Technology-enabled interior design

Technology-enabled interior design

Guided by serial entrepreneur Krishnan Ganesh, backed by Sequoia and Aarin Capital, and co-founded by Pearson India’s ex-CEO, Srikant Iyer, Bengaluru-based Homelane is on an aggressive growth path to make a dent on India’s interior design industry

MADHUMITA PRABHAKAR

(FROM LEFT TO RIGHT) SRIKANTH IYER, RAMA HARINATH K, PRABHU VENKATESH (COO), VIVEK M.P (CDO). AND SRINI BATTULA (CTO).

“If you have passion for an idea, believe that the idea will work, and are willing to forget the past failures and start from scratch, you’ll become a successful serial entrepreneur,” said Krishnan Ganesh once, during an interview with us. True to his words, after building and investing in a series of successful ventures from IT&T and Tutor Vista to the more recent Portea Medical and Big Basket, last year, Ganesh turned to a yet another niche market with a new business opportunity.

In August 2014, he and his wife Meena Ganesh acquired Bengaluru-based interior design firm Bello Interiors Pvt. Ltd and rebuilt it into Homelane (now a subsidiary of Homevista Décor and Furnishings Ltd), the online platform for fixed furniture. As a part of the acquisition, they roped in Srikant Iyer, ex-CEO of Pearson India, and Rama Harinath, an IIM-Bengaluru graduate as co-founders to the company. “The idea germinated through the personal experiences of each of the founding members. Each of us had a harrowing experience when doing interiors for our homes,” recalls Harinath.

So, what does Homelane do? The company offers fixed furniture for new and old homes and its main products include customised solutions for kitchen, lofts, entertainment units, show racks and more. “The main pain point of customers is timely delivery and quality of products. Added to this, the interior design industry is witnessing a big change due to evolution of technology and aspirations of the middle class,” he points out. Take a look at this number Harinath shares. This year alone, there are estimated to be one million new homes occupied by people across the country, and each family is estimated to spend Rs. 6 lakh on interior design. “Today, customers seek design and visualization from the comfort of their homes. We see a huge potential to grow in this space,” he adds.

The differentiator

Though the space offers a significant potential for companies to grow in, Harinath points out that the sector is largely unorganised. “Currently, the unorganised players serve 90 per cent of the market,” he says. The key challenges for the firm lie in standardising the quality and timelines, “We are working with several vendors to ensure that we deliver timely and quality furniture. That is one of the biggest things lacking in this sector,” he shares.

To tackle this, the company has inculcated quite a few interesting features, which also act as effective strategies to attract potential customers. For one, the company offers a 3D visualisation technology, which aids customers in visualising furniture in their home before purchasing it. “Usually, when it comes to products such as these, customers like to touch and feel the product before purchasing it. We are trying to tackle the lack of it with the use of technology,” he explains. Secondly, its brand promise is, the furniture will be delivered within 30 days, will come with a reactive and proactive maintenance and a warranty of five years. And lastly, to ensure just this and to reduce capital expenditure, it operates on an asset light model where it leverages the idle capacity of manufacturing units (owned by local carpenters), which fall into its quality parameters. “We don’t spend money on acquiring furniture, storing it and selling it to customers. Instead, we partner with manufacturing units and create a sale. That way, we are able to deliver the products within a specified and shorter period of time, and we reduce our capital expenditure significantly,” he states.

Fund raising

During the early stage, Homelane raised seed funding from Krishnan Ganesh and Meena Ganesh. “We have known both of them for many years. Having seen them scale businesses in a short span of time, we wish to replicate the same success with HomeLane,” shares Harinath.

In February 2015, the company raised a Series A round to the tune of US $4.5 million from Sequoia Capital and Mohandas Pai’s Aarin Capital. The funds from the round were primarily channelised towards building technology and expanding into new markets. “A key lesson we learnt during the fund raising process was that it is very important to prove the scalability of the model to ensure a successful fund raise,” he shares.

Looking ahead

With a current employee base of 230, Homelane fulfills an average of 100 orders a month across the cities it operates in and records a 50 per cent growth month on month. Keeping pace with this growth, in the next three years, it aspires to expand into the top 10 cities such as Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi/NCR and Pune. On a longer vision, with a strong backing from notable investors and advisors, in three years, it hopes to be a market leader in India’s home setup business.


Snapshot 

Homelane (Subsidiary of Homevista Décor and Furnishings Ltd)

Year: 2014

City: Bengaluru

Founders: Srikant Iyer and Rama Harinath

Concept: Offering online fixed furniture for old and new homes

Investors: Krishnan Ganesh, Meena Ganesh, Sequoia Capital, Aarin Capital

Employees on board: 230

Average orders per month: 100