Born to a homemaker mother and a businessman father in Delhi, she completed her Bachelor’s in Architecture from Jamia Millia Islamia and followed it up with a Masters in Interior Design from Birmingham City University. She has her younger sister as her inspiration as she started her own business very early and taught the elder sibling that one learns with every project one takes up. With an interest in Mathematics and a passion for designing, she mixed the two and chose the path of architecture and interior designing.
Meet Aatika Manzar, an inspiration for women entrepreneurs who aspire to become big on their own terms. Let us find out more about her eventful journey…
When was Aatika Manzar Designs founded? Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey, including the funding that went into it.
I worked at big brands and companies before I launched my own firm. I wanted my initial years to be dedicated to learning and exploring and it was in 2017 when I found myself in a place to fly solo was when Aatika Manzar Designs came into being. It took me three years to hire my first employee in 2020 and there has been no looking back ever since. It is a self-funded start-up.
How challenging is even today for a female architect to work in a male-dominated field?
As a woman architect, I have struggled to gain my client’s confidence. Since interiors and architecture is a male-dominated industry, it is difficult to make people understand that I could do all those calculations as well. The clients and the contractors wanted to talk to a “male” architect to discuss numbers and fittings. After handling so many projects successfully, I have made my place in the industry and now I am appreciated for my work and skills. The only challenge we face now is that my entire team is girls only and whenever they have to go for structure-related meetings, the contractor expects a guy to oversee those details. But I think the reluctance will go away in the times to come. We are currently facing budget issues because clients don’t want to spend much due the ongoing pandemic. So we try to come up with ways that can help us cut down the costs.
When did the entrepreneurship bug bite you? From afar entrepreneurs look glamorous, but I am sure it’s not entirely that. Share with us your trials and tribulations.
Starting my own business was a constant thought in my head but I wanted to gain enough experience before getting into entrepreneurship. It is definitely not glamorous when you have your company, you have to be even more particular and available at all times. You have to keep a check on the work and the employees. Initially, it is hard to find work, and running an office itself is a full-time job. It takes a lot of money and effort, but it’s totally worth it.
Of all the projects you have done so far, which one is closest to your heart and why?
Every project that requires me and my team to go that extra mile is my favorite. We have done over 150 so far. One of my favourites till now is the Merak Restaurant because it was accessible to all including the physically challenged customers and also because while working on it, it gradually turned into a DIY project where even the team was able to do everything on their own. We were folding tables, making birds, buying cages from roadside. This project turned into a team-building exercise where we all enjoyed a lot.
What are your future plans? Where do you see your firm, say 10 years down the line?
We plan to grow by taking up more challenging projects. We want to convince people to use local materials. We want to promote local art and artist. We also plan to do adaptive reuse projects where we convert an abandoned property into a different function like a boutique hotel or restaurant.
What is one piece of advice you would like to give to budding architects?
My only advice is to go for it. If you believe in yourself, people will start believing in you automatically. So start taking action now.