Quite soon after he started studying metallurgical engineering at university, Mukul Goyal realised that the course wasn't for him. The problem, however, was that while he knew exactly what he didn't want to do, he wasn't really sure what he did want to do. He had always had an interest in art and design but, growing up in India in the 1980s and 90s, he had never really been encouraged to view these as viable career options. So he dutifully finished his degree and went off to build a career in engineering.
A year later, he quit his job and joined the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. On graduating from the institute, he experimented with various types of design, working with jewellery, leather and crafts, before finding his calling - product design. This encouraged him to further his studies and he went on to do a one-year stint at Milan's esteemed Domus Academy.
"Being at an academy like Domus, you were exposed to the best designers, so I got great first-hand experience of the industry," he recalls. "It also really makes you question who you are as a designer, so it was a real defining moment for me.
"Once I was done studying, it was a tough call but I decided to return to India. Milan is a great place for designers and an important place for young designers, but there are a lot more designers than there are opportunities. People have to apprentice at a very low level and have to pretty much work for free before they get a break. I realised that the kind of designer I was, I would do better in India. Based on my own design sensibilities, it was a better place for me. There wasn't really an established design industry in India at the time and there was no real benchmark for me to follow, but the great thing is that India is full of crafts and there is an amazing talent pool and skill set to work with."
Goyal returned to India and in 2005 launched his eponymous Mukul Goyal brand, a collection of quirky home accessories, along with his Tattva Art Hardware brand. "The Mukul Goyal brand was an outcome of some random experimental products and trial retailing through stores owned by friends," he explains. "The first initial offering under this brand was made in 2005, with about 20 products."
Goyal's workshop in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon now employs 200 people and his products are sold in 30 countries across the globe, including Australia, the US, Russia, Europe and South Africa. Europe is Goyal's largest market, followed by Australia. The US is just starting to pick up, which is "scary", he says, because it is such "a big and unforgiving market". In the UAE, Mukul Goyal products are stocked at www.dubaigifts.biz.
There is neat symmetry in the fact that the former metallurgical engineer's creations are made predominantly out of metal. "When I started out, metal was the most accessible material, with low experimental costs. Once I began, I continued and I have yet to tire of it. The challenges are endless," he says.
In Goyal's Gurgaon workshop, chromed and nickel-plated brass, stainless steel and black aluminium are shaped into deceptively simple looking serving bowls, ice cream scoops, bottle openers, trays, salt and pepper pots, napkin rings, clocks, candleholders and a whole host of other useful items.
Many of Goyal's creations feature basic, elementary manifestations of the human form and these are the products that have proven most popular with his global customer base. "The human form series is very successful. It's because they are easy to relate to. The human form in art is as old as human history and people see a little bit of themselves in these products. I think what makes my products unique is their ability to both surprise the users as well as emotionally connect with them."
For Goyal, one of the first products to encapsulate the brand's distinctive style was the ID Bookends, two simple human forms who lean nonchalantly, hands and legs spread, against the books they are supporting. "This was a product that helped me define for myself what I would like to share with the world. Since then we have continued exploring and expanded our offering. I never thought of a style when designing. But with the success of some products it was very tempting to add more. Our so-called 'style' is a result of that."
However, this distinct and highly-recognisable aesthetic can be a double-edged sword, Goyal admits. "I would like to break out of this style but people start to expect something from you - your brand starts to represent something. So you almost create a prison for yourself."
Nonetheless, having experimented with a host of different materials after his initial degree, Goyal is keen to revisit some old favourites. "We release a new range every year in January and our next collection is a combination of metal and ceramics," he says. "I always loved working with leather, so I would like to look at going back to leather."
While it took Goyal 14 long years to find his true calling and launch his own design brand, the wait seems to have paid off. "In retrospect, my career has been a series of serendipitous events which have led me to be where I am today," he says. "Everything fell into place eventually, but it's not necessarily how I designed it."
Check out Mukul Goyal's products at the Dubai Gifts stand (1A25) during the forthcoming Index exhibition, which is taking place from September 24 to 27 at the Dubai World Trade Centre
Meanwhile win vouchers worth up to Dh1,200 with the Homes R Us Facebook competition. It’s open to all and simple to enter. Just visit and like the Homes R Us Facebook page, enter your details via the dedicated app, print out your gift voucher and head off to your nearest Homes R Us store. The offer is valid until September 30.