Alpana Kirloskar belongs to one of the most successful business families of India. Her husband Rahul Kirloskar, is the chairman of Kirloskar Pneumatic Company Limited, one of the companies of the 129-year-old Kirloskar group. In spite of belonging to this influential business family, Alpana over the years has established herself as an architect par excellence and has carved a distinct identity for herself. Born and brought up in Delhi, Alpana who acquired a degree in B. Arch (Bachelors in Architecture) from School Of Planning And Architecture, Delhi, is today the governing council member of the Ansal Institute of Technology and Management, and Kirloskar Institute of Advanced Management Studies. She is also the brand ambassador of Walter Knoll, a 150 years old premium German furniture company, in India. In a candid interview with Nation Next, Alpana Kirloskar speaks about being a Kirloskar and the Alpana Kirloskar Design Studio.
How would you define and describe Alpana Kirloskar?
I am defined by the relationships in my life; relationships are very important to me. I am somebody’s wife, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s mother and I value all my relationships. What also defines me is my creativity. I like to do anything that is creative – whether it’s designing a book, which I do regularly, or doing simple flower arrangement on my daughter’s birthday. Anything that I create, gives me a lot of satisfaction.
While you are an architect, you are also an entrepreneur and handling business at the Alpana Kirloskar Design Studio. Whom do you find more dominating in your personality – the professional or the businesswoman?
I’m more professional! But there have been times where there’s a clash in my mind of being a Kirloskar and being a professional. Since I’m very punctual and it’s always me who is waiting beforehand for the clients, at times when I’m sitting there waiting in a small building I feel, what am I doing here! I don’t need to do it, but alas this is my passion.
How would you define your style as an architect?
My style consists more of fusion. I mix a lot of the old Indian traditional elements in the contemporary vocabulary. Basic vocabulary is contemporary but I always do a few touches of Indian motifs or the Indian heritage we have.
You’re the brand ambassador of Walter Knoll, a 150-year-old luxury furniture brand. How is the association fairing for you in India?
It’s good. Walter Knoll is a very high end product and not everybody can afford it. We have certain clients like Cummins in Baner (Pune) who have opted to use Walter Knoll. I do not sell the products directly; Walter Knoll sells them through their dealers. I have to represent them at all the trade fairs, mostly international, where Walter knoll takes up a huge space and then for all the Indians who visit the water knoll counter, we have special arrangements. I know beforehand who all are interested in buying or can buy, so I have the job of sending them invites.
You have carved an identity for yourself with your work but you are still more recognized with your surname. Is it uncomfortable at times?
Not at all, it’s a part of my identity. I enjoy being Mrs Kirloskar. I think it’s a perfect balance. A lot of people mostly know me as Mrs Kirloskar but they also know what I personally do.
What drove you to start your own business rather than joining the Kirloskar group?
The Kirloskar group is very different from what I have studied. I have studied architecture and my father was into construction. So, I have come from a family where I have always understood things about construction and architecture. My husband’s business is more about engineering so I did not want to get involved and he is also very happy with that.
Do you have any working relationship with the Kirloskar group?
I am only a shareholder in the group. I don’t mix these two businesses.
Tell us about the business and financial health of Alpana Kirloskar Design Studio?
It’s based on a fee structure. I am paid for my professional services which involves drawing and designing. For everything else, for example, for the plaster of paris, furniture, marble etc. the clients have to pay the vendors directly as I don’t get involved in that. Architects actually do not make much in the business sense, unless they take commissions. But I don’t do all of that. We get a certain architect’s discount at all the materials’ store, which I happily give to the client.
You are born and brought up in Delhi and you married and settled in Pune. What is your take on the similarities and differences in the Maharastrian and Delhi lifestyle?
Delhi is very warm and hospitable; the vibes there are completely different. Delhi is also very enthusiastic; you can just go with the flow of the activity that’s happening. In Pune, you have to make things happen for yourself. The energy in Pune is low in my opinion. You have to work hard for doing something in Pune. But in Pune, people are more educated and definitely give more respect to people. The best thing in Pune is that women are given their due respect and independence. That’s also the thing with Maharastrians and Punjabis, they value their women more.