What makes Designsmith Dubai’s most coveted design & build firm? Meet the extremely talented brothers: The SANGANEE brothers, DHAVAL and MIHIR, take us on an intriguing journey of how creative seeds sown at a young age proved to be the learning ground and foundation for their growth and expansion.
By Roma Arora
With their innate talent and unstoppable spirit, they are redefining the design industry. Meet the Sanganee brothers, who are wooing the region with their out-of-the-box ideas, innovative designs, and timely project delivery. While Mihir is Designsmith’s creative force, Dhaval’s expertise brings these creative solutions to life ensuring client expectations are met not just with their concepts but with impeccable execution. Designsmith made a splash at the Design Middle East Awards 2022, taking home several prestigious awards.
In this candid chat with Mihir and Dhaval, we talk about their creative journey, exciting projects, and what the future holds.
Mihir talks about their humble beginnings and early learnings. “Our father, an architect, founded Excel Engineering, the parent company in 1988, to service construction and fit-out projects in UAE. A lot of our business acumen and inspiration comes from him and his support led us to create Designsmith. Being an architect myself along with Dhaval’s expertise as a civil engineer helped us identify a need in the market and form a one-of-a-kind design and build studio in the region to provide comprehensive solutions for our clients.” Over the last five years, we have seen the studio truly flourish with their team more than doubling. They are currently working out of a 10,000sqft design and experience centre in Al Quoz and will be soon opening doors to our 200,000 sq.ft. manufacturing facility catering to joinery, furniture, metal, and marble needs. This new space will serve as both – the fitout company headquarters and an experiential space for designers. “It is a walk-in facility, and we will continue to support the local design industry with tours, luncheons, and special workshops. It is also likely to be the largest space of its kind in Al Quoz, and will be ready first half this year,” Mihir adds.
“We grew up in a household where design challenges, contracting requirements and projects were frequently and openly discussed at the dinner table. Our father’s business setup was instrumental in instilling the skills and outlook we needed to establish our studio – both operationally as well as to understand client needs so we could design and deliver exceptional customer experiences.”, Dhaval recalls. He truly believes that it was this early exposure to the industry that sets them apart from other studios and inspires them to continue to grow regardless of the market outlook. Mihir comments: “Our roles and responsibilities are split and evolved quite organically – everything creative and design-led, including client relations, is with me, whereas Dhaval’s attention to detail and meticulously-organised way of working is critical to our execution and production tasks. Of course, we know that our opinions won’t always be the same but it’s this understanding that has laid the foundation for Designsmith’s success ”
Dhaval shares: “I’m a civil engineer, and Mihir is an architect, so we approach everything in our creative and execution process with harmony and balance. We always have each other’s backs, but we also believe that healthy conflict keeps us innovating and providing world-class solutions to our clients.” Designsmith is a truly one-of-a-kind studio in the region; nestled in an expansive space in Al Quoz, the brand not only provides clients with a onestop destination for their design, build, joinery, furniture and landscape needs, but also allows them to live and experience the details in their projects. Designsmith places the client at the centre of all their designs, which is reflected in their work. Each project is meticulously executed with the client’s needs and preferences foremost in mind. Dhaval equips: “The idea is to work as a team on any project, making sure we personalise and add a distinctive touch for our clients. We want it not just look like a well designed space but we want them to feel it too.”
Mihir further adds: “Our goal is always partnering with our clients, working with them hand-in-hand throughout the process, helping them understand how their decisions will materialise from render to reality. This service based approach is key ingredient in us forging long term relationships” “At Designsmith, we focus on keeping the client onboarding a seamless process that begins with an explanation of the entire journey and the various teams involved at each stage. In this field, design thinking and flawless planning are critical for success,” shares Dhaval. Concept, schematic, 3Ds, and detailed designs are then completed, as well as the discovery and approval of materials and sample designs, client workshops for shop drawings, factory tours, and on-site visits until snagging and handover.
Designsmith offers hundreds of material samples to select from, a team of 500+ skilled workers at their manufacturing facility, and an ever-growing team of experienced designers and project managers who are capable of delivering luxury residential projects, highend commercial and retail spaces, new and established F&B concepts and bespoke hospitality needs. Dhaval says: “Our clients do not have to deal with the inconvenience of corresponding with numerous external partners and vendors. The entire project is managed by a dedicated team of designers and project managers.
The design and build industry is thriving in the region, and Designsmith’s in-house capabilities set them apart. Mihir explains: “The execution of vision into reality with design and build firms has rightfully empowered clients in the region. The ease of communication, execution, and overall project management provided by a design and build organisation is highly undervalued and immensely valued by our clients.” “Having both design and build capabilities in-house has also ensured that companies consistently strive for not only more functional and unique designs, but also for how they can be sourced and created in a sustainable and efficient manner,” adds Dhaval.
As the Creative Director, Mihir welcomes the complex challenges that come his way. He says: “The most exciting aspect of running and building Designsmith is taking on demanding projects and learning something new with each one. We are both action-oriented people, so while we celebrate our accomplishments, we are always working on the next stage of our growth and expansion.” While Mihir has a positive outlook on the region’s design industry, he believes it will take some time before the sector fully matures. “The real estate industry is still growing at a rapid pace, so the design industry must also be quick to adapt and implement emerging best practices. I think we are still in the early stages in becoming a more holistic design and build industry.” There’s a lot of talk about AI and other technologically advanced practices, but has it made its way into the design industry? Dhaval comments: “There is definitely more awareness and discussion about spaces built in harmony with technology and AI, but I don’t believe many of these have yet translated into projects. The potential applications of machine learning and AI in construction and build are vast but we are yet to see these being implemented on scale.” Mihir echoes: “As a studio, we embrace technology as a means of delivering our creative ideas and vision. From project walk-throughs instead of static 3D designs to creating AR versions of concepts to build an extended reality, we use immersive technology to bring our human-centric designs to life.”
For this young and dynamic duo, every day is a new learning experience. Also, both Mihir and Dhaval recognise the importance of surrounding themselves with like-minded individuals to achieve success and draw strength from the team. Dhaval says: “I believe that each project provides us with an opportunity to learn not only from our mistakes, but also to recognise and repeat our successes. Furthermore, as we expand, adding people with the right attitude and skills to the team has proven critical in maintaining our organisations culture. The team thrives in the ambience of an ownership based model provided at Designsmith. This isn’t the norm in the industry locally is why we see such a large churn rate in designers and project managers. ” The studio is currently working on some incredible projects. Two that stand out are a restaurant for a globally acclaimed chef in Al Qasr – Jumeirah and the design and build of a highly prestigious office space for a semi-government entity in DIFC. Both are bespoke concepts that shine light on how they combine their creative and execution capabilities as a one stop shop. Mihir shares: “While we love luxury residential projects because they allow us to be creative at larger budgets while exploring architecture as well, the team enjoys the functionality and aesthetic planning around UX and human-centric design in F&B and commercial projects.”
The Sanganee brothers, Mihir and Dhaval, have an impressive body of work and experience, but what sets them apart from the crowd is their eagerness to learn, explore, and achieve more.
Mihir announces his plans with optimism. “We want to maintain our incredible growth as a studio while also serving clients in new markets throughout the region. We are also looking forward to opening new offices in Saudi Arabia and India this year, as well as continuing to work with partners and clients in Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain.” Talent is something that’s also pivotal in their growth outlook. “The UAE is rich with incredible global as well as local talent. We have been supporting home-grown designers and will always continue to do so. The UAE is the perfect place to nurture these relationships in order to build a more robust, sustainable design and build industry in the UAE,” signs off Dhaval.