Smarthome NX was founded with the purpose of helping homeowners discover and adopt technology that will improve their lives.
Startup: Smarthome NX
Founders: Dhaval Doshi
Year it was founded: 2017
Where is it based: Mumbai
The problem it solves: Home automation through smart home solutions
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
Home automation and smart home devices are anyone's dream, because of the flexible, convenient, single-touch access to several electric and electronic appliances. With smart home solutions, one could control the temperature of a room, dim the entire lighting system, turn a geyser on or off, and so on.
Three years ago, when Dhaval Doshi was in the process of buying and installing smart home devices for his home, he was exasperated. He saw that there is plenty of information available online, but the content was more geared towards techies and international users and not so much for the Indian audience.
"I wanted to help customers discover and adopt smart home solutions that would do all their research before investing in this category. That’s how Smarthome NX was conceived."
With the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution already in place for some time now, the company's mission is to inspire consumers to reinvent homes using new technology. "Unfortunately, adopting this new technology is not easy as there are too many products available and the marketplace is very scattered," says Dhaval.
Based out of Mumbai, the company was founded in June 2017. The startup was completely bootstrapped by Dhaval and he claims that the revenue has doubled since inception.
"I founded this company immediately after I quit my stint at a digital advertising agency in April 2017. Currently, we are a slim team of six people, including the marketing and partnerships team, content writers, social media and we intend to be small, nimble and not hire too many too soon," he explains.
The first set of customers were organic. The website is optimised accordingly for the search engines and with the content promotion consistently active on social media and email, customers often reached out to Smarthome NX, inquiring about availing its services.
Dhaval says there were two kinds of people inquiring - those inquiring for dealerships of smart home products and, second, serious system integrators.
"Our first set of system integrators (solvers) who joined our network came purely through cold calls. I reached out to many system integrators myself to explain to them what we are trying to do. Everyone loved the idea and we were able to convert some of them into paying customers soon."
Interested customers (typically new homeowners and architects) can engage with the company to get free consulting about its specific home automation requirements. Dhaval's team translates the same into product specifications and pass it on to its network of 'solvers'. Solvers are essentially system integrators (home automation consultants) or manufacturers who can take up this kind of a project and execute the same for the homeowners.
The company currently has about more than 200 solvers across multiple cities in India, generating more than Rs 1 crore worth of qualified project inquiries for its network of solvers. "We are also beginning with the campaigns part of our business (media sales) where we are helping new companies go to market through our platform," he said.
Speaking of the operational model, Dhaval says that his audience reads the content written by his editorial team and then connects with the team if a product or solution interests them. Smarthome NX has a team of consultants who, under the guidance of its consulting architects and subject matter experts, speak to the end customers and consult them.
"We take our customers through a detailed questionnaire to gauge their seriousness and explain to them everything about smart home automation. Next, we match them to our solver in that area or tap new solvers from that area who would be keen to join our platform."
The marketing and partnerships manager then reaches out to the solvers and explains them the model. Once they sign up, they start seeing the projects. The company makes revenue in multiple ways: membership fee from the solver network, and commissions on select projects and advertising. "Advertising is vastly untapped but we plan to do more of this as we ramp up traffic on our website," Dhaval says.
There are several marketplaces for vendors to sell their goods. While ecommerce companies like Amazon can sell DIY products well, it is not possible to sell a solution over the internet, according to Dhaval.
"The vast majority of sales of smart security locks, integrated smart lighting solutions and any advanced smart home solution requires a system integrator to guide, plan, design and implement it. Moreover, in an unfamiliar category like this, us Indians will not buy anything on face value; one would like to read, research, get a demo and then take a call.”
He notes that their biggest challenge has been to find innovative products that are designed for the Indian market and that would truly solve problems of their customers. “Most of the solutions available in the market are either ‘me-too’ systems or are geared towards the luxury market. We have found that there is a large population that is evolved and has a substantial budget but they do not find quality solutions. Therefore, we are always on the lookout for quality solutions at a reasonable price with a unique proposition," he adds.
On future plans, he says, "We are looking to disrupt the way consumers build their homes and this time we will go beyond just the smart homes category."