Veteran investor and entrepreneur Srikanth Iyer ventures into interior design with HomeLane
Buying a house is one thing, making it a home is another. After Srikanth Iyer bought a house he had barely heaved a sigh of relief when he realized that furnishing his house was a different ball game altogether. As most Indians are low on DIYs, we end up relying on carpenters and interior designers to give shape to our vision of a dream home. And that in one word spells ‘trouble’.
Like Srikanth, his four other friends had also faced the same problem -- the daily hassle of dealing with carpenters, getting exact fixtures for the kitchen and wardrobes, and getting all the elements to come together just the way they wanted. When five men face the same problem, they usually end up finding a solution. So Srikanth and his four partners decided to put an end to this problem with their venture HomeLane. They are creating a first organized tech-based solution for semi-furnishing market in India, pegged to be close to $10 billion in market size this year.
HomeLane follows a hybrid model. While you can chose the designs, fixtures and customized fittings online, its delivery to your home is done by HomeLane’s operations team. All this is layered with a strong tech support to ensure seamless user experience. Srikanth says,
Getting a house furnished has clearly been a big pain point in India. On one hand the whole market is fragmented, while on the other, there’s hardly any transparency as far as transactions are concerned. A consumer’s mindset is how to cut loses and move into the house with whatever work has been done. The general quip being ‘kitnakumuloobanoo’ (how to avoid being fooled). We bring in transparency and solve this nagging customer pain point.
CEO & Co-founder Srikanth Iyer is a veteran entrepreneur, who in his words, “thrives doing a startup.” He co-founded Edurite Technologies and later went on to become the CEO of Pearson India. The other partners in HomeLane include, Rama Harinath, who looks after sales & marketing, Vivek M.P, the design guy, Prabhu Venkatesh, who heads operations, and Srini Battula, who leads on technology. The founding team is high on experience and young on getting their hands dirty to construct a meaningful story with HomeLane. Srikanth says,
To tell you about the need for something like HomeLane, you have to understand that we come much early in the 'interior design food chain'. While there are e-commerce companies where you can get your ready-to-use furniture, getting your kitchen cabinet, wardrobe and entertainment space designed and constructed is still a painful task.You have to rely on a broken system, and we are aiming to ‘productise’ this space and create standardization of offerings and services. We are so excited because of the size of the opportunity available. Many people tell us, ‘it’s a difficult business’, but we believe there is a big opportunity too. Indian consumers deserve better treatment and offerings.
Go to HomeLane, choose what you want, maybe customize it according to your interest, and the team ensures that they make your request possible within 30 days of your final sign off. Now, that’s definitely a first of its kind. “This is the heart of our offerings; whatever you want done, we will do it for you within 30 days or else we will pay you rent!” says Srikanth with confidence. Isn’t it a tall claim, I ask? “No, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. If we are talking about changing the way things have been done so far, we need to prove it and win our customers. That’s the challenge, and that’s the fun,” he adds.
HomeLane is targeting the middle class market -- typically those buying their first home or second home to put on rent -- where houses come in the range of INR 40 lakhs to 1 crore. In the premium category there are international players like Veneta Cucine, but they don’t want to focus on that segment right now. “We are looking after the middle class that has to suffer the most at the hands of unorganized players.” HomeLane is gunning for target revenue of $1 million per month from April 2015. “See it’s a negative working capital business, we get advance from the customers, and with the vendors it’s a two-month credit cycle” says Rama Harinath. Little wonder, this startup has already started getting attention from investors. Meena and K. Ganesh are the seed investors, backing the idea from day one. According to VivekDesign and technology is the backbone of our venture. We ensure that the customer gets a daily update of the work being done in her house. She can monitor the progress remotely (it is being done through Whatsapp, and HomeLane’s own app is round the corner) and be assured of quality and more importantly safety.
"We have trained staff to do the work at the client’s house, who is accompanied by a site supervisor. We realize the sanctity of a home and ensure that the client gets a non intrusive yet a wow experience," says Prabhu, who is responsible for operations.