When serial entrepreneur Srikanth Iyer bought a house a few years ago, he was one happy man. But before he could truly enjoy his home, he had to undertake a particularly arduous exercise of getting it furnished. “We thought we had achieved a big feat when we bought the house, only to realise that furnishing the house was a different game altogether,” says Iyer. The hassle of dealing with carpenters, suppliers and interior designers proved to be a ‘harrowing’ experience. But it also paved the way the way for Iyer’s new venture.
“My experience showed that there was an opportunity to organise this completely chaotic home design market. There were several visible pain points and a complete lack of predictability on quality, timeliness and transparency,” says 46-year-old Iyer. So, in July 2014, along with Rama Harinath, Prabhu V. and Vivek MP—sleeping partners—he founded online home design company HomeLane. It offers customised modular home design solutions and seeks to organise the home interiors industry and make designing homes less cumbersome for homebuyers.
When HomeLane started out, it had a team of full-time in-house designers and installers and had outsourced manufacturing to a vendor. Six months into operations, the startup started experimenting with external designers— design partners (DPs)—and now it has a 100% DP-based model. Even for installations, it has moved from in-house personnel to working with partners. “Over the past three years, we have intentionally shifted from an asset heavy to an asset-light model,” says Iyer, Co-founder and CEO. This has helped the startup scale up faster and reduce costs.
The first big challenge for this Bengaluru-based company, which also has a presence in Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai, was scaling up operations. The value proposition put forth by the startup—predictability, timeliness and quality—gradually won over customers and helped it expand operations. “Once we were able to show that the quality we were offering was far superior to that of the local vendors, and that customers could avoid the hassles of searching and dealing with multiple vendors, they saw our value and this helped us scale up steadily,” says Iyer. Focus on rapid growth, however, had to be diluted a bit as it began causing operational challenges. “We took some hasty steps to help boost our expansion in the initial days, aiming to go from one city to 10 in a matter of months. But it was easier said than done.
Thankfully, we were quick to realise our mistake and chose to first focus on just four cities,” says Iyer.
Seeded with an investment of Rs 1 crore, raised from Tutorvista’s K. Ganesh, the startup has seen considerable investor interest. It raised Rs 27 crore in February 2015 from Sequoia Capital, Growth Story and Aarin Capital, and an additional Rs 62 crore from a clutch of investors in the past two years.
The company is betting big on its recently launched tech product: SpaceCraft. It is a virtual design platform that allows homeowners and designers to collaborate on design ideas and visualise a furnished home in 3D. “Space-Craft can bring down the time taken to complete a project by 30 days—33%. It will streamline our operational processes and will add an incremental 200% growth to our revenue,” says Iyer.