According to Prasoon Shrivastava, today’s architectural and interior designs project the sheer inefficiency of the sector in India. He feels that the industry needs a new perspective towards both design and execution.
37-year-old Prasoon, a graduate in architecture and planning from Mumbai University, has worked on sustainability projects for many years. In 2008, he was a LEED AP from the US Green Building Council.
In 2010, he returned to India, and observed the sector rife with incompetence. During the initial years, his focus was primarily on projects located in central India, and he was involved in the design of many residential, commercial and institutional projects.
Addressing a need in the market
Over the years of working on several kinds of projects of varying scale, he found that the industry needed a new perspective towards design and execution.
During these years, he also realised that the construction industry was highly disintegrated and that there was a need to introduce a social ecosystem where consumers could relate their experiences and tap new ideas and trends. There was a need to educate and share knowledge with people on how they could enhance their spaces and make good and functional use of them. This gave rise to the idea of starting a venture of his own in 2014.
Inspiring customers with design
In February 2015, Prasoon launched HelpMeBuild, a technology-centric platform with a managed multi-vendor marketplace focusing on interior design and architecture-related ideas. It helps users with the right set of tools through its content, commerce, community and integrated project solutions, enabling them to stay informed and actively participate in the process of decision making when designing and building their spaces
“We enable users to draw inspiration through visual and written content on residential and commercial designs, allowing them to take informed decisions. Home owners and corporates get inspired by the numerous décor styles, ranging from mid-century to modern and contemporary, and how to incorporate them in their homes and offices. They can ask questions, make comments, like the ideas, and share them with their family, friends and consultants to take better decisions related to construction and remodeling of their spaces,” says Prasoon, CEO of HelpMeBuild.
Sustainability and a broad reach
Prasoon was a part of India’s Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment. He is also a partner at Arkiplan International, and has worked extensively in green buildings and sustainable design on several projects across India, the Middle East, East Africa and the Carribean.
He adds that from home owners to established design professionals, HelpMeBuild aims to create value for each stakeholder through providing full-stacked services.
The platform is currently delivering furniture and décor products to more than 1,000 pin codes. It has teams, partners and affiliates for execution, and they work on projects across both India as well as certain international locations like the US, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa.
HelpMeBuild has a team of 25 people, dedicated to different departments like technology, content management, operations, design, administration and accounting.
Selling products and content
According to Prasoon, there are more than 10,000 signed up users registered on the platform. These users are updated regularly through newsletters about interior design and architectural ideas.
Through a multi-vendor marketplace and turnkey design build solutions, he has created a strong revenue model.
He claims that in the FY 2015-2016, HelpMeBuild saw an annual turnover of Rs 80 lakh. In FY 2016-2017, the startup aims to rake in revenues to the tune of Rs 10 crore.
“We are aiming to acquire one million users within this financial year. We also plan to expand into overseas markets. We believe in customer satisfaction, whether it is online buying or offline turnkey projects, which will help us in lead generation through online as well as offline activities,” says Prasoon.
Furniture: A competitive industry
According to a Redseer Consulting report, the home furniture industry in India was worth $25 billion in 2016, with the online furniture industry alone making up $250 million of that amount. Both numbers are going to increase exponentially by 2020. The furniture industry is expected to grow to $35 billion , and the online section within this category will reach up to a size of $700 million.
In India, Pepperfry, Urban Ladder, Livspace, Furlenco, Homefuly and many others are offering furniture and décor products and design build solutions.
The industry is now seeing a lot of action, with more players coming in with innovative business models.
Launched in 2012, Pepperfry, a managed home furnishings marketplace, has so far raised $128 million. Four-year-old Urban Ladder has raised $77 million across four rounds of funding.
Furniture is one of those few categories in e-commerce where quality and design trump discounts. Younger players like Livspace, Woodenstreet, Homefuly and furniture rental startup Furlenco are all establishing themselves in the sector. Horizontal players like Snapdeal also find the furniture category generating high revenue and margins.