Breaking the ground in furniture selling, Homestudio is a startup that not only offers unconventional stylish furniture online but also customises it as per the taste of the customers. The products have been well-recieved in the market and the firm has also got the funding to move forward. Here is a detailed interview with the founder Alok Duggal by the team of SoS. Read on:
SoS: From being a Banker to join an advertising firm to having your own furniture start-up. This transition is as unusual as it can get. Can you explain how it all happened? Were you apprehensive, excited or determined during these career shifts?
Alok: A banker with economics and sociology background doing a furniture startup, says it all. I think what drives us is the passion to build a world-class brand along with a value proposition for the consumers. It is a well thought out move and with a long-term commitment in mind, to build a brand people can count on. This category is as much a science as it is an art. So far, the art has got a much-focused attention but the science has been relegated to the background. We, through our learning and the knowledge of our partners, bring not just the art of design to the market but also use the science behind to bring together the best of both worlds.
SoS: How would you define Home Studio for us and what differentiates it from other brands in the furniture industry?
Homestudio.com is an end-end solution provider, from designs to execution to customer service, we do it all. Our research and extensive consumer learning have given us some unique insights about the category. To succeed and satisfy the users, it is critical that your solutions go beyond developing cutting edge designs but encompass all facets of the consumer journey including understanding your customer at an individual level, relevant planning, selecting the right products, executing it right and most importantly being there post-delivery through a world-class customer service philosophy. One key difference is that we control product cycle to after sales service and thus can meet consumer’s expectation much better. That is how the story of Homestudio.com started – with a dream to offer branded international furniture in India at surprisingly affordable cost.
SoS: How was the entire experience of getting the funding for your organization?
Alok: I strongly believe that if you are a solution provider, funding will not be a challenge. One needs to build the basic pillar right and spend more time in understanding what consumers are looking for. Homestudio was started from a mock apartment as a test and based on the customer feedback and learnings, we were able to develop an e-commerce platform, Experience zone and service center. We raised $5mn as seed funding in December 2015 and are adequately funded to increase our operations.
SoS: How did you pitch your start-up / idea to the investors?
Alok: The organized furniture market is around 8-10% of the total furniture market. Organized market is 3-4k Cr and within 5 years is expected to cross 10-12k cr. The online share is very small currently but growing fast due to consumers need and time constraint. In the top 10 Indian cities, the market is growing at 20% CAGR. The idea is to bring a unique concept to the market. Urban lifestyle consumers are looking for branded goods, multiple choices and value for money products along with service. We all understand, it is a huge market on paper, so our aim is to create a complete new sub-category in this space without any parallels in the market. Hence, the same is funded by the group who has a deep understanding of the market.
SoS: Now that you have got the funding, how do you aim to make the most of it?
Alok: Yes, we were funded in the month of December, 2015 and that was our first round of funding. We do not have any other investors. Right now, we do not feel the need for any additional funding. With the raised fund, we are able to put together our three pillars, Website (e-commerce), Experience zone, Service Centre & warehouse. Homestudio.com has been launched in Bangalore in its ﬁrst phase but going forward, we are looking at 6-7 cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgaon, Chennai, Chandigarh, Pune in the next 1-1/2 years. The core of our model is product experience & service, thus in each city, we will have the experience zone & service Centre opened first along with e-commerce presence.
SoS: What specific goals have you set for your business in the coming years in terms of adding services or categories?
Alok: We are creating a very self-sufficient and controlled ecosystem. We will invest and build the complete solution to provide unparalleled service to our consumers. Our long objective is at two levels, in the first stage we want to offer the best that the world has to offer to the Indian consumers that will include solutions from international brands as well as Indian brands. The concept of Homestudio is to give the complete home furniture solutions to its clients and service at the same time. We will keep adding new products which are both functional and aspirational.
SoS: How has your experience in the previous roles assisted you in your start-up? Do you think without that experience you would have played the role of entrepreneur now differently?
Alok: I strongly believe that businesses are built through genuine human empathy and understanding of consumers’ stated as well as unstated needs. Working with a bank gave me deep insight for financial discipline and consumer behaviorism while the French organization helped me understand large international businesses. At Homestudio, I am trying my best to bring most of the corporate learnings as we are dealing with big ticket value products on one side and consumer behavior plays a very importance role.
SoS: Apart from Germany, you also have partnered with brands across Italy and Romania. How do you manage and collaborate with such global partners. How did you approach them?
Alok: What we offer, needs to be understood not from the perspective of a product brochure but from a solution filter. We are not just a furniture brand which creates different kinds of products but a solution category that offers long lasting experiences which promises to evolve with our consumers. We provide holistic solutions for houses, bedrooms, kitchens, cupboards, and specific spaces in the house. Thus, we select Brands which offer great products but also help us with training and tech support to enhance the customer experience and after service.
SoS: What has been your biggest challenge and how do you aim to overcome it?
Alok: The concept is to have tailor-made products to meet the needs of young global India. Tastes are not homogeneous. Each individual is different with a combination of functional and aspirational needs. We offer global quality and design sensibility to our users. Our product through our proprietary process gets adapted to very specific individual needs. The entire process is very challenging and with the help of knowledge and technology we are able to handle this.
SoS: A piece of advice to the new entrepreneurs who want to make it big?
Alok: Detailing is the game for future . For us ‘why’ comes before ‘what’. What we offer needs to be understood not from the perspective of a product brochure but from a solution filter. Any business model can be successful if we start looking from this perceptive.