How Bharathi Kamath built a multi-crore facilities management firm

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Spending a significant portion of her early career in the hospitality division at India’s legacy luxury hotels, Bharathi Kamath saw how the upkeep of infrastructure and hygiene was instrumental in ensuring a good experience for guests. However, given that glamour is often placed on guests’ entertainment, the effort that goes into the upkeep of the infrastructure often went unnoticed. “My experience at Taj Hotels and ITC Windsor were amazing learning experiences, not just in upkeep and maintenance but they also opened my eyes to how the world of business worked,” says Bharathi.

That led her to starting Carewel, a facilities management business in Bengaluru in 1995.

“The idea of starting a services business was an organic one, though taking the entrepreneurial route after a long corporate stint was not the easiest decision or experience. But, it definitely felt the right thing to do,” she recalls. After starting the business with a personal investment of Rs 5 lakh, Bharati was instrumental in growing the business single-handedly.

In about two decades, Carewel grew to become a multi-crore revenue firm supporting a 750+ strong workforce. However, the COVID-19 pandemic came as a huge blow, given that the hospitality industry was among the most impacted sectors. “Through the last nine months, we have weathered through almost a full shutdown of our core business clients,” says the entrepreneur. She explains that the business survived by pivoting and disrupting quickly. “This was a test for survival. But, it also made us recalibrate our business model and make positive changes.” The pivot saw Carewel starting two new sub-verticals - pest control and electro-mechanical services.

Today in addition to offering services for upkeep and maintenance of corporate sites, Carewel provides auxiliary services that include landscape maintenance, indoor plant rental, pest/rodent control, sanitisation & fumigation, upholstery and carpet shampooing, electro-mechanical services and one-time cleaning of all categories of sites. “We are also in the nascent stage, where we are looking to venture into providing professional domestic help for households,” shares Bharathi. If anything, Bharathi was instrumental in not just helping the business survive but also ensured that the business’ revenue did not suffer a huge setback even amidst market volatility.

Bharathi says it’s taken two and a half decades of hard work and dedication for Carewel to build its image as a local professional vendor that operates at the same or better level than any global player. While the journey so far has not been easy, Bharathi believes that the journey ahead will continue to test and strengthen the company’s growth. “We are looking to become technology-enabled and look at a revamped leadership structure to grow the company. So far, we have been a B2B business, we are also trying to build on our B2C model with the home services division, which we launched recently. This will help us be better equipped to weather market volatility in the long run.”

Her induction into Xcelerator Bangalore, an accelerator programme for non-IT businesses by Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME) in partnership with ecosystems players like Ubuntu, FKCCI, KSFC, among others, couldn’t have come at a better time. “From helping us understand the dynamics of scaling a labor intensive business to building efficient and productive teams and strategic partnerships and designing new business and customer acquisition strategies, these are some of the areas that I believe that the Xcelerator Bengaluru will play a defining role for us.” She adds, “However, what I am really excited about is how the Xcelerator Programme will be instrumental in building a strong network of support system that champions women entrepreneurs of Bengaluru.”

Xcelerator Bangalore aims at accelerating the growth of women-owned, non- IT businesses in Bengaluru. It provides support to the women entrepreneurs to learn, collaborate and network with various stakeholders through a multitude of workshops, learning and mentoring sessions. This series highlights the work of 24 women entrepreneurs who will be participating in the first cohort of the Xcelerator Bangalore programme.

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