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 Destiny brought these designers together at AID

Valentine’s Day Special: Apeejay Institute of Design (AID) alumnus Aakash Sriram and his wife and batchmate Neha know each other inside out

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If Aakash Sriram, the Managing Director of Kaath Godown, a firm creating interior solutions for companies, is methodical, then Neha M. Sriram, Design Director at the firm, is a creative perfectionist. Well, that’s what led the two to connect when they started their design education together in 2007 from Apeejay Institute of Design (AID). After completing their graduation in 2011 in Interior Design, Aakash joined Kaath Godown while Neha worked with Urbane – the design workshop in Delhi. The lovebirds were friends in college and even after that. After eight years of their graduation, they realised they wanted to be together and finally tied the knot in 2015. This year on February 11, Aakash and Neha celebrated their seventh marriage anniversary. In an interview with Aakash, he talks about their 15 years of romantic journey and reveals the secret to finding time for each other in addition to their everyday professional commitments. Edited excerpts:

How did Neha and you meet?

Neha and I were in the same batch and class in AID. I am from Delhi whereas Neha had travelled across the world because her father’s job was like that. She was in Nigeria and then she had also stayed in Bengaluru before moving to Delhi. When we met at Apeejay, we instantly clicked. Gradually, we understood each other more and more. What I still appreciate about Neha is that she is so extraordinary. And that’s what attracted me towards her.

Did you speak to her on the very first day?    

We really did not speak to each other on the first day. It’s a funny incident how the conversation sparked.  I was a teenage guy then. It was probably the second or the third day, I saw a few of my friends talking to her and I went there and they were all eating something. So I asked her if I could have what she was having and suddenly,  I took it from her hand and started eating (laughs). 

So while you were in Apeejay, how did you support each other in terms of working on projects and assignments? 

We were a group of four, and whenever we were given a group assignment we used to work together. I remember working on projects like creating something on recycling waste. There was another one when we had to design a restaurant. Since Neha and I are foodies, we loved working on this project. So I recall going to the markets together to buy material and conducting surveys. Together, we understood the dos and don’ts of the business. We have designed a lot of pieces together, incorporated them in our reports and got good results as well. 

What role did AID play in your journey? 

I think for any professional course, you need to have a good base and an in-depth understanding of everything – whether it’s designing a creative or it’s about the business aspect.  So, we were given a good foundation by Apeejay. The teachers were helpful  and especially, Ms. Reetu Betala was very supportive. And when you are taught the basics correctly, it stays with you forever and that’s how the foundation of your career is also built. That’s what Apeejay gave us. Later on, it’s mostly about having different experiences.

If I have to talk about strengthening my bond with Neha, well, I think we both clicked because professionally we are very similar but at the same time very different.  She is very creative as a designer and I am a very commercial brat. I understand the business, PR and HR aspects really well. And when we used to work together on different projects at AID, we kind of had that understanding since then. Our bond cemented because of these traits that we possess. And these qualities just kept improving while we were at Apeejay. 

In terms of design or design philosophy, what do you like about each other?

Like I already mentioned, Neha’s creative bent of mind is very dynamic and extraordinary. And I think Neha will agree that my operational, executional and managerial skills are good. Moreover, I really appreciate that both of us get into doing an in-depth research of anything that we take up. In our company, when it comes to finding a complete solution, for the creative and onsight aspects, she steps in and when it comes to management including financials and execution then I take the charge.

How do you help each other to grow professionally?

Well, we help each other not just as business partners (if you call it so) but in every possible way. We both fill in each other’s shoes whenever the situation demands.

How do you draw a line between professional and personal lives?

When we are at home or out on a trip, the first thing we do is we don’t talk about work. As much as we enjoy doing things together like reading, we also give space to each other. We definitely complement each other in every way.

Besides your love for design and architecture, what are the other things that you both are fond of?

We both love to travel and eat. Neha and I are always curious about our profession as well as regarding other things. Yes, we have curious brains and that’s a common trait between us.  We don’t mind experimenting with food. She likes Italian and I like Indian. But I can eat Italian, and she doesn’t mind having Indian. The uncommon trait would be, I love sports and she doesn’t like it at all. It’s been 15 years since we have known each other and we know each other inside out.

Any checklist you both wanted to tick together? 

We love travelling and have travelled to a lot of places together. We travel twice in a year to a foreign country and have covered a lot of international destinations. I wanted to show her some of the best properties of the world before she turns 30 and I did that. She is very happy about that. In India, we have travelled a lot. She loves Rajasthan and so we have been to different cities at least three to four times. 

So, any special plans for Valentine’s Day?
Since it was our anniversary , we kind of combined both together and we had a very nice day from lunch to dinner. We watched movies together. So we celebrated both these special days together. 

Harshita is Assistant Editor at Apeejay newsroom. With experience in both the Media and Public Relations (PR) world, she has worked with Careers360, India Today and Value360 Communications. A learner by nature, she is a foodie, traveller and believes in having a healthy work-life balance.

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