In India, houses are cobbled together using local contractors and masons. Architects are rarely involved in the construction. Although this could lead to a severe compromise on the health and wellness of the occupants, Indian construction often skips the architecture step, leaving architects struggling to meet ends and buildings’ hazards. Vinay Kothari, Founder of Studio Trellis in Chennai, shares his experience with architecture and money. 

The Struggle

“When I started, most of the potential clients would shy away once they heard the fees,” says Vinay. “Software fees are exorbitant, which is perhaps the highest fixed cost”, he notes. Land in India, especially in cities, is so expensive today that if at all a person manages to buy a piece of it, they feel like they won a long battle and are left with no funds or resources to hire an architect to get their home designed. The real issue could be in the lack of government support. “The government needs to make architects an integral and non-substituted part of any proposal and construction,” says Vinay. ‘With the latest judicial order, one can build without hiring an architect at all. Every project should have a display of the architect along with other information.”

While computer science graduates are offered packages ranging from 13 Lakhs to 20 Lakhs (CTC), architects struggle to even get a job that pays 5000 INR per month. “We are not allowed to advertise, not allowed to have big signages just like other professions, but unlike other professionals, we do not have conglomerates who can absorb the young talent that graduates every year,” he adds. Speaking of the challenges he faced in founding an architectural practice of his own, he says “finding work is difficult, rather, finding work that pays you for your skill is lacking. Patience is key, just like in any business, but perhaps a lot more is required in this profession.”

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A Payment Status Seal Depicted by Pinclipart_©Pinclipart

Post-Graduation for Money

Using Masters’ programs to steer to new fields is a popular go-to amongst architecture graduates. Construction Management and Interior Design are popular choices for this not because the students pursue these careers but because architects in India are notoriously paid low. Architects are amongst the most highly trained professionals, yet, unlike their counterparts, they are paid much less than average. “I believe architects are one of the least paid professionals in the country. Astonishingly, our salaries (being skilled professionals) are lesser than even unskilled laborers”, says Vinay. The field goes begging when similar professions, for example, Civil/Structural Engineering or Mechanical/Product Design, seem to offer better opportunities to make money. “MNCs pay better when compared to studios and regular architectural practices. But that number is minuscule which cannot absorb the architects graduating each year,” adds Vinay.

Larsen & Toubro and Saint Gobain are amongst the top MNCs hiring architects, but the requirement is much lower than other fields. Green building architects and landscape architects are among the highest-paid architects. 

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An Architect at Work_©Home Stratosphere
Student Protest_©NBCNEWS

Distinct Designs is the Key

Owing to the lack of architect jobs, most graduates shift to other creative fields. We can see several Indian architects pursuing sports, performing arts, and music as full-time careers after graduating from architecture. A saddening number of architects are also forced to do jobs they have no interest in or join their family businesses, just for the money. Graduates also pivot to IT companies, 3D visualization, and digital marketing. Although there isn’t any clear-cut path or a proven method to earn substantial money as an architect, a handful of architects have made it to being stinging rich. They made striking deals with real estate developers while others just looked for enough to live comfortably. From their stories, it’s pretty much clear that architects can’t make money easily unless they distinguish their designs in a way that can give them an edge over others, be consistent and establish useful links/connections with real estate developers. This takes time and experience. 

To architecture graduates, Vinay says, “It is important that one weighs passion and reality. If you are willing to be patient and learn in the process, one feels content to see their project built. But when the monetary compensation for the same is considered, it might put you down. To make more money, thoroughly explore the profession and alternatives as well. We get emotional about having studied this course for five years, but the real earnings would most likely start only after another five years. Play on your strengths and constantly keep upskilling yourself.”

Author

Sowmya is an architectural journalist and writer. In this column, Sowmya takes you through stories on eco-architecture, biophilic design, and green buildings from across the globe.

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