Meet Aku Zeliang from Nagaland, a young pioneer of Vertical Gardens in Northeast India

There is a saying, “Interior Design is making the best possible use of the available space” and Northeast India has a huge potential in the field of interior design owing to its spaciousness coupled with its natural beauty which could in turn to give a more natural and closeness towards nature.

Keeping this in mind, a young man from Nagaland — Aku Zeliang realised the potential of the region when it comes to interior designing and at a very young age (20), ventured into this profession with a simple goal in mind   — to create a niche for myself in the world of interior designing and to contribute towards the beauty and uniqueness of the Northeast region.

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In an exclusive interview with the TNT-The Northeast Today, Zeliang expressed his interest in tapping the untapped potentials of the Northeast region and expose the same to the world.

Alumni of Mayo College in Ajmer and Pearl Academy of Fashion in New Delhi, 25 years old Zeliang is the eldest son of renowned entrepreneur from the region, Jesmina Zeliang, who draws his inspiration from the surroundings and the different cultural designs which are similar in nature with those in the Northeast.

He attended Pearl Academy for only half and got admitted in Delhi School of Open Learning after which he came back home to Nagaland and started working a little earlier than others of his age.

He is also a national level horse rider, and learned riding at the age of 10 at Mayo College.

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The Journey

It all started when Aku was in the 6th grade. His exposure to the cultural designs through his mother has helped shaped and fueled his aspirations to become a designer.

His desire to do something different but in tune with the region led Aku to form his firm ‘Urra’ to further his career in this field. When he started off in 2012, he was the youngest interior designer from Northeast.

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“I have been doing this for the past 5 years. I got my first project in 2012,” he said adding that he has also been involved in other projects for clients like Nagaland petroleum Board, and many other companies and renowned personalities.

Achievement

It is worth mentioning that his firm is the first to introduce vertical gardens – green wall in Northeast for interiors and architecture and the first to start a Restro-Bar – Blacksheep- the 1st industrial themed bar in NE.

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Inspiration

“I travel a lot and it helped me get more ideas. I travel all around the country and South East Asia to look out for designs which will suit our environment in Northeast and I don’t like to work in a conventional way.”

Because of the exposures I had from my traveling abroad to attend different exhibitions like the Maison De Objet etc, I feel subconsciously this has honed my design skills and impacted my aesthetic senses.

When you see and are exposed to so  mcuh beauty around you, it’s but natural to imbibe.

“As of now, 3D printing is something that I am currently working on and hopefully introduce that soon into northeast for interiors and architecture,” he said.

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Nature of Clients

When asked about the nature of his clients, Aku said “I deal with all ages but it’s mostly the young clients who approach because what they like is modern concept which I know I can deliver. Sometimes, clients want a colonial look, which I try to implement it in the best possible way that I could.”

I’m open to suggestions and clients can call me or get in touch in with me at (urra.nagaland@gmail.com),

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Here and Beyond

His work is not limited to Nagaland and Northeast alone but it goes beyond the four walls of the region. Last year, after much research and surveying, Aku got the opportunity to showcase and implement his designs in Nepal.

“I try to make sense of the designs of all the 8 states and while I converge some of them, others I prefer giving a modern yet subtle look,” he said.

When asked about the scope in the region, Aku said “ The scope was very less half a decade back but now people’s mindset have changed, they aren’t hesitating to invest in interior designing. And talking about Northeast, there is no shortage of land, so it is easier and more creative to plan it out with the available space.”

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Challenges

There are different kinds of challenges that we as interior designers faces. First of all, we are logistically challenged, there are limited options for materials (flooring, paint, hardware fixture) and a lot of risk is involved. One also needs a strong network with designs manufacturing, export companies, “Without which, I think would have been slightly difficult to gather the resources, I feel personally.”

His perspective toward the Northeast goes like — Northeast is vibrant but it is not fully tapped. We need to see things from a different perspective. As I venture deeper into this profession, I also look at possibilities to converge traditional and modern designs.  As of now, I do contemporary – “Less is more” and I strongly believe in team work.

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Tapping the valuable resource — man-power (Young talents)

Innovatively, in 2015 Aku’s firm had sealed a deal with NID Ahmedabad whereby students working as interns are given the opportunity to express themselves in various ways, the same of which can be noticeable in their designs. “I hope that in the future, we can work hand in glove with more educational institutes across India because i think young and fresh talents have more innovative and creative ideas,” Aku expressed.

“I also believe in providing a platform for young people to showcase their talents. Because I feel there is a need to channelize their energy in a positive and progressive manner,” he said.

“I know it’s a long way to go. I want to take my business to the next level and to create a niche for myself in the global arena and also to revolutionize designs in Northeast.”

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The Softer side of his firm

Other than designing for big malls, houses, restaurants and office, Aku’s Urra is also engaged in a community service programme like giving back to the society. “With what I’m doing, I want to give back to the community and I’m doing that by educating underprivileged children,” he said.

Message

My message is simple: work hard, dedicate yourself to your work and make sure your work gets all the exposure. But the baseline is — real work, experience and field work is a must and one learns by trial and error.

ALSO READ: Meet Dibyajit Barooah from Assam, a pioneer of Green Building in Northeast India

ALSO READ: Meet Jesmina Zeliang, the woman who puts NE culture in the cultural map of the world

By Ibankyntiew Mawrie

(The writer can be reached at iban@thenortheasttoday.com)

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