This woman entrepreneur is helping define the work of architects and interior designers
It was Minal Dubey’s childhood dream to become an architect, a person who designs and takes cares of construction of buildings. However, when she became one, she says people around her did not really understand what the work of an architect entailed.
She says, “Whenever I introduce myself as an architect, people call me an interior designer or civil engineer. They do not recognise the work an architect does and the value we add even when it’s all around us. The work of an architect is all around us – shopping malls, apartments, and the offices they work in.”
The problem, Minal says, is that architects do not talk about their work enough to educate the masses on what architecture really involves. It led her on the path of entrepreneurship in 2016 when she was working as an assistant manager at Lifestyle International.
She was also associated with online home guide and review platform Intruo as chief of design and as architectural designer at Tesco HSC.
Taking to Spaciux full-time in 2018 as founder and CEO, the entrepreneur creates content for an online community of architects and interior designers.
Turning to entrepreneurial solutions, Minal identified that the key was to encourage architects and interior designers to document their work.
“This is an important testament to their work because their work ends once the site is handed over to the client who then takes charge of maintenance and every other aspect of the property,” she says.
Minal realised that only 10 percent of professionals she knew cared to capture their work because the documentation process, which involves architectural photography and videography, were expensive and not readily available.
As a result, the industry was functioning largely based on referrals and word-of-mouth and most architects faced difficulty in getting clients.
The entrepreneur initially invested Rs 19 lakh and began by offering free service to architects to document their work. After the documentation process, they make the best of social media sites like Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube to showcase their work and help architects connect with potential clients.
To achieve this, the entrepreneur banks on the tech-savvy, millennial generation who spends more than 200 minutes online every day, according to Statista.
She explains, “Youngsters make most of the decisions in families today. They also they tend to refer to online sources mostly. They will see an architect’s work on social media platforms and make choices regarding their houses based on what they see. The architectural fraternity needs to leverage these platforms and leave digital footprints for others to bank upon.”
A major milestone for the startup has been producing a web series called Spaciux Incredible Architects showcasing various types of Indian architecture on Amazon Prime, which was released in the US and UK as well.
At its core is the message of sustainability. “I believe we can educate people on different types of sustainable architecture like using solar power, rainwater harvesting, and encouraging the use of local material. If we can get these messages across through the web series, we can help reduce the carbon footprint to some extent,” she adds.
The startup has partnered with Transparence, which is considered India’s biggest design contest and is part of Facebook’s Boost Leaders programme.
In fact, the startup’s business model that is largely based on digital engagement, is a case study at the NUS Business School in Singapore, IIM-Bangalore, and Christ (Deemed-To-Be) University.
Scaling through challenges
Starting up in a niche area mainly to encourage architects and interior designers to speak about their work, and offering a free service, were received with some scepticism in the beginning.
She recalls, “It took us a long time to get a breakthrough because many people wondered how it was possible to get such an expensive service for free. They would question what I planned to do with the images. It took us a long time to convince people that the images would only be used to showcase their work on social media platforms.”
What started off as an awareness project, gradually grew into a market opportunity when Minal discovered that most professionals in the industry were not documenting their work.
Today, the service has become a major revenue source for the startup. While the market price for architectural documentation usually starts at Rs 40,000, Spaciux offers the service at an affordable price range, beginning from Rs 8,000.
However, Minal explains that while smaller projects such as shooting for a 300 sq ft area can be covered under Rs 8,000, it differs based on project scale and location. For example, for a recent shoot of a 68,000 sq ft bungalow the client was charged Rs 4 lakh.
Spaciux has worked with more than 250 architects and interior designers in India and Singapore. As an incubatee of IIM-NSRCEL, the startup received a fund of Rs 3.6 lakh from the department of Science and Technology, Government of India, and Goldman Sachs.
“Some of my friends and family have also shown interest in investing but we did not take it as the business is self-sustainable and we are looking for industry experts to invest in us who can also guide us as well,” Minal adds.
With nearly 20 photographers in the team, the startup is focussed on building its network. The entrepreneur is also focussed on delivering its promise of showcasing brilliant works of art , one architect at a time.
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan