It wasn't easy in Bengaluru and it was no better in California-when Ramakant Sharma and Anuj Srivastava decided to renovate their respective homes. And that's when they learnt how frustrating the experience can be. While one chose a local contractor, the other hired an interior designer. The result was the same: their project became a Pandora's box where they would discover newer challenges every day. From timeline, prices, quality - to the personal attention that the project demanded, nothing was predictable. In the end, their tribulations landed them in the middle of a highly fragmented $23Bn market that was calling for a technology-led innovation. And thus, in July 2014, Livspace was incorporated and its operations were launched in Bengaluru in January 2015.
Cut to the present, Livspace has grown to become India's largest home interiors and renovation platform. Today it serves seven metro areas and has announced its plans to serve six more, for a total of 13, by 2019. The company has designed over 5,000 homes-a whopping 2 million+ square feet-and works with over 2,000 design partners.
This unprecedented scale is disrupting the entire interior design ecosystem. But how did they get here?
Livspace combines Canvas, its proprietary technology platform with a three-sided marketplace between homeowners, certified designers and vendors. It delivers end-to-end home interiors to homeowners in a hassle-free, predictable manner and empowers designers and vendors to deliver it. Canvas allows designers to manage the entire design project on the cloud-create designs in 2D/3D, access a digital catalogue of millions of SKUs, plan the budget, chat with clients, place manufacturing orders, create project plans, track delivery and more, without installing any software on their computer system. This allows designers to work on more projects and hence increase their incremental earnings. On average, a Livspace Design Partner earns twice as much as his/her peers outside of Livspace. This increase in productivity directly impacts the number of homeowners that get access to good interior design-something that was traditionally reserved for the affluent few. Livspace, on the other hand, espouses the philosophy of good design for all; a philosophy that wasn't all that simple to offer right at the outset.
For beginners, "interiors" is an often-misrepresented term. Many people associate home interiors with just buying furniture, painting the walls and designing a modular kitchen. However, nothing can be farther from the truth. Interior design is not only very expansive in what it entails-furniture and decor, modular kitchen, wardrobes, storage such as TV units, services like false ceiling, flooring, electrical and more-but also involves designing spaces that solve a functional and aesthetic purpose.
To add to the complexity, interiors have never been associated with an organized player of scale. Hence, the company had a huge opportunity and challenge in front of them right at the very inception. So, they took it upon themselves to be the market makers. For a high-value and infrequent purchase such as home interiors, they invested in a strong omnichannel strategy. They extended their world-class online experience to their Design Centers and experience apartments, which boast a very strong tactile experience. This helped them not only reduce time to convert but also increased their average order value by up to 40%.
Livspace partnered with Brand Capital, the strategic investment arm of The Times Group, and was able to create a strong brand presence. The brand targeted urban consumers focusing on working professionals in top metropolitan cities seeking assured quality and timely delivery of services. The company utilised a good mix of print ads, radio campaigns and strategically located OOH properties offered by the Times Group, leading to a strong top-of-mind recall. This partnership created a valuable impact to build awareness and establish credibility.
Some success mantras of the founders
When asked to share tips for upcoming start-ups who seek to become market makers and leaders, Anuj and Ramakant had a thing or two to add.
● "Always hire people smarter than yourself. Problem-solvers who are action-biased are a great fit for start-ups seeking to disrupt any space," said Anuj Srivastava.
● "At an early stage, investing in building a culture of autonomy may not seem critical but these things tend to stick as you grow. So, think about culture early," added Srivastava.
● Ramakant Sharma advised, "If you want to scale, always think for scale. Don't invest in products and features that are intrinsically 'unscalable'. But whatever you do, launch fast and then improve. Don't wait for perfection."