Rs 500-4,500 in the Indian market, to significantly contribute to our website. Currently, we have close to 600,000 monthly visitors on our platform and are hoping this number will grow with the launch of Logo maker in India,” Varun said.

According to the company their Logo Maker has the capacity to comprehend users’ preference on the basis of the provided inputs and combines with previous learnings from thousands of users.

The tool uses a combination of tens of thousands of icons, colour combinations, high-quality fonts and 5,000-plus shapes and containers. It also allows customers to visualise these logos on various merchandise, locations, etc. hence offering credible solutions in minimal time.

Designhill's clients include brands like Microsoft, Deloitte, BBC, Ericsson, Ticketmaster, WinZip, Dryden Company, David A Murphy, DDS and The Novita Group.

The firm has been able to create the right kind of ripples and has even managed to rope in celebrity sports stars in its client list. “We have had former National Football League players use our services. Recently Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc., an American ticket sales and distribution company based in Beverly Hills that sells concert and event tickets globally, got their new tickets designed by us,” says Varun.

Going vernacular

Realising that the next wave of growth is going to come from the vernacular and hyper-local segments, the company plans to roll out a multi-lingual, multi-currency website this year.

“We see this step as imperative to widening our client base and current pool of designers. Language and currency barriers restrict our reach and we do not want the remote clients to be deprived of the best possible designs for their brand identity,” Varun said.

In addition, they are planning to enter the B2C segment with the introduction of a new category- ‘custom apparel and product’ marketplace that would have over 500,000 products such as T-shirts, phone cases, bags among other things.