Little did Parikshat Hemrajani know, when his mother and he decided to revamp their living room, that it would make an entrepreneur out of him.
This Rutgers University trained engineer with an MBA from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, was bewildered by how cumbersome it was to zero in on the right interior designer. From calling up friends and family members for references to collecting portfolios of designers, everything ate up time.
This was “a complex but very interesting problem to solve” and the solution would “act as a disruptive force in a very fragmented, offline and unorganized interior design/architecture industry”, Parikshat concluded after one of his lengthy chats with his ISB college-mate, Pankaj Poddar, who has an MS in computer science from Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA. Pankaj had always dreamt of starting up and it didn’t take the duo long to kick-off Dwll.in.
Dwll.in is a curated network of 175 well-qualified designers across India. Consumers who want their spaces to be designed or renovated can reach out to multiple designers on this network and submit their requirements. Designers would then respond with their concepts, and consumers can hire the one they like the most. “We listen to your ideas, connect you to right designers and help you achieve design awesomeness,” that is the Dwll.in promise.
When YourStory first wrote about Dwll.in a year ago, Pankaj and Parikshat were taking their baby steps into entrepreneurship, exploring the interior designing space. Since then, they have grown by leaps and bounds. They also became part of The Morpheus, one of the oldest and most respected accelerators in India.
Dwll.in got a boost when they signed a partnership with Bajaj Finserv Lending, under which 24 designers from their platform would provide interior design consultation as a value-added service for Bajaj’s home loan consumers. “It is a fixed-fee design consultation product that we created for them, a brand new idea in the market. Nobody else is offering anything similar,” Pankaj says. This offer is currently live in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune. Dwll.in is in talks with other online and offline players in the home décor segment for collaborations.
Although they have now landed projects amounting to INR 3 crores and new projects are coming in everyday, Pankaj and Parikshat found it tough to build traction initially.
Being one of the first startups in this space comes with pluses and challenges. “While the first mover advantage helps you in charting the course without any pre-established notions, it comes with its own set of challenges in terms of finding and bringing the right designers under a single umbrella,” Pankaj says.
In fact, they face challenges from both the ends: consumers as well as designers. “There are multitudes of contractors in the industry who call themselves ‘designers’. Their modus operandi usually involves a multi-page ‘portfolio’ and the promise that they can make your place ‘look exactly like one of the pictures in the portfolio’. Lack of education, coupled with lack of transparency, has increased the level of distrust in the industry. We are trying to address it,” Pankaj says.
Another hurdle is that renovating a house with the aid of a designer is often perceived as a luxury. “This is because the designers that are referred by friends and family are those who do not work under budget requirements,” he says. “Since we started Dwll.in, we have had quite a handful of people who reach out to us with a budget of INR 2-5 lakhs.”
To help alleviate concerns consumers tend to have before hiring a designer, Dwll.in gets them a few ‘design concepts’ from the designers of their choice. “The aim of the design concept is to convey to the consumer (through images and words) the vision that the designer has for their space. The consumer can also meet the designer in person and have a discussion further to the submission of the concept before they are comfortable with a designer to go ahead and hire,” Pankaj says.
Projects on Dwll.in range from INR 2 lakhs to INR 1.5 crore across multiple spaces, including apartments, villas, office spaces, hotels and so on, in Mumbai, Delhi (NCR), Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Vijaywada and Goa. The current average project budget is INR 7 lakhs.
They are currently looking to expand and create an in-house technology team and are looking to hire a senior developer.
What do you think of this use of digital technology to solve an everyday problem? Share your thoughts with us.