Sanket Avlani | 28
Sanket Avlani was in his first year at KJ Somaiya College, in Mumbai, when he realised that engineering was not for him. Creatively inclined since childhood, he started dabbling in graphic design, web design and animation projects instead.
After a short course in creative communication from MICA, Ahmedabad, followed by stints at a couple of advertising agencies, Avlani moved to London in August 2014, where he freelanced for ad firms such as Mother and BBH, before being hired by Wieden+Kennedy.
“How to work with people, how to truly pursue what you want to do, invest in your projects—not just in terms of time and energy, but also financially—and look at it as something that would start a conversation or a trail of thought in the minds of people is what I learnt during my time in London,” says Avlani. This was also how he conceived of TaxiFabric, a startup that connects young designers with taxi drivers. TaxiFabric turns the taxi upholstery that goes on the seats and ceilings into a canvas for young designers to show off their design talent and storytelling skills. This, in turn, piques people’s interest and helps initiate conversations between drivers and passengers, and introduces design to those who come in contact with it.
In a city with great divides between the haves and have nots, inclusivity is the most important subject for design and Avlani has sought to address it.
Launched in April 2015, and funded through Kickstarter, TaxiFabric has designed 25 black-and-yellow taxis in Mumbai and is now exploring the three-wheeler segment. The project is slowly gaining momentum and support from various quarters. Designers such as Sameer Kulavoor, Lokesh Karekar and Shantanu Suman have had associations with it; recently fashion label NorBlack NorWhite designed the space inside a three-wheeler. As the Kickstarter funding comes to an end in February, TaxiFabric is exploring options of collaborating with brands or developing a product line to help fund and scale up the project.
“I have worked with many designers but few are able to start out on their own. Sanket is one such designer. The idea of TaxiFabric strikes me as belonging to a unique space where a design project has a long-term social impact along with being commercially viable,” says Vijay Nair, CEO, OML Entertainment, an event management company with which Avlani is consulting.