Home @ Work: She Runs an Award-winning Creative Agency from Her Mom’s Garage

Workspaces don’t have to be rigidly defined by glass windows, cookie-cutter cubicles or ‘corporate’ formality. In a three-part series ‘Home @ Work’, we feature three women-led teams that do great work even in informal settings, with open spaces, plants and maybe even a mother around for company. This is part one.

WHO’S THE BOSS: Simran Maini, founder, Swordfish Integrated Marketing
WHAT ARE THEY: An award-winning branding, marketing and events agency
WHERE THEY WORK: Out of Simran’s mom’s garage in Hyderabad

When Simran Maini set out on the path to entrepreneurship, it was her dad who came to her mind.

An industrial-safety expert working with the Government of India’s Department of Atomic Energy in Hyderabad, he always had high expectations of Simran and – though she was a highly creative kid in many ways – she always managed to dash his academic hopes for her.

After working for 16 years in the corporate world – mostly in the telecom sector – when Simran launched her own creative branding agency Swordfish in 2011, she finally made him sit up and pay attention to her work. Even if it was for an unexpected reason: she’d set up her office in the garage of her parents’ 40-year-old home in Secunderabad. “He was most welcoming,” she recalls.

Ever since he passed away three years ago, Simran has been keeping her mom company. At least during working hours.

Simran-Maini-swordfish
Simran’s mom’s garage in Secunderabad has a capacity to seat 15 people

It wasn’t just an emotional decision. For a team that would go on to win awards in design and branding, the idea made perfect business sense. The garage and open areas put together offered enough space for a team of 15, which is all that Simran needed.

The firm addresses the marketing requirements of brands, from creative design, advertising, website and mobile design, digital marketing, to even PR and handling events. Their very first project seven years ago was a 15-day sailing championship held at the 455-year-old Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad. There has been no looking back.

Simran-Maini-Team
The team often gathers in the lawn in the evenings for a cup of tea and to brainstorm

Some of Simran’s teammates have been with her from inception, and perhaps the informal workplace and its brick-house vibe has something to do with it. “We hang around in the lawn when the weather is good, and have tea or just brainstorm,” says Simran, who completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship Programme in 2013-14. A six-month global initiative that fosters economic growth among woman entrepreneurs, it was held at ISB, Hyderabad.

It’s not like Swordfish didn’t try other options. A few years ago, they moved to a more professional 2000 sq ft space in an office building, and stayed there for two years. But then, they decided to move back to the garage as they didn’t really need a larger office, and besides, most of the team lived closer to Simran’s mom’s house.

“We’re a small company doing big work,” smiles Simran. They don’t need that much space, she says, just the right vibes to do creative work.

Simran Maini lunch with mom
Simran and her mom have lunch together on most days

And there’s plenty here. With Simran’s brother in the US, where he lives with his American wife, her mom lives alone. She and Simran have lunch together every day – a wonderful way to bond with one’s parent given today’s hectic urban lifestyles.

Simran’s own house is just two minutes away, where she lives with her husband of 21 years (“We were actually dating since I was 13; he took up radiology so that he could tell my dad he’s a doctor when he asked for my hand in marriage”). They have two children, an 18-year-old daughter who studies in Bengaluru and a 16-year-old son.

Ever the quirky, creative professional, Simran is certainly at home at work.

Simran Maini and family
With husband Vikas, daughter Tishya and son Pujit

This is part one of a three-part series ‘Home @ Work’ first published in the July 2018 issue of eShe magazine.