The economic reforms of 1991 opened the Indian economy to the global business for the first time. The year was also tumultuous as it saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, an event that caused great economic stress to the Russian business ecosystem.
Around the same time, in 1993, Hardesh Chawla was in Russia running a financial services business in Moscow. As the economic unrest grew due to the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98, people started selling their assets in Russia. Hardesh saw that some real estate structures, though in dilapidated conditions, were being sold for lesser price. He started buying those buildings and renting them out.
Hardesh’s wife Monica Chawla had a bent towards interior design and would add her inputs before renting out the house. When they started receiving positive feedback from their tenants about the design, they decided to translate this into a business opportunity.
Hardesh and Monica started Essentia Environments, a luxury interior design firm, in the year 1999. The company is an end-to-end solutions provider for building luxury properties offering services such as architecture, interior designing, manufacturing furniture, setting up the decor, etc. The husband-wife duo returned to India in 2003 and set up their office in Gurugram.
The company claims to have completed over 1000 projects in India, Russia, and the UAE in the past two decades, and counts DLF, Dasnac, Magnum, Porsche, and others as its clients. The company is looking to cross a turnover of Rs 100 crore this year.
Hardesh says there was no tipping point in their journey. One thing kept leading to another and before they knew, the design firm was ready. He says that his wife’s strength was in design whereas he found his strength in identifying the business opportunity and then capitalising on it.
As the years before founding the company were so turbulent in Russia, everything became easier for them to handle after returning to India.
“Nothing surprises us anymore,” he says.
Talking about the difference between the Russian and the Indian business ecosystem, Hardesh points that India has evolved enormously over the years and the ease of doing business is greater. “Russia, unfortunately, hasn’t seen that kind of evolution,” he adds.
Additionally, a survey done by PwC Russia revealed that more than 50 percent of Russia’s corporate community believes that doing business in the country is more complicated today than it was during the 1990s.
When it comes to designing houses, the Essentia team does a thorough research, taking inputs from all family members. When they have everyone’s expectations, choices, and tastes in place, the team starts working together to create designs, architecture, fabrics, and furniture.
A lot of items like precious stones, leather, and some fabrics are imported, but the furniture is manufactured in India in their Manesar unit. The company also creates picture quality 3D renders before the actual work starts so that any discrepancy in the design can be