Mumbai: Web professionals thrive as brick & mortar biz go for digital reboot

Everything about this men’s wear manufacturing hub in Prabhadevi was designed to be experienced in person when Rajnikanth Morbia set up shop 27 years ago. Last April — a time when their 11,000 sq ft warehouse would be teeming with retailers — swooping down from Chennai to Jaipur just to touch, feel and investigate the warp and weft for wedding and festival shoppers in their town — it all went eerily silent. It was a similar story for freelance photographer Samir Todnkar, used to carrying around his portfolio in a folder or a pen-drive until the pandemic shuttered his studio

While it’s easy to blame the pandemic for these closures, the Covid-19 crisis has possibly been a catalyst for mom and pop enterprises like Todnkar and Morbia’s—with zero to comatose digital presence—to up their contactless game. As a new wave of Covid cases winds down and an increasing number of traditional retailers and independent professionals— dance instructors to legal advisors; art galleries to learning libraries; vegan pet food to window net sellers—untether themselves from a physical space and migrate to the cloud, one sector that has emerged as growth-friendly and pandemic-proof, has been web development. Given the pressing need for a digital reboot, local web professionals are navigating their way to success in a pandemic world.

Staffing firm TeamLease says they’ve seen about “18,000 new web development jobs exist today which is an increase of 25% in the last year itself and almost a 70% jump since 2018.” Google data reveals that searches for “website builder” and “website hosting” increased by “1.5X times” during this period.

“It’s like a genie that is out of the bottle and you can’t get it back in,” says Ritu Mehrishi, cofounder of an
Andheri-based digital media agency. “The biggest shifts are around grocery, education, cosmetics, clothing, security and legal. It’s given us an opportunity to bridge the gap for companies that never had any online presence,” she says.

While social media pages have been an easier, faster piece of the marketing puzzle to help smaller enterprises establish their digital presence, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as the only strategy is no longer enough. “Using social media is like displaying only the best you have on offer. Websites require an investment that could range from Rs 35,000 for basic browsing and go upto Rs 4 lakh depending on capacity, product pairing algorithms and user analytics. But having your own domain helps create a credible brand identity, have greater control and makes for easy referrals which many smaller businesses are understanding only now,” says Kandivli-based Priya Singhi,a web and graphic designer who has witnessed “a 30 percent surge in requests to revive old domains.”

Ashish Thakkar, a Dadar-based web developer has witnessed demands, “from owners of dead websites in dire need to bounce back.” Although the basic structure of a website as an information hub hasn’t changed — mobile responsiveness, exciting multimedia and features to fit the add-to-cart age — make web design a cocktail of creative skills and technical prowess today. “People’s needs range from 3D images, blogs and explainer videos to clones of Amazon with secure payment gateways, chatbots and intuitive analytics of buyers’ personas,” says Thakkar.

Much like a brick and mortar business, websites need upkeep and occasional upgrades. “It’s not just about changing the look and feel but updating content and search engine optimisation. When websites are templatised, take too long to load, not mobile friendly or lack modern functions, they look cliched, outdated, and spammy. Some owners don’t upgrade for years and therefore face poor traffic and frequent security breach,” explained Nayan Khandor, founder of a web solutions company that had to hire interns to meet mounting content writing and graphic design needs.

Priya singhi started successful web design agency

I’m Priya Singhi Jain, a UX/UI, website, and brand design consultant, and CEO at Emerge Digital, a creative digital agency in Mumbai, India.

I enjoy creativity and solving problems and have grown up with a deep passion for design and technology. I guess that is why today I work with amazing clients and help them to solve business problems with design.

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From Job to Freelance to CEO of a Digital Agency

A journey of passion, self-realization and success

I’m Priya Singhi Jain, a UX/UI, website, and brand design consultant, and CEO at Emerge Digital, a creative digital agency in Mumbai, India.

I enjoy creativity and solving problems and have grown up with a deep passion for design and technology. I guess that is why today I work with amazing clients and help them to solve business problems with the design.

The biggest challenge I see for organizations today is the ability to productively combine complex technology with delightful user experiences that avoid digital product failure and thrive in a competitive market.

My mission is to help organizations mitigate this risk and thrive with human-centered design and digital experiences.

With over 10 years of design experience, I’m in the perfect position to help organizations succeed with UX design, websites, and branding.

My story

Early Age Creativity

At a very young age, I had already fallen in love with creativity. From drawing, cooking, dancing, and exploring new things were always a great pleasure to me.

Although, I might not have fully understood the intricacies of design on a conscious level when I was very young. I used to always dream of being an Entrepreneur.  Watching and hearing women’s success stories used to have a great impact on me.

And I would say myself, one day I will be one of them (This is yet to be achieved.) but I’m on it.

Priya singhi jain

Art, Design and a Creative Education

My fondness for creativity continued during my college days, where I enrolled myself in courses related to Computer graphics. I excelled in Art, Design, and Technology lessons and began to establish my creative interests around visual arts and design.

Though I did my Bachelor’s in Marketing in Business Administration, yet I was always leaned over the creatives.

I was completely lost in the world of creativity and ideas came to me like fairies!

It was at this stage where I started to get the sagacity that I’d like to do “something that is creative, artistic and ingenious” for a living. I had my goals in front of me to continue translating my ideas into creative works, but my path was yet to define.

I was storming a lot, until one day…

When I attended a demo on “2D animation” course where I was awestruck by the animations created by the students. I was completely hooked to the motion design.

“Great!”, I thought, “I can see myself liking that”.

Are you curious to know more?

What happened next was my First break…. Yes!

The First Break

After having the lore on plenty of multimedia software and courses in Chennai, I decided to have practical implications of my learnings. I made an impressive portfolio of my demo projects and applied to various companies in Chennai.

I was offered the position as a Visual effects artist at Iris Interactive. It was here where I worked on numerous projects and found exposure to post-production.

I used to make rainy days, Explosions, SCI-FI scenes, and all possible south Indian stunts- ah you can imagine that.

It was a completely different world.

when I used to see it on a 70 mm Screen. It was a delight!

I was loving what I was doing. Everything was looking just perfect.

The pace with which I was progressing was rapid.

But even good times needed a break!

Here came the….


I encountered a major setback in my life; was forced to take the U-turn.

I lost my father. We all were taken aback by the shock this incident had created.

I had to return back home to my family.

My life was completely horrifying, and I was in a tremor.

Even when I think of those days, I shiver.

In this time of anguish, I wanted to be with my family and support my younger siblings. I decided to stay back at my native.

While idle at home, I started exploring things online and was searching for options where I could earn while at home and remain independent and support my family.

No sooner it was when computers became my best friend, spending 12 hours a day learning online and exploring web technologies.

It was then, website creation became my newest love.

 Freelance, Learning, and Freedom

Striking out on my own as a freelancer was really a little ironic, considering I would have been successful in the job as well. But the entrepreneur in me was constantly pushing me to perceive freelancing as a career option.

The journey wasn’t easy but that was the least I could do at that time.

After a short course on some basics of business, re-branding, and designing my website, I officially put my foot in the business!

 I became a freelance web and graphics designer

Since I was making a stone-cold start with no client base, it was a tortoise race in the beginning. But guess what? I wasn’t the hare; I was that little turtle who didn’t stop. I kept working hard to establish myself over time.

I designed a couple of websites for my friends and family, with something to show as my portfolio.

I made my profile on Upwork, Guru, and other portals to get more work.

I was chosen as the freelancer at an agency in Delhi on a retainership and soon I started receiving some independent work from clients in the UK and the US and other well-known agencies

I was having a steady stream of clients that included new leads as well as regular returning customers.

After such setbacks, this feels good, doesn’t it?

Gradually my life was starting to restructure itself.

There were risks in working on your own, but my experiences have taught me that it’s no riskier than working for someone else. If to say, it’s safer than your eggs aren’t all in one basket.

I was very happy working for myself as a freelance web and graphic designer.

With every project I did, I developed ever more contacts and my work was highly recognized and acknowledged by my clients. I got more and more references.

Happy customers were my toffees and a marketing strategy to reach new customers.

Woop! I was so happy! Super happy.

Expanding my base

After being a freelance web and graphic designer for 7 years, with each passing day, I realized the website and graphics will not be able to solve complex business problems if these tools are not used the way it should be.

I was continually trying out new things, learning and driving myself beyond my skills and abilities. If I decide it’s worth learning a new skill and imply it proficiently, then I can bill for it, as simple as that.

From social media, search engine optimizationWordPresscopywriting, and blogging to salesbusiness, and marketing skills, I’ve learned a ton in the quest of finding more and more.

I might have not achieved extreme proficiency and command over these skills, but I intend to develop and build upon them as I continue.

But I’ve also found that it’s not just the creativity and continual development that I love like I at first thought.

It is the freedom that comes with working for yourself.

And, this freedom led to the…

The founding of ‘Emerge Digital’

In my quest to solve business problems with the power of design and watching the brands closely entering a new golden age of design, I realized the importance of good design practices for the success of a business.

Good design creates meaningful first impressions, helps you distinguish yourself from your competitors, and can solve problems, and boost brand awareness and the bottom line.

This was the idea to start ‘Emerge Digital’.

In June 2018, Emerge Digital was founded.

‘At Emerge we help businesses delight, thrive, and capture and convert more leads into sales with user experience design, websites, and branding.’

It’s going well so far…

How I’m defining success
  1. A continuous pool of projects
  2. Started as a freelancer now own a team of 6 people in the house
  3. Working with amazing clients
  4. Doing awesome work every day
  5. Learning something new every day
  6. Growing my agency day by day
  7. 3x increase in revenue yearly
My two cents to you about Good Design.

I used to believe that good design was something that looked “cool”. But design is more than simply looking cool. Design is communication. Just like a writer or a speaker chooses their words to communicate a message, good designers choose the right visual elements to communicate a message. If the design doesn’t communicate then its ART and Not the Design

As Steve Jobs rightly said

“The design is not just what it looks like and feels like. The design is how it works”