Satya Rajpurohit cannot imagine a life without fonts. When he married his interest in Indian languages to his design expertise, ITF, a design firm redefining typography in Indian languages was born. Back in 2009, there were no type foundries specialising in Indian fonts. But ITF got its first big break in 2011 when Star Plus licensed one of their fonts. Today, with a clientele that includes Star TV, Apple, Google, Samsung, Starbucks, Amazon, Sony, and the Leela Hotels, the ITF is writing a revolution, one letter at a time. Satya Rajpurohit talks to Fortune India about how it all began and what is his new Netflix for fonts that has him all excited for the coming year.
How did it all start for you?
During my third year, I got to do an internship in Germany at a place called Linotype. They design fonts. I had never heard of such a thing before. There weren’t any companies in India that specialise in designing fonts back then. Later, I thought why not start a Type Foundry in India? We have 300 fonts now.
What were your initial challenges?
Since there were no type foundries in India, there was no market at all in India. I started working with Peter Bilak, a well-known type designer from the Netherlands. I designed Hindi fonts for one of his English font families. When I started ITF, we did not get any projects for two-and-a-half years. I was on my own. I got my first project in 2011 for Star India. They licensed one of our fonts.
What is Kohinoor?
Indian languages are very complex to design. They need a lot of technical knowledge. And there are so many languages. It’s very difficult to design a font family that supports almost all the languages. Kohinoor is a font family that supports all the 11 official Indian languages. I can read and write five languages. That’s why I came up with this idea to have a font family. The idea behind Kohinoor was that no matter what language you use, you can use any of the fonts of visually the same texture. We built it for Apple because it was the first brand to license an entire font family. This is the only project from India that has been permanently displayed in London design museum.
How can designers use your Indian fonts?
It works in two ways. One, we have a design library where we design fonts and make them available for people to buy online. People can license them also. We also have custom fonts where brands come up with their own briefs and we design exclusively for them.
What next for ITF?
If I am to scale this, I need to create a market place…something like a Netflix for fonts where other people can also sell their fonts. That’s why I created a new global company called Fontstore based in Singapore. We launched 100 Latin fonts last year. It’s for the international market. Right now fonts are very expensive for an individual designer. Globally, there are many font retail stores, but they don’t have a subscription business model. We launched a subscription service for designers and companies. One can pay the subscription cost and accordingly use our fonts in the library. I am excited to scale it up and we are massively working on expanding our library.