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  • Writer's pictureGreat Companies

Archana Salil, Founder at Arena Consultants

Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Archana Salil: I did post-graduation in Construction Management from London South Bank University in 2005, returned to India and started my firm Arena Consultants. This was 10 years after I graduated as an architect.

The aspiration to lead my own architectural practice has been there since my college days. And so to begin with, I started doing residential and commercial interior projects. But this was not engaging. We were doing the same things as any other architectural firms. I was looking for something new, which would be challenging and inspiring, some project where you have to prioritise functionality over aesthetics, look into constructability first than just design, work upon ideas wherein you have to focus on engineering and technology and blend in architecture with it, which I felt is very important as an architect.

In 2007, I got an opportunity to upon a 12000 sft R&D centre project at Pune. This was my first laboratory project. I had no past experience working on such projects. And so I immersed myself completely into it. We used to have 2 days/ 3 days workshops with all stakeholders, discussing, debating and finalising things. It took about 6 months for project completion. At the end, it was a very enriching and provocative experience.

I realised that this industry has been ignored considerably and there is so much one can do as a designer. These spaces need high end performance of infrastructure set-up and have to be very safe spaces as the nature of experiments is hazardous. Interactions with scientists were stimulating. They too found these discussions very satisfying and the solutions that we provided were well accepted. This further instilled the confidence in us and I decided to focus on laboratory design projects only.

Great Companies: What are the various Services provided by Arena Consultants?

Archana Salil: Arena Consultants is a laboratory architectural design firm with a niche developed specifically for the Research & Development sector. We design and plan laboratories for chemical, pharma, food, cosmetic industries, educational institutes etc. As a part of 360 degree solutions, we also provide lab MEP engineering design solutions to our clients. We initially started with laboratory interiors and have now expanded to designing large scale science research parks.

Great Companies: What makes Arena Consultants different from hundreds of other Lab architects firms?

Archana Salil:

Deep understanding of lab user requirements & fast turnaround time is a great differentiator. Conversion of scientific requirements into technical terms and construct-able ideas is our forte.

Typically any architectural firm has a diverse portfolio such as designing residential and commercial buildings, hospitality, institutional projects. But Arena Consultants is different. We focus and work only on laboratory projects. Hence, our teams and systems are aligned towards this industry which makes the design process simple with fast turnaround time.

Great Companies: What are the struggles and challenges you face?

Archana Salil: Researchers always look forward to new ideas. Since they tread on an 'unknown' platform. Their infrastructure requirements are also very dynamic. Many times we have to work upon assumptions and define the data ourselves for our design development. Companies also think that every lab is the same whereas it is quite the opposite. Like every house, every company has its own work culture, own work flow. As designers we have to understand it well, so that we can design a lab which serves the purpose well.

Further, labs are energy guzzlers and highly expensive set-ups. The planning has to be very systematic and with proper calculations. Any mistake in engineering design could lead to humungous capital and operating costs. It cannot be a hasty design.

Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for Arena Consultants?

Archana Salil: Our purpose is to create a vibrant, inspiring and safe labs and work environment for all researchers. At the same time with the dark clouds of climate change looming over, our focus will be on sustainability and energy efficiency. It is achievable with technology and the new trends that are developing in the industry.

5 years down the line, we look at ourselves as a responsible team at the helm of designing & planning 'state of the art lab facilities' all over the world and creating innovative research and development facilities that support the larger goals of science and innovation.

Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Archana Salil: Follow 3 P's. Passion, Patience and Perseverance. Dare to start your business only if you have these 3 friends with you. And slowly and steadily things will fall in place.

Know that you are on a roller coaster ride, so be prepared for everything that might pop up.

Last but not the least - never give up.



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