[Startup Bharat] How Patna’s Thikedaar is leveraging AI & ML to make home construction hassle-free

Patna-based realestate tech startup Thikedaar’s founder Sujeet K Mishra decided to launch the business in his native town to understand the local market. The firm now provides services in Delhi-NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Bihar, and is all set to expand nationwide by 2023.
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Home construction is no cakewalk. It involves designing, planning, shortlisting, and sourcing materials, and budgeting, among other things. The process is not just complicated but also takes an ample amount of time, research, and knowledge.

The unorganised nature of the industry notwithstanding, Sujeet K Mishra and Jenie Singh decided they were up for the challenge of bringing order to the chaos. 

The duo launched Thikedaar (meaning contractor in Hindi) from Patna, Bihar, in May 2020, with the aim of digitising and bringing transparency to the entire process of pre-construction, right from material selection to payment gateways, as well as real-time updates for complete transparency.

In just two years, the platform has garnered over 2,700 registered users, and 1,40,000 monthly visits. According to its founder Sujeet, the number of users on the site has grown 450 percent year-on-year from 2020.

"Most of India’s individual houses are being constructed by traditional contractors. Due to a lack of knowledge, the whole process becomes very tough. People don’t get an idea of how the whole thing will come up; they are also misguided at multiple stages. And most importantly, they are dependent on semi-skilled contractors, resulting in an expensive, and prolonged construction process," Sujeet tells YourStory.

Sujeet, who hails from Patna, decided to launch the startup in his native place to understand the demand and local market. Now, he is planning to relocate its headquarters to New Delhi. Sharing the reason, Sujeet says, "We have to deal with building materials companies directly at their headquarters. It makes it difficult for us to manage various things from Patna. Delhi is well connected and easy to commute. We are also facing problems in convincing job applicants from Tier I cities and Tier I colleges to come to Patna and work for us."

The founders bootstrapped the startup with an initial investment of $5 million from personal savings.

How does it work?

Although the platform initially started with the idea of only providing a cost estimation,  multiple challenges forced the founders to build an end-to-end platform. It now provides architectural and structural inputs, constant site monitoring and supervision by technical personnel.

"Once a client books us, they select the building materials and once they are satisfied with the quote, we provide construction project management to them," states Sujeet.

After selecting the materials, customers need to pay 0.5 percent of the final construction amount to hold the price for a certain period. The rest of the amount can be paid stage-wise or as EMIs (equated monthly instalments).

Thikedaar's algorithm generates instant construction quotes based on factors including the geographical conditions (soil condition), choice of material, construction slab area, foundation type, and the number of storeys, among other things, before actually finalising any technical drawings. 

Additionally, the algorithm also helps predict a project’s expected date of completion. 

Young founders

Sujeet, 27, and Jenie, 24, were classmates during their undergraduate years at Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra. Later, Bimlendra Jha, former CEO and MD of Ambuja Cements and ex-CEO of Tata Steel, joined them at Thikedaar as director and advisor.

Before setting up his own venture, Sujeet worked with Jadooz, an entertainment startup, as a Project Lead and Consultant Architect. Later, he worked as a strategist, associate, and analyst for Prashant Kishor mentored I-PAC (Indian Political Action Committee).

"One day, I was sitting in the office, and it struck me that there should be a free digital platform where people can check permutations and combinations of construction materials with regards to their construction site and the number of floors, to observe how the construction cost will vary as per their chosen materials," states Sujeet.

Before Thikedaar, Jenie worked in the marketing team of organisations like Quick Ride, BYJU'S, and Estel Technologies.

The business of construction

Thikedaar has tied up with several listed construction materials companies. Whenever a customer selects materials via its platform, the startup gets a commission from the company. With the listed companies offering extra discounts to startups for promoting their brand, the latter can offer its customers better rates compared to the market.

Customers are charged based on per square foot, with prices ranging from Rs 899 per sqft. to Rs 3,000 per sqft, depending on factors like area, the number of floors, and construction material specifications/brand. 

To date, the startup has helped construct over 50 houses in Delhi, Pune, and Patna, claim the founders. It has about 80 houses under construction across Delhi-NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Bihar.

According to Sujeet, Thikedaar has generated around $9 million in revenue in FY 2021-22.

The live-tracking feature

Thikedaar leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to allow customers to track the progress of work in real-time. It also helps customers see a real-time view of the construction site for better transparency.

Each project has its own ID, generated at the time of booking. According to the founders, clients can go on the website and login with their user ID and password to see live footage of their construction site, as 360-degree cameras are installed on each of the sites.  

“These are installed in such a way that neighbours' privacy cannot be breached at any point in time,” says Sujeet.

"Our aim is to give our clients the joy of creation without getting involved in the hectic process. We wish to provide affordable ownership with architectural and structural engineering inputs, and peace of mind for homes, offices, and building complexes," says Sujeet.

The market and USP

India is on the cusp of an infrastructure boom. According to Statista, the Indian construction sector was valued at $ 2.7 trillion in January 2022. The industry is expected to witness a CAGR of over 10 percent during 2022-2027.

According to IBEF, the construction industry will grow by 7.1 percent per year on an average, and will be the

world's third-largest sector by 2025. 

Other players in the sector include House Joy, Prithu Homes, and Signature Global, among others. 

Speaking about what makes Thikedaar stand out, Sujeet says, "Our platform is transparent and customisable, over which customers can generate an instant quote and can create a personalised construction package as per their budget, need, and choice."

The startup also organises workshops to train local labour and construction workers on standard and sustainable building construction practices. The founders say they fiercely believe in upskilling local labour rather than outsourcing from other cities/places. The firm also trains these workers on site safety, health, and environment.

Future plans

Thikedaar will expand nationwide in phases, says Sujeet, with a plan to be present all over the country by 2023. Extra focus on Tier II and III cities to expand its geographical footprint is also on the cards. Sujeet adds, "We are looking for investment to expand our team and outlets in each city. We will use the capital to train all contractors and labourers in new techniques."

It is also planning to start an ecommerce chain under Thikedaar for construction materials, and standard design libraries with AI and ML, thus providing a one-stop solution for all home construction needs.

A month ago, the startup launched a marketplace as a pilot project in Patna, to compare prices and quality from different vendors. Furthermore, the startup also plans to launch an app by the end of 2022 to enhance the customer experience.

"We want to make home construction easier and more enjoyable than purchasing flats," signs off Sujeet.

(Copy was updated to correct two typos)

Edited by Anju Narayanan