A few miles past the chic google office in Gurugram is the unit of DailyObjects, which produces premium phone cases, Apple Watch bands and MacBook cases. Pankaj Garg’s accessories business started to take a new direction with designer phone cases in 2015 and now sells more than 20,000 per month along with a range of products including charging solutions and wallets contributing to the turnover of Rs 100 crore.
“A telephone is a functional product, yet very boring to look at. We wanted to add color to the phone through cases. It’s one thing people notice right away,” explains Garg, also CEO of DailyObjects, in conversation with indianexpress.com at his Gurugram office.
When Garg’s company started offering designer phone cases, the demand for premium smartphones was still small. But Garg believed that this was just the beginning and that the numbers will rise in the coming years. Looking back, Garg is pleased his point turned out to be true, especially with regard to iPhones and Apple Watches, for which his company makes bands.
DailyObjects prices are iPhone 14 Pro cases between Rs 1,199 and Rs 1,999 depending on the material and design. This is a relatively higher price for a phone case, especially when Amazon and roadside sellers offer cheaper options.
But Garg is hunting ambitious consumers looking for differentiation. And if consumers can spend a lakh on an iPhone, they can also spend more for a phone case. “Everyone has the same phone… which you can’t change every six months, but you can change the case,” he explains the psychology behind buying designer cases.
Garg has a team of designers and illustrators who work in-house to design the cases. “We start by creating a mood board around which theme we want to work around, we decide on colors and which elements we want to choose from the theme,” explains illustrator Devansh Sharma. Sharma, in his early twenties, says a design thinking process is an open canvas where everyone can represent their thoughts and emotions. Designing a phone case involves a lot of looking and reacting, he adds.
But not every design gets the go-ahead. “There’s quite a bit of room to understand the weight of a collection if we want to work on it,” explains Disha Grewal, Head of Design at DailyObjects. “Designing a phone case is just the tip of the iceberg. The process also includes market research. If there’s a whole sneaker wave going on, we’ll try to understand what consumers are looking for.”
Each design goes through multiple iterations and sampling. As Grewal puts it, the design journey isn’t linear… “it’s iterative and looping”. The process of designing a case varies depending on the complexity, but it usually takes 15 days to get the designs ready and approved. Some phone collections can even take up to 8 weeks to design.
Sharma, who is currently working on a case collection for Nothing Phone (1), says each design has its own journey. The collection of phone cases, which has yet to hit the market, is heavily inspired by the Sci-fi game Cyberpunk 2077. “The design of the phone is different and the Glyph lights up when a notification appears. It feels futuristic. I wanted to use the “glyph flashes” as the element to explain the Cyberpunk theme,” he adds.
The design team works closely together and brainstorms many ideas. Sometimes they open up the process to others – to staff and other people around them, and take input. Themes and colors change every season; the target group is different for each collection.
Some of the themes are rooted in Indian culture and taste like the recent “Mela” collection, which was curated and designed by designer Anuj Kohli. Others are niche collections aimed at a specific user group. For example, the K3 suitcase collection designed by Sharma is inspired by the Japanese comic series K3 Klutch Kick Komic. It consisted of six cases and each case was a frame from a comic book.
Much of the design team also has to work closely with independent artists who don’t have a platform to display their artwork. Grewal, who holds a master’s degree in graphic branding and identity from the University of Arts London, says the aim is to take inspiration from Indian sensibilities and craft them in a way that appeals to young users. “I’m sure if we make a collection of tribal art inspired collections it might not fly, but if we take those art forms and mix them with modern sensibilities we will be able to reach a small community of users who appreciate those aesthetics and Indian art stage,” she explains.
The onboarding of local artists works in two ways: the artist is paid for each artwork and DailyObjects gets the exclusive rights to the design, allowing the company to keep a fresh selection of cases with alternative themes. DailyObjects takes on two to three artists every two months.
While some argue that DailyObjects cases are expensive, Garg says his company charges 30 to 40 percent less for phone cases than what Apple sells at its store in India.
cases for apple, Samsung and OnePlus phones contribute 80 percent to sales on the platform. Garg says they plan to sell DailyObjects phone cases to 100 premium Apple resellers in India in the coming months. Bands for Apple Watch are also seeing a resurgence.
DailyObjects phone cases are designed and printed in India. “Every artwork you see on your products is original. We don’t believe in Disney or Marvel, they’re not our roots,” he said.