Since opening its doors in 2007, Creaticity has become an inspirational shopping hub for Pune city. For a dozen years now, Creaticity (formerly Ishanya), is a category specialist destination – arguably the largest home and furniture mall in India. Housing national and global home brands with some of the most popular dining outlets in town, it also offers beautiful venues for holding events and exhibitions. Today, it enjoys a strategic location, being just eight minutes away from the city's airport, a stone’s throw from the golf course and in the midst of active IT hubs. Also, with its ample parking and modern shopping facilities, Creaticity offers a hassle-free and relaxed shopping experience.
The entire indoor and outdoor mall space is spread across a sprawling 10-acre campus which makes it among the largest malls in the city. The stores, offices, restaurants, art gallery and state-of-the-art amphitheater are all housed within a unique architectural compound.
However, what elevates Creaticity is its ever-evolving nature. With the recent launch of its e-commerce website, Creaticity has added another dimension to furniture-shopping. Known as a 'phygital' experience (where customers can visit both the physical space or Campus, or just sit in their homes and shop online on creaticityonline.com, it seamlessly combines physical plus digital aspects of shopping for furniture and home decor needs. An ideal and intelligent solution for the new-normal post-pandemic customers' needs.
Corner Network met with Mr Mahesh M, the CEO of Creaticity to find out more about the genesis, the transformation and the journey of Creaticity so far. Here are excerpts from the interview.
CN: Could you share the journey of Creaticity Campus with us?Mahesh: The journey of Creaticity is in two parts. The first part is when we launched as Ishanya way back in 2007; Ishanya in our ancient Indian language means the north-east, which is supposed to be the purest part of a home. The promoters initiated this pioneering concept with an intent to make the home making experience smart, efficient and joyful and we started off as India's first and largest mall for anything to do with home interiors and exteriors. With time and the evolution of consumers’ tastes and preferences, we evolved to become far more consumer-centric. Having started as a haven for designers and architects to come in and get their dream home for their clients, we shifted our focus towards becoming a consumer-oriented place more than earlier, apart from retaining our designer-connect.
With time, we became a notable patron of art and culture in Pune city. We created a beautiful amphitheatre where performances would take place - music, dance and theater, anything that promoted Indian fine arts. We had events for interior designers and architects, and conventions and forums, too. As we progressed, we developed a very robust strategy where we focused on 'home' as our core category. Designing the home is something we do occasionally, and when we do, we put our heart and soul into it. So we needed to bring in something that people of Pune love, something that would engage them actively through the journey and make them feel proud about their choice.
If you are doing up your home – it's a project. If you are buying a sofa or doing up your living room, it is a complete exercise.
In the middle of the last decade, we believed that we need to build another category and hence diversified our offerings. That is why the whole concept of F&B and entertainment at Creaticity happened. We brought in iconic concepts with music, destination and food. We revolutionized the way Pune looked at its food and entertainment.
In 2017, we did some deep soul searching to revisit our purpose, asking a fundamental question, why do we exist, with the strategic intent to keep ourselves relevant to customers and also rejuvenate the brand. If you see, Creaticity is a beautiful play on the word Creativity, but it takes in a much larger manifestation - that of embracing the city we live in. Within Creaticity, obviously, as our website or our app would show you, we have a host of cities - 'Homecity', 'Foodcity', 'Eventcity', 'Sportscity' and 'Designcity', 'Artcity'. So, the journey of Ishanya, which was about creativity and creation, transformed to Creaticity, which is an embodiment of creativity in its true spirit for the new times.
CN: It also answers a lot of the other questions about the products and services offered by Creaticity and the USP.
Mahesh: I would add one aspect to it. You see creativity is something that can't remain inside the brain or the head. It's got to be expressed with actions. So, if you come into Creaticity, you will see that democratized thought: 'We are all creative'. The thought translates to our mantra ' Let's express more'. We believe that Creaticity needs expression and the word 'let's express' brings in togetherness and collaboration; while, 'more' reflects the feeling of abundance that we wish to expand. It is a co-creation process. It is about Action and not just thoughts which is why you will see words such as MAKE, EAT, SING, LEARN, PLAY, CREATE headlining our walls of various arcades.
Every time you engage with Creaticity, the whole idea is that you see a different expression of yourself. Sometimes you come for a theatrical play at the amphitheatre, and you express yourself by relating to what the stage is all about. You come to an art show, the art gallery depicts something else. You come to hang out with your friends, it is a different expression. If you come to a workshop, where we talk about pastries, it is a different expression. If you come to Homecity, where you choose a vase or a wallpaper of your choice or get your whole kitchen designed - that is expression. So the idea of 'let's express more' brings the mantra of Creaticity to the fore.
CN: This is fantastic. What would you say about the difference that Creaticity has made to the city and its people?
Mahesh: We have tried to be as ‘unmall’ as we can - if you could call it that. [smiles] We call it a creative living Campus, unlike a mall. While we call ourselves that, we walk the talk and as you may have observed when you enter Creaticity, large open spaces invite you; a lot of interesting seating that tells you “Hey! Relax, be yourself. Unwind!” There's no push, no rush; we have consciously stayed away from the concept of crowding. Every building is humanized with names such as Clock house, Fountain house, Bridge house etc with such iconic installations as landmarks within the campus. You will see a breakout dome, stop n go spots, garden benches and a lot of third place seating as we like to refer to them, where our customers can sit alone, with family or friends and just soak in the ambience that, many have remarked, resembles popular European high streets.
We believe that heavy crowds do not allow you to express creativity. Many people ask “Hey! Where are the footfalls?” I say that we are not looking at footfalls; instead, we want heartbeats. We want people to express themselves, and that can happen only when people are allowed to be themselves. I am sure when you see the 'Yellow Ribbon NGO Fair', been there and been part of it, the kind of buzz that we bring to it is all about heartbeats; it's not about footfalls. Of course, there is this beautiful marriage between creativity and commerce that needs to happen, which is enabled through a whole lot of communication, i.e. 'context-based communication', and 'content-driven communication'. Shopping needs to be joyful, buying needs to be thoughtful, the experience should be fulfilling...simple.
It's not a simple box mall that says Store A, Store B; walk in here or walk in there; it [Creaticity] is not that. Every time you come in, there is something that feels new and refreshing, you feel that you are looking forward to a sense of discovery, and not a sense of routine, you want a sense of joy, and not one where you come and want to exit soon. The idea is to create and build communities around themes. For instance, community of music lovers, art lovers, design enthusiasts or food patrons. We want to have everything for someone, I mean a specific community member rather than be something for everyone and in the bargain, lack depth.
CN: It’s an interesting idea where you talk about actually engaging with every person or customer or client very differently. So, there is a separate relationship that you have with each one?
Mahesh: Yes. We are arguably the only mall which is actually into the concept of 'personal attention'. We have a service design concept called 'Curated Trail'. A curated trail is where our entire management team is trained to meet and greet a customer family, talk to them and understand what they want. Suppose a customer says "I want to buy a sofa", we have a trail made for the customer that is available on our interactive kiosk, app, and physical trail cards. A customer can actually follow this trail and simplify the entire shopping trip, choose from a range of products and brands with relative ease. A customer visits us with a purpose. So we get a customer to go on a guided tour. That guided tour is called 'Curated trail'.
Today, a customer can book a curated trail online. So when she books a curated trail, she'll get a message that sort of says: “Hey! Your service scout Ajay will be available waiting for you at 11 am.” So at 11 am, when the customer comes in, she meets with the scout and spends time to share expectations. The service scout walks to the store of choice and introduces the customer to the store personnel with a brief on the customer's requirement. Getting this much personal attention in a mass place is unimaginable! These scouts are trained professionals most of whom have gone through interior designer courses and who understand the requirements of the customers and help them in making a wise decision. So, from a confused state, that can happen, when you are doing home shopping, we try to bring a customer to a point of better clarity of her requirements and is ready to buy for her home.
Customers have tons of questions, including what is MDF, particle board, or what is acrylic emulsion paint or a CAT-6 cable? What is the difference between solid wood and MDF and so on? All these questions come to mind when doing up interiors of homes. We have a physical knowledge hub that houses samples and fact sheets to give answers to such questions. Just next to that in the grand foyer is an experiential home that we've created; an entire 3BHK home, which we call JOIE, a French word for joy. A hostess who engages with the customer shares information about the knowledge hub or what is in the inspirational home, and even curates a trail. Products from the various retailers are present in JOIE and customers can know which product is from which brand and even the distance from there to the brand store. This is personalization raised to the power 2!
CN: Quite clearly you are not aiming for the masses, rather targeted sales?
Mahesh: I would rephrase it as our focus is on smart home-makers. We are aware that our customers are progressive yet mindful balance seekers, they are culture enthusiasts and they patronize good design. Our targeted communication ensures that such customers are brought in, then navigated through a guided journey. We have done this in a personalized yet, subtle way. We want to ensure that we are approachable and welcoming as a brand; there is a human touch to the entire journey. Hence our customer feels that there is serious intent in our products and services. Therefore, we see higher conversion rates than normal, because our focus is sharper. Now, the curated trails are two years and counting. We must have done about 30,000-40,000 trails in the last two years. We enjoy the many interesting ways to engage with our customer using personal touch, technology and communication.
CN: Do you have any partners or is it Deepak Fertilizers’ initiative? What are the kinds of clients you have?
Mahesh: Creaticity is a division of the publicly listed Deepak Fertilizers and Petrochemicals Corporation Limited. If your question is about equity stakes or partnerships by others in that sense, no; it is a division of Deepak Fertilizers and Petrochemicals Limited (DFPCL).
As far as the clients are concerned, I would prefer to call them retail partners. So, we have retail partners ranging from Ashley Furniture (North America) to Pepperfry, to Urban Ladder, to @Home and Pubtown and 91 Springboard, among others. We have a whole host of retail partners. We work on multiple revenue models. In some cases, we are the licensee partners. For example, we represent Ashley for Pune. We are the authorized licensee for Natuzzi Editions, Italy. We are also the authorized licensee for Santa Lucia Mobili, Italy, exclusive players in Europe in terms of modular wardrobes. We are the authorized licensee for Pepperfry as well, and so on. We are happy to have rental partners such as @Home, Urban Ladder, Maspar, Plank n Weave Inc and several others.
We believe that we have to bring in a blend of Indian and international, a blend of regional as well as national flavor, customized products vs mass products. In order to enable this, we have built a hybrid business model where we have a combination of different models. We offer design services, as well as post-sales services which are called 'My Fit BHK' (MFB). This is a complete services solution focusing on the ‘home’ category. In case there is a dining table which has a leg loose, a sagging sofa, loose wardrobe door hinges, an old chair that needs polishing...well, MFB is there to handle all of these with a specialized service crew.
We are a start-to-end eco-system with improved shop ability that ensures that a customer is able to rely on us from start to end. All of it is our in-house development with help from industry experts. We take help from partners and associates to deliver a seamless experience.
CN: Is Creaticity trying to be exclusive?
Mahesh: I'll answer the question in two parts. The idea is not to be exclusive. Our idea is to be inclusive. As I mentioned earlier, our target customer is a progressive, yet mindful customer. We cater to customers in Pune and people around Pune, who are interested in good, branded products that give them smart value for money and have design aesthetics. Secondly, I would say we are exclusive if we look at our aim of building communities whether around home, design, art or food or culture. So you could think of us as being inclusive YET exclusive.
We are obsessed about the evolving customer and hence spend a lot of time in reviews and improving our efforts in customer facing initiatives. Whether it is a retailer customer, architect customer, event partner customer or end customer, it is a journey that we love going through because it makes us feel a lot more engaged and energetic.
CN: Do you plan to have other such Creaticity campuses across the country?
Mahesh: This is an oft-asked question. One of the things we embarked on during the lockdown was creaticityonline.com. The website gives the flexibility of combining the best of physical and digital worlds, and attracted nearly 1,00,000 visitors within 3 months of launch. We are working on refining this model so that we can expand into other cities using the ecom channel. Creaticity is a destination that we are proud of and want it to be the pride of Pune.
CN: How have things changed after Covid-19?
Mahesh: We realized that there is a lot of anxiety and fear in the market during the pandemic times. We look at ourselves as customers. Our team has been working on the hygiene and safety factors. There has been a massive cleaning process, sanitization process. We launched an app and requested every customer to download it. The app helps to maintain a distance between customers and staff. In case a customer is in close proximity, an alert is set off. There have been temperature checks and sanitizing of hands for everyone’s safety. We have interactive kiosks, which help a customer talk directly to a sales person, through touch points. The Creaticity app helps a customer take a decision about a product they may want to buy. In a nutshell, as the avenues of shopping are going through changes, we need to be prepared to address these changes by getting better in the post pandemic era.
CN: In these times, how are you connecting to your customers?
Mahesh: During the entire period of lockdown, we called 25,000+ customers with no business agenda but just to enquire if they are fine, and if they need any help. We felt happy that we did something, genuinely. We followed through with text messages. We have had regular engagement with our customers through e-mails, Whatsapp messages and structured campaigns. We have conducted various webinars. We launched an e-book during the pandemic titled Future of Homes. Our measures to connect and evolve as a brand continues, regardless. It is important to have meaningful connect with warmth and authenticity; and we believe that is what will help us sustain through the years ahead, and endear ourselves to our customers as a respected brand, winning the minds and hearts of our customers.
Location: Yerawada, Pune | Timings: 11.00 am to 11.00 pm; every day | Nearest Bus Stop: Ishanya Mall Bus Stop and Opp Golf course. Close to Kalyani Nagar, Viman Nagar and Koregaon Park | Parking space: Plenty
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