End-to-end construction project platform QwikSpec addresses on-site challengesAparajita Choudhury
The QwikSpec app aggregates data from all stakeholders on a construction project site, and provide insights that lower cost, save time, and improve quality. Set up in 2015, the Bengaluru-based startup claims to have grown its revenue by a whopping 525 percent from the previous year.
Ajith Alexander, 45, set out on the corporate path as he worked with companies like Cisco, McKinsey and Nakheel Group, but his upbringing in Kottayam, Kerala, always brought back memories of his father, an entrepreneur with an SME business in the rubber industry.
Over time, Ajith found that could he easily connect with business operations, employment generation, the ups and downs of an entrepreneur’s life, and the legacy one leaves. For at heart, the boy who did his schooling from Corpus Christi High School, got a B-Tech degree in electronics from NIT Calicut and completed an MBA from Asian Institute of Management, Manila, believed in entrepreneurship.
It took him a while to step on the entrepreneurial path but he did with a friend, Roby Kurien. In January 2015, the duo started QwikSpec, an end-to-end real-estate site operations platform.
The Bengaluru-based startup addresses on-site challenges faced by project teams by bringing transparency to all stakeholders in the construction process, including contractors, sub-contractors and customers. They handle projects across the entire lifecycle of construction, from excavation to handover.
With over 120 projects and more than 10 million data-points, QwikSpec claims to have doubled its monthly revenues in the last six months.
The startup has more than 15 clients as of now, including Tata Housing, Mahindra Lifespaces, Brigade Group, Mantri Developers, Prestige Group, Omkar Developers and Vaswani Group.
Operations platform for construction industry
While working in McKinsey in Singapore as a management consultant, Ajith had to deal with clients from energy sector. This drew his attention to challenges the company faced in getting real-time data from sites despite in-house IT applications. The lack of data affected timeliness and the accuracy of decision-making.
When he moved to the real-estate sector with Nakheel Group, Dubai, to head their strategy team, he encountered a similar problem. Data from project sites was never available on time to the management. He returned to India with Cisco where he handled business development for smart cities and interacted with many real-estate developers. Most of them cited operational in-efficiency as a pain point.
“These experiences were the origin for the idea of building an operations platform for the construction and infrastructure industry to provide real-time data and analytics.”
He went on to reconnect with Roby Kurien, his classmate from engineering college, who brought close to 15 years of experience in the IT industry. Formerly associated with Motorola, Kyocera Wireless and Sirf Technologies, Robby also had an entrepreneurial streak – he ran an adventure tourism company, Muddy Boots, for five years till he exited for a new challenge.
The duo started with a seed capital of Rs 20 lakh obtained from friends and family.
On how they acquired the first customer, Ajith says that during a business trip in early 2015 he met an ex-colleague who was head of operations with a leading real-estate developer. He spoke of the challenges he was facing to monitor a large portfolio of projects and ensure that his products were delivered on time.
Ajith shared the concept of QwikSpec and the former quickly agreed to be a pilot customer for the platform.
How QwikSpec tackles pain points
Ajith says the real-estate construction industry in India is facing several pain points.
“These include project delays (60 percent of all projects are delayed), consumer complaints (80 percent of consumer complaints relate to real estate), and the advent of new legislation in the form of Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA). With RERA, there is increased focus on transparency, timeliness and quality of projects with tough penalties for not meeting standards,” he says.
The QwikSpec mobile app helps developers reduce complexities in the construction of large projects by automating monitoring and supervision of processes. It enables contactors to raise work completion requests during the finishing stage and allows project engineers to verify and approve. This allows daily monitoring of site work based on real-time data and helps decrease work slippages.
During the handover stage, pre-delivery inspections by multiple engineers are done on the app along with customer inspections and customer satisfaction surveys.
Ajith says automating this stage provides a 30-40 percent time savings for site engineers.
The app also captures data from builders, contractors, project management companies and consultants, offering predictive analytics to developers on cascading project delays.
Building on the platform’s success
SaaS platform QwikSpec charges customers based on the size of the project and the module being deployed. With an employee strength of 20 people spread across technology, business development, customer support and services, the platform manages more than 120 projects currently.
According to data released by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the construction development sector in India received Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) equity inflows to the tune of US$ 24.28 billion in the period April 2000 to December 2016.
QwikSpec recently raised Rs. 3.5 crore in funding from a consortium of investors led by Brigade Innovations. Other investors in the consortium included Manipal Global Education chairman Mohandas Pai, Asset Builders’ Director Suhail Rahman, Bobby Reddy of Indus Group, and UAE-based private investor M George Oommen.
Interestingly, around the time when they were contemplating raising funds they heard that Brigade Group was launching a real-estate focused accelerator program. Ajith and Roby applied and were selected in the first batch.
The company doesn’t have too much competition in India, as of now. But Aconex, an Australia-based online web collaboration, document management and project management software for construction, engineering and facility management firm, is a player to watch out for.
Qwikspeck is, meanwhile, building on its strengths. The startup claimed to have achieved a revenue of Rs 50 lakh in the last financial year, which Ajith says is a 525 percent growth from the previous year. The founders are now keen to expand overseas, targeting mainly the Middle East and South East Asia, by the end of the current financial year.