Every vehicle that rolls out of a showroom does two things right, establishing an emotional connect with the buyer and addressing the aspirational value of the customer.

Rushikesh Majumdar, our next pathbreaker, CMF Designer (Colors, Materials & Finish) , works with Colours and Materials, one of the most important selling features of the vehicle that not only define the brand identity but also create trust between consumers and the brand.

Rushikesh talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about getting inspired from everyday things and implementing concepts through colours and materials that bring vehicles and consumer brands to life.

For students, if you have an eye for colours, curiosity to explore and love to work with newer materials, this is the career for you !

Rushikesh, your background?

I was born and grew up in a small town called Akola, in Maharashtra. While I would call myself average to good in academics, it was Drawing and Painting that I was truly passionate about. I have loved to participate in local competitions since childhood. Since we were from a middle class background, academics was my first choice and I entered a commerce college for the first year of university. Little did I know that it was simply not meant to be.

My mother was a Headmistress in the Bal Shivaji Primary School and my father worked at Akola District Central Coop Bank. While my father wanted me to pursue CA, it was my mother’s courage and belief in my skills that made me believe in myself and I applied for a Bachelor of Fine arts course in Nagpur University. 

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

Due to limited initial exposure, I pursued commerce for the first year of university.

However, after that, I joined a Bachelor of Fine Arts course from Nagpur University, and aced it with a University Gold Medal.

After that, on advice of one of my professors in Nagpur, I moved to Pune and attained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Advertising and Communication Management from SIBM (Symbiosis Institute of Business Management).

However, only when I was finishing my last semester at SIBM, did I become aware of the NID (National Institute of Design) degree in Ahmedabad. I prepared hastily but thoroughly and was allotted admission to the masters program in the Lifestyle Accessories Design course after a rigorous screening process and entrance examination. I graduated from NID in 2009.

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and rare career?

Unlike something that was planned way ahead in advance, I can credit a lot of my success to the right advice given to me by the right people at different junctures of my life. 

These are the few people who have made the biggest contribution to my early years:

My mother’s constant support and pragmatic approach to problem solving helped me muster courage time and again to solve problems and issues.

My teachers in school and during graduation, Mr. Chandrakant Deshpande Sir (who shaped my drawing skills), Mr. Vinod Mankar Sir (Nagpur University Professor), who showed the way ahead in terms of what kind of skills should I pursue, what should be the path ahead along with constant encouragement and course correction wherever required.

Ms. Shimul Mehta Vyas (NID Professor), who mentored me and gave holistic feedback, not only for the course skills, but also on what it takes to become successful upon entering the industry.

After my graduation in Bachelor of Fine Arts, I was advised by my teachers that I should pursue a Master’s in Business Administration so that I can also become part of the design decision making process, rather than staying only within the design process.

However, the biggest turning point was when I came to know about the National Institute of Design course by the time I had finished my Masters in Business Administration. 

Again, it took massive courage to pursue another round of education after having just completed one masters. 

After getting admission to NID, I thought I had made it. The next big turning point was the first jury review of the product that I had designed. Being used to performing well and being the teacher’s pet throughout childhood, I did not expect my review to be full of critical feedback. That review was my wake-up call. Instead of losing confidence, I decided that to be my stepping up moment, and worked hard throughout the course, along with my teacher, to finally receive raving reviews at my final jury review.

Tell us about your career path 

As I mentioned above, somehow, due to lack of planning or awareness, most of the steps I have taken in my life were played by the ear. I just looked at the next step and proceeded if it looked logical and closer to how I imagined my life to be. 

I started my internship at Whirlpool, for Color Material and Finish for Electronic Appliances. My role required me to do in-depth research to understand the Consumer goods market, related user needs and CMF (Color, Material, Finish) preferences. I had designed and developed a theme based range of Colours, Materials, Finishes and Patterns for Whirlpool’s existing as well as upcoming range of Home Appliances. That includes Refrigerators, Washing machines and Air conditioners. As a part of the research I had to do consumer research, in-depth interviews, current & future trend analysis, colour, material explorations as well as theme creations and propose new and relevant Colour & Trims for Refrigerator, Washing machines and Air conditioners . 

After that, I got a placement with Hyundai Motors. Being the very first Colour & Trim designer at Hyundai’s India design studio, I was responsible for not only Colour & Trim projects, but also setting up space, building up material library, creating vendor base, establishing Colour & Trim design processes and more.   

I worked on Exterior colours and interior Colour & Trim proposals of Hyundai Eon, Interior face-lift- Colour & Trim proposals of Hyundai i10, Colour & Trim Design of Hyundai My Baby 2010 concept vehicles and represented the India design studio at Colour conferences held at Korea & Germany in 2009 & 2010. 

After 2 years of working with Hyundai, in order to look for more hands-on experience, I moved to Mahindra Automotive in Mumbai. As a lead designer I looked after all the aspects of Colour, Material & Finish design at Mahindra for their Personal, Passenger, Utilitarian and Commercial brands in Automotive Industry 

Highlights of my work at Mahindra Automotive Ltd.   

*KUV 1OO NEXT I Facelift (Exterior & Interiors CMF design)
*KUV1OO I Anniversary Edition (Dual tone Exterior & Sporty Black Interiors)
*NuvoSport I Sub-compact SUV category (Exterior & Interiors CMF design) *KUV1OO I Sub-compact SUV category (Exterior & Interiors CMF design) *IMPERIO I Commercial category (Exterior & Interiors CMF design) *TUV300 I SUV category (Exterior & Interiors CMF design) *JEETO I Commercial category (Exterior & Interiors CMF design)
I worked for close to 7 years in Mahindra and worked on  several crucial projects such as TUV3OO.  

After working in Mahindra, I moved to Asian Paints as part of the Colour Marketing team and handled all the design related projects within the organization. One of our biggest and most successful projects was re-designing Colour Fandeck for Asian Paints. We introduced 2,200 new colours through this new Fandeck. It was fun to design, arrange and name colours in thousands that will appeal to Indian consumers. I worked with Asian Paints for 2 and half years.  

Recently I have joined Group PSA in Chennai and will work on automotive projects again.

How did you get your first break?

Through college placement

What were the challenges? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: The first challenge was the decision to move from the commerce college to an arts college. I had already invested one year into that, and there was a social expectation as well from me. The decision to move to an arts college was a tough one, but which paid off big time, when I look back at it now.

Challenge 2: Coming from a middle class economic background, one of my bigger challenges was financial. After my MBA, when I wanted to pursue a Degree in Design from NID, it was not within my family’s budget to help take care of these new expenses. The biggest savior for me was the educational loan from SBI that helped me course through my double masters, which I paid off in the subsequent 2.5 years.

Challenge 3: Learning the culture of the company in which I work. Working for S.Korean employer was way different than working for Indian or French employer. The key is to keep your mind open and be ready to learn new things. And I feel that’s how you gain the knowledge and learn and become one step wiser than you were before.

Where do you work now? 

I work for PCA Motors India Private Ltd, part of Groupe PSA at Chennai.

I work as a Senior Manager for the CMF (Colour, Material and Finish) aspect of the car.

A design foundation, eye for colours, curiosity to explore and work with newer materials, is quintessential for this job. Expertise with tools like Adobe Photoshop, Corel, VRED etc comes handy In addition.

I have started working at PCA motors only recently, and therefore a lot of the day goes in understanding the organization, work processes and culture. Usually we work with the team in France, so the second half of the day goes in conference calls with the French team. 

What is it you love about this job? 

I love that I get to work with unlimited colours and materials; I love to find beauty in daily objects, get inspired from very small things such as colours of spices and then implement it in my work.

My job allows me to travel to newer destinations, experience new cultures, study consumers and their lifestyles and last but not the least – my work brings life in objects.

How does your work benefit society? 

Colours and Materials are one of the most important selling features of the vehicle. It helps to define the mood and category of the vehicle; whether it is a family car, sport edition, premium limousine or an off roader SUV. 

Colours and materials not only define the brand identity but also create trust and emotional bond between consumers and brand.

I love that my work contributes to the emotion of masses.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

Seeing the launch of my first car is very close to my heart. After working for 5 years on one project, a lot of back and forth during conceptualization, discussions and arguments with team mates, making sure each detail has been taken care of keeping consumers in mind and finally when you see the beauty running on the road it feels nice and gives immense pride.   

Your advice to students based on your experience?

There are a few lessons that I can share based on my life experience. 

Do not limit your dreams just because it does not align with “mainstream” or social trends. Work hard and with focus, and whatever you set your heart to, can be achieved- because all skills can be learnt with enough determination.  

And always be a learner ☺ 

Future Plans?

I like to take life as it comes!