By Sunayana Sen, Research Associate – ICTPH
Keeping in mind the age old wisdom that staff uniforms are potentially an effective branding tool, we set out to find a local designer in Chennai who could help us with the design and production of uniforms for our staff at SughaVazhvu. The seemingly endless amounts of names and numbers of uniform designers in the city listed on Sulekha Classifieds, made it seem like it would be an easy task but I soon realised that this was going to be more challenging than I thought. I spent about a week making calls and setting up meetings with designers, all of which proved to be quite disappointing because none of them seemed to be comfortable with the idea of designing a uniform starting from scratch, taking into consideration our specific needs. Instead, they were keen to just hand me a catalogue and expect me to select one among a handful of standard patterns in there.
I was nearing the end of the list of numbers I had compiled from the internet and was beginning to get very skeptical about finding a suitable designer in the city. I began to seriously consider looking at options elsewhere and even contemplated getting in touch with a designer in Mumbai when, miraculously, a friend of mine came to the rescue. He put me in touch with a young man running a garments business and I worked with him over the next couple of days discussing our requirements. This gentleman however was also unsure of whether it was going to be possible to deliver a mere 200 pieces of custom designed uniforms in the given time frame. His explanation for this concern was that offset printing would require a minimum order of 1000 pieces and this was far more than what we required in terms of quantity. Adding to this, his company did not undertake orders for screen printing, which was the only other option available to us. However, the power of friendship is not to be underestimated! Since he was referred to me by a common friend, he took it upon himself to find a designer who would be able to help us in this moment of crisis.
The man ran from pillar to post collecting contact information of designers in the city and was eventually able to send me a list of designers he had personally met. He recommended that I call the first one on the list right away. Without further ado I called the design studio and was told that they would send over a representative the next morning to our office. So I met the designer the following day and made a brief presentation detailing all our requirements. This entailed giving her a description of SughaVazhvu’s work, providing her with a high resolution image of the logo along with colour specifications. We conveyed our preferences regarding the fabric we wanted them to use, the numbers we had in mind (both in terms of the quantity and the budget), and finally the time frame. Having discussed the above details, she accepted the order and got back to us in a week’s time with a few design options, which to my delight, came very close to what we were expecting! This was indeed a great source of relief and it meant that we could proceed with the production. All we had to do now was to select one of the options sent to us, and tweak it to suit our tastes and requirements. This took a while and after we had gone back and forth making minor changes to the design (based on inputs given by the team at ICTPH), we finally selected a fabric that fit our budget, and asked them to go ahead and start printing.
Printing unlike the design aspect of the process, was far from smooth, primarily because the dates set for delivery of the uniforms had to be changed a multiple number of times. This kept happening until it could go on no longer because it was time for the new SughaVazhvu clinic to be launched in Karambayam; and it was absolutely essential for all attending staff members to be in uniform during the launch. It took much time and effort to convey the urgency of the situation to the printers at the studio and to ensure that they did not miss the final deadline as they had done before with excuses such as a fire that destroyed the materials, or even the weather! That just wouldn’t work anymore. After days of haggling over exactly how many pieces they were going to be able to deliver before the launch, we arrived at a mutually agreeable figure of 25 saris for the women and 25 shirts for the men so that everyone present would be dressed for the occasion. The rest were to be delivered at a later date. The men would have to wear black trousers with their shirts and black formal shoes. The blouses for all the saris were to be stitched by the same tailor in Thanjavur so as to ensure uniformity. Keeping such logistical concerns in mind, we were able to convince the designer to deliver the blouse pieces before everything else so that the blouses could be stitched in time.
All’s well that ends well! The launch was a dream come true for many and I don’t think I would be wrong if I said that it wouldn’t have been the same without the blue! It brought us all together and inspired a sense of camaraderie and oneness, and instilled in us the faith and conviction that together we can make a difference!