Being a business administration graduate working as a stock broker, it wasn’t long before Naresh Patel, now 36, began to feel listless. His work failed to challenge him, and he began toying with the idea of starting out on his own. Luckily for him, he lived under the same roof as an invaluable resource for all things wood – none other than his elder brother, 37-year-old Alpesh Patel, who has been in the woodworks industry for over a decade. When his itch and Alpesh’s flair met with Vipul’s firsthand experience of dealing with the chasm in the interior decoration market, the trio knew just how to remodel 'The Roots' of this sector.
The house warming party of their startup
The brothers had already spent a decade being business partners, at their 2004 venture Veneer World – a choice that was made considering veneers were exceptionally fashionable in the home décor industry in the early 2000s.
In 2014, the two met their friend Vipul at his house-warming party. Over an animated conversation discussing his interior décor, he told them how difficult it had been for him to find the right materials and designs for his home. Even though his house was ready, the 32-year-old still wasn’t completely satisfied with the end result. Naresh says, “Over the course of the conversation we realised there was a distinct gap in the market. Designers in India have to compromise with whatever materials are available locally, and end consumers have to shell out huge amounts of money to buy their material of choice. Consumers had little to no access to information about the different surface textures and stone products available, and almost all the suppliers in the space were in the local and unorganised sector.”
Aiming to fill this visible gap, they conceptualised The Roots in 2014, as an ecosystem to provide architects, interior designers and end consumers access to unmatched product know-how and world-class materials under one roof.
They also roped Vipul in, to take The Roots to the e-commerce arena as a co-founder and CTO. Vipul brought with him over eight years of experience in e-commerce.
Renovating the home-decorating experience
The Roots wants to leverage the digital platform to transform the woodworks industry into a well-organised trade with the help of technology and digital marketing platforms.
The Roots is an ecosystem for interior décor products like furniture, décor finishes and raw material supplies, in the online as well as the offline space. Their business model is such that they have divided their studio into two sections – online, which will be up and running in two weeks with virtual reality headsets for the more savvy of the lot, and offline, which will hold physical stocks of their products. Once the consumer enters the studio, he holds an option of having either or both the experiences.
The customer can select a room pattern that resembles their own, and pick products to display on the makeshift walls to get an idea of how a product will look and feel. They can then design this room, using their technology and the portfolio of products they have on offer. Once they like what they see, The Roots promises to recreate it. The startup operates three studios, two in Ahmedabad and one in Mehsana, Gujarat.
Finding the leak
All of the firm's natural goods come with both a warranty and a guarantee, making the experience hassle-free for the customer. “This is a one-of-a-kind offering and we do our best to ensure transparency and trust,” says Naresh.
As their business is both B2B and B2C, the startup has two target audiences - architects and interior designers and the DIY lot that is in the process of renovating their house.
“Though urban consumers are well read and aware of what we have to offer, we want to tap into the growing Tier II and III markets. Also, the way payments work in our industry is a challenge. Having said that, each sector goes through a transformation and we are clear that we want to drive this paradigm shift,” says Naresh of their teething problems in the space.
Building doors for opportunities to knock
But in the larger picture, things are falling into place. At an estimate, this industry would be valued at over Rs. 10,000 crore across India and Naresh predicts a 10-percent compounded growth year on year. “Our industry is closely tied with the real estate industry. The rising GDP has led to an increased purchasing power, leading to many new home owners interested in making their house a home. Taking this into consideration, the home décor industry will grow by leaps and bounds in the coming few years,” he adds.
With over 2,000 products listed on their website, they are in the process of signing on partners that will push the listings to 5,000. Some of these would be Greenlam, Sundek India Limited, Timex Veneer, Flexibond Umiya Flexifoam Pvt Ltd – Aluminium Composite Panel. In the two years since they started up, they have built a strong market presence in Gujarat. With a steady 30-percent growth month-on-month since their inception, they are targeting Rs 10 to 15 crore in revenues at the close of this year. In the next four months, they will expand to Surat and Baroda, and eventually, the dream is to go pan-India.
Traditional players like Greenlam and Centuryply are trying to make their presence felt in the virtual space with digital stores, while portals like Delhisales.in and buildingsolutioners.com are also selling veneers and laminates in the flooring category - but The Roots does have a more extensive spread, across wider categories.