First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Abb-d Choudhury: We’re doing well thanks, we are blessed that none of our immediate families are affected, and life as a whole seems to tick along during the pandemic. As tough as it has been for many, the general slowdown of everything has been a welcome change with the fried perspective of human fragility.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Driftime® Media.
Abb-d Choudhury: I studied fine art and am a self-taught designer. I’ve been designing for nearly 15 years as a whole with a fair share of different roles for varying sized companies. As a graphic designer, I started out doing cover artwork for musician friends whilst I taught myself the basics of design. It was a relatively smooth transition from fine art, though, with no formal qualifications in design, it took me a while to build my skill and be given an opportunity.
I freelanced for quite some time before I landed a role as an in-house designer in a recording studio. After four years in that position, I left my in-house role and started a small design practice with two friends – this lasted about a year before I got another role in a small design firm. It was a small, passionate team that cared about the work. After about 2 years, that firm was acquired by a larger international one.
I spent five years in this role as a senior creative manager, working with brands like Under Armour, Mazda, Fitbit, and many more high profile brands. I learned a considerable amount outside of design, like the structure of a large international agency and the many processes within that. Towards the tail end, I hit a saturation point in the work we were doing. It felt uninventive and followed a ‘cookie cutter’ model. Some brands that the agency took on were ethically questionable, and this eventually led to my resignation.
It so happened that my partner (another designer) hit a similar saturation point in her role. And so we both left our traditional agency comforts and started our own business, one that would be ethically focused and driven to push social, economic, and environmental standards. Nearly five years on, and we’re running Driftime® Media from strength to strength. Formerly we were known as Curate Labs and had multiple IPs such as Curate Magazine, The Annual Digest (stories and editorial around the ethical business), Wandering Through (conscious and sustainable travel guides) handful of others. Driftime® is a culmination of it all, boiled down to one cohesive offering with a service and product side.
How does Driftime® innovate?
Abb-d Choudhury: We innovate by taking a scientific approach to design. That is to assume we are wrong. This mindset allows us to be open to new ways of doing things, challenges the conventional status quo, and to adopt an experimental way of working through an iterative process of feedback and refinement. We’re open and transparent and not afraid to try something new or to fail and learn from the process.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Abb-d Choudhury: We are very lucky in these unprecedented times. As a company that focuses on travel and lifestyle sectors, the pandemic has forced many businesses to think differently about their digital offering. This effectively is our expertise, and companies need critical, creative thinking around their businesses now more than ever. This has kept us busy for most of 2020 and given enough financial security to allow us to support our immediate community with the resources we have.
Have you had to make difficult choices? What are the lessons learned?
Abb-d Choudhury: Like many, we planned for numerous scenarios depending on the impacts of the pandemic. We made decisions around short and long-term goals, giving us a bit of clarity and control in a largely uncontrollable situation. Some were minor, where we limited our expenses. Whereas others were more significant, like stripping away many services and niching down our expertise further. Through all of it, we learnt to manage our business and partner relationships more effectively.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Abb-d Choudhury: We meditate every morning and try to exercise balance as best we can. Plenty of walks in nature help hugely! We prioritize productivity and results instead of effort and time. This means we work fewer hours in general and do much better work as a result.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Abb-d Choudhury: We probably only have a small handful of competitors globally, and generally, we don’t take a stance of competition. Instead, we position ourselves as experts in a niche field and only work with clients and partners that want to work with us due to our experience and insight. We truly believe in our work’s quality and the results we create and typically determine how good a fit we are before any engagement.
Your final thoughts?
Abb-d Choudhury: We aim to do businesses differently, with a focus on people, the planet, and collective wellbeing. We work with businesses that share similar values to us. The work/results show how a new way of thinking can benefit both businesses economically, people socially, and the planet environmentally. If this sounds like you or your business, let’s talk.