Approximately, 13,000 years ago, which was almost 1000-2000 years before the dawn of humanity’s first agricultural revolution, our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in an egalitarian society where possessions didn’t seem to matter much. One because there weren’t many being made to begin with, and two it didn’t make sense to stay at once place and make, collect possessions once the local food supplies in the form of plants and animals had run out, necessitating the movement to greener pastures.
Selectively choosing and breeding plant varieties had its advantages. One, food surpluses meant that no longer did we need to move from one place to another, rather we could trade these surpluses to build social alliances. Two, food sources demanded maintenance, hence we couldn’t move from these sources to new sources even if we wanted to because then we would have to start all over again. Hence, the agricultural revolution gave rise to the world’s first private homes.
Depending on an individual’s perspective, the decision to own or build a home is a combination of many factors, like his or her socio-economic status, risk-taking abilities, current and future market value in terms of skills and prospects, and probably many other factors as well, like the general condition of the wider real estate and construction market.
Today, at Bangalore Insider we spoke to Sanchit Gaurav, the Founder and CEO of Housejoy, who explained how the world of technology has been changing the dynamics of the construction market, and how Housejoy is right in the eye of it. Below are the excerpts from our interaction.
Give a brief info about your startup. What problem does your startup solve?
Launched in 2015, Housejoy is a leading tech-driven Construction, Renovation, Interiors and Home Maintenance company. We offer end-to-end technology-driven solutions for all home-related needs – right from construction to maintenance.
We started as a home maintenance and improvement brand that offered a variety of services including plumbing, carpentry, electrical services, pest control and beauty in five major cities across India. We have now expanded our offerings to tap the almost $30 billion home construction market in India which is currently dominated by unorganized sector operators. The conventional, unprofessional and non-tech-based approach often leads to a lot of problems for the consumers. Timelines are not adhered to, handovers get delayed, there is no accountability of schedule or cost-overruns, and at times, plans are altered without the consumer’s approval. Even the quality and costs of materials used in construction are usually concealed from the customers. Housejoy understands these pain-points and is committed to providing clients with a one-stop-shop offering 360-degree home construction and home services solutions.
Housejoy also focuses on bringing specialized beauty and wellness services to the customer’s doorstep. The on-demand salon and beauty services by trained and experienced beauticians include skin care, hair and makeup, bridal and spa services using high-quality products.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, we began Housejoy Mart to deliver essentials to our consumers. During the lockdown, we also collaborated with the State Government of Karnataka to provide fumigation services in public places. We also joined hands with SRL Diagnostics chain to develop mobile testing vans which were deployed across Bengaluru for conducting routine pathological tests.
Our Construction and Renovation business is growing at the rate of 20% MoM and our future plans include building 2000 homes in less than two years. We have also seen a massive increase in demand for our house sanitization and fumigation services and expect this to continue rising over the course of the next year.
Why do you think Bengaluru is the best place for you?
The home construction market in India is one that is seeing significant growth, especially in places beyond the top metros, which are also expanding. In Bengaluru alone, 1 lakh plans are getting approved each year and this number will go up 10 times when it comes to other cities. This is a $120-billion-dollar opportunity, which we want to tap into. More people are redoing old homes and new ones are being built. There is opportunity in large commercial projects as well. Apart from this, the fact that Bengaluru is one of the major startup hubs in India also augurs well for us.
Why do you think technology is a big help for your startup?
Housejoy’s solutions are built with technology at the core with the mission ‘Building better homes, faster’. Everything from booking, design, documentation, physical execution, vendor management, quality checks, progress reports to payment management and final handover of the completed project, is backed by technology. We are working on a web app (with voice assist and a chatbox). We have invested in our workforce centric HJ Expert App, with local and vernacular language options that has a simple interface and minimalistic design. A combination of GPS-based tracking from the app ensures that literacy and language do not become barriers while communicating.
The app and website have also been incorporated with geo-location capabilities and cell tower triangulation technology that enables us to cater to various localities without significant lag. The app helps track digitized agreements, project progress, material usage, adherence to schedule and more. Customers are always kept in the loop regarding the starting time and any delays that may occur. Other tech-related developments on the anvil include cashless settlements, offline capabilities for the Housejoy experts, new unique categories and more. Investment in Analytics and Machine Learning will continue to help expansion through automation.
How are you different from the conventional players in the industry?
With Housejoy, clients get a hassle-free experience of building a house. Since the entire process – planning, approvals and execution — is managed 100% by a qualified team of experts, the clients remain tension-free. There is transparency at every level. Housejoy’s in-house team of architects, project engineers, quality control engineers and skilled contractors adhere to the highest quality standards. The customer has complete visibility and can monitor the project while receiving continuous status updates
We emphasize on the highest quality standard especially in the materials they use. Our team comprising highly skilled architects, engineers, designers has a combined experience of over 40 years and have delivered 100+ projects. Housejoy recognizes that even with top-notch quality, houses do go through a certain amount of wear and tear with time and require maintenance. Thus, we provide a 10-year warranty on the structure, one-year warranty on seepage and a six-month general warranty and free home maintenance during the first year.
What does customer satisfaction mean to you?
Housejoy has always endeavoured to provide the best customer experience. All our initiatives are centred around customers and even during the lockdown, we have ensured continuity of services. We are also making necessary strategic changes constantly to get the construction schedules back on track. As a brand, we have always strived to be transparent at all levels. In the wake of the pandemic, we have put in place the necessary guidelines as per government protocols and do not encourage working with vendors who are in the containment zone.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
When you are a founder, the mind tends to keep working round the clock. While I would not want to call it paranoia, sleeplessness is certainly a part of the entrepreneurial life. There is a constant drive to improve customer satisfaction, ensure business continuity, especially in a crisis situation like the Covid-19, and improve outcomes. I always want to try new things and introduce services that can make the life of customers better.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
There are several companies and startups entering the home construction domain. Some other players in the segment include Urban Company, Brick & Bolt, UrbanPro, Helpr, SBricks, Mr Right, Timesaverz, Bro4u, EasyFix, and HomeTriangle. Despite all the growth, the sector is still dominated by the non-organized players. It is our vast expertise and in-depth understanding of consumer behavior and needs that has helped us create a unique profile. We have kept cutting-edge technology at the core of our solutions and it has helped us in the mission to build better homes faster. We have a transparent and automated end-to-end process which ensures that all major stakeholders such as customers, sales teams, architects, designers, project managers and on-site engineers as well as the quality control and accounting personnel are on the same page. Thus, ensuring everyone is aware of the status of their projects at any given time.
The simplified yet highly efficient workflow provides a seamless experience to the consumers. The journey starts with the signing of the initial booking agreement followed by the design process where we customize pre-built templates according to the needs of the client. We then carry out the pre-execution planning, scheduling and quality control. The total project cost and expected monthly cash flow is kept visible. Our integrated app helps in tracking digitized agreements, progress of projects, details of the materials being used and ensures adherence to schedules.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
I am someone who believes that no matter what profession you are in, maintaining a work-life balance should come naturally to you. It is very important and helps in keeping a person away from stress and ensures that you have time to recuperate and gather your thoughts. For instance, I spend my weekends with my family and nothing comes in the way of this routine, except if I am travelling or there is something absolutely urgent. Similarly, when I am at work, my focus is entirely on the brand and its activities. This balance must be ingrained in all of us.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details.
We have so far raised a total funding of $30.3 million, backed by investors like Matrix, Amazon, Vertex Ventures and GrowthStory.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
I joined Housejoy when it was already a brand to reckon with. However, given that I come from a business family, there is always this urge to streamline and make things even better – introduce policies, initiatives, and verticals that can help in diversifying and taking the business to newer heights. This was also my vision for Housejoy and continues to be. From being a home services brand, we diversified into construction and renovation, beauty services, and now home essentials as well.
What gets you excited about this company?
An entrepreneur’s mind is always in an excited state and being in a sector as dynamic as construction and renovation, I find myself taking up challenges every day. There is excitement around introducing new ideas, scaling up the business, making an impact, and collaborating with like minded stakeholders during this entire journey. Everything about running and managing the company keeps me going.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
I am an early riser and start my day with exercise and meditation. After breakfast, I am ready to take on the professional commitments for the day. I start by conducting meetings with my departmental heads and later, respond to business calls. During the lockdown, I was also able to squeeze in some much-needed family time during weekdays as well. During the latter half of the day, I conduct team reviews with sales, marketing, and design departments. The conversations are usually related to the progress of work.
I spend my evenings communicating with other start-up founders and investors. We regularly discuss ways to help each other and talk about the post-lockdown business operations. I usually wrap up all my meetings by 8:00 pm as the after-hours are exclusively for my family.I am also engaged in various charitable activities and prefer helping the local unemployed people in finding work opportunities. My weekends are devoted to my family.
Tell us about your team.
I’m the Founder and CEO of Housejoy and have about 16 years of experience in the Indian real estate market. I founded Gaurav Housing Development Private Limited in 2012 and I am also a Director at Altima Realty and Infra Private Limited.
We recently appointed Gaurav Joshi as Senior VP, Growth and Strategy; Arpan Biswas, VP, Marketing; Neelima Ronanki as Associate Vice President,Design and Deepak Thakur as Vice President, Product and Technology with a focus on innovation and digital transformation.
Housejoy’s team also includes experienced Designers, Architects, Structural Engineers, Engineers, Site Supervisors, Quality Controllers, and Sales Representatives Pallavi Vijaydeep is Lead Interior Architect, Tibin A is VP, Founder and CEO’s office, Customer Experience and Process Excellence, Priyadarshi M is Head of Sales, Ramya G is Head of Marketing, Raju B is Head of Technology, Gaurav N is Head of Finance and Sagar P is Head of Human Resources.
Our recent appointments come in the wake of our constant focus on expanding and strengthening our Interiors, Renovation, and Construction (IRC) business.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business strategy? What have you learned from it?
Expansion of existing services and addition of new areas is key for any organization. We have diversified our portfolio over the years in order to augment our business. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of branching out and innovation, even more.
For instance, we launched Housejoy Mart in April to meet the increased demand for home delivery of groceries. We partnered with various Kirana stores and helped them in expanding their business. Although this is a new field for us, we have been studying the business model further. Further, we have also been focusing on constantly strengthening and modifying our service model in accordance with customer feedback and inputs. Through this initiative, we also aimed at ensuring work continuity for our teams and helping customers in this hour of crisis. Post-Covid too, there will be a lot of focus on personal hygiene and sanitation. More people would opt to buy everything including groceries online. We also anticipate a lot of demand for organized at-home services and will be focusing on our on-demand beauty services too. We recently launched home fumigation services and are gearing up to do all that we can as a brand to ensure we help our customers, while ensuring sustainability of the business.
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