Sep 6, 2013

Interview with Interior Design Startup Founder - Akshata Menon

Date of Interview: September 06, 2013


Startuptimes: Akshata how did the idea for your Startup come about? What ignited the spark in you to start De Space?
Akshata: It all happened in 2009 when I first designed my own house from start to finish. I was on a sabbatical post my son’s birth and found it a good opportunity to give ample time to my home. Once it was done, I got a very good feedback from our neighbors/friends/acquaintances and I started receiving a lot of inquiries. That’s when my husband and I decided that this is the right time to start something of our own.

Startuptimes: De Space is an interior design company. Tell our readers what is interior designing all about and who needs it?
Akshata: People often confuse interior designing with the furniture they place in their rooms. I believe that’s just one aspect of it. Interior designing is a combination of space planning/coordination/color selection/creating elements. An interior designer should strive to get the best possible from the space available to him/her. Every house is unique, and should be taken care of accordingly.
Regarding who needs it, we generally do interiors of flats that have been bought in a range of Rs 40 lacs to 100 lacs. These days, people, especially young couples have become extremely cautious of the interiors and want to ensure that their homes should look really nice. After spending 50-70 lacs on a flat, they want to ensure that an interior designer do justice to their home and make it beautiful. 

Startuptimes: What big problem are you trying to solve?
Akshata: As I mentioned, every house is unique, and need to be taken care of accordingly. I personally believe that no matter how big or small the space available, if you don’t do proper space planning, you won’t be able to do justice to your home. This is what I try to inform my clients, and thankfully have been lucky to get their support throughout.

Startuptimes: Describe current progress and traction?
We have executed close to 60 residences since inception, and I’m currently working on 4 projects, with another 4 in the pipeline.

Startuptimes: Who are your competitors? What advantage do you have over your competitors?
Akshata: The market is full of interior designers, contractors and even carpenters. Having said that, the market is big enough to accommodate all of them too.
A few months ago, we did a small R&D to find out the approach of a few interior designers, and found out they share standard designs with their clients by customizing them to the area of the house/flats. I guess this is where De Space makes a difference. We don’t only offer customized designs for each residence that we do, but also help the client in coordinating the entire place which may include even selection of lights, curtains etc too. This personalization has helped us in acquiring more and more clients in the past three years.

Startuptimes: How will you acquire clients? What is your sales and marketing strategy?
Akshata: To be honest, our work has helped us in acquiring clients so far. There has been no particular sales and marketing strategy, and we believe the only way to increase the business is to focus on giving quality work. Our clients have been our ambassadors, and we have been lucky to increase our business through word of mouth.
We have a facebook page on which we showcase our work (www.facebook.com/despaceinteriors) and a website is also on it’s way. 

Startuptimes: What is the market size of the opportunity you hope to tap?
Akshata: Currently the focus is on Bangalore city as we are based out of here. But we plan to expand to Hyderabad and Chennai in the future too. Our focus will be on cities like these as the real estate market is booming here, and hence the scope is huge. 

Startuptimes: If you segment  your market based on  target customer, indicate whom will you target first?
Akshata: Our target market is primarily young couples who have invested in their first homes. They are young, full of ideas and are open to new ideas and want something different from the clich├ęd designs

Startuptimes: What has been the biggest surprise so far in working for your company?
Akshata: When we started it, our presumption was that people will consider home interiors as a routine formality. But I was surprised to see my clients’ interest level, awareness and clarity of thoughts towards their interior requirements. Today’s consumers are very clear of what they need, are aware of the options available, and don’t only want their homes to look beautiful, but also want each element to have functional relevance.

Startuptimes: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Akshata: I would heavily bank on these three:

1.       Perseverance – No matter how much time it takes, hard work always pays. So just keep doing your job, and success will come knocking your door
2.       Meticulous planning – No matter how good the idea is, if not planned and executed well, it won’t yield the desired results
3.       Deep Understanding of your domain – Whether it’s a client, or an investor, or anyone else, if you have a thorough understanding and knowledge of what you’re doing, you can easily impress and gain confidence of the person across the table

Startuptimes: What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Akshata: Interior designing is a labor-intensive job, and hence it’s extremely critical that you put your money on the right resources. Since labor is highly unorganized in India, it took us some time to find out the best people in the industry. Thankfully, we have a good team of contractors, supervisors now with us whom we can rely on. These experiences made us realize that no matter how good or bad you are, until you have a good team to back you up, you won’t be able to succeed  

Startuptimes: How does de space make money? What’s your Revenue and profit model?
Akshata: We work on a consulting model where in we charge a consulting fee from our clients, which is around 10-15% of the total project cost.

Startuptimes: What campaign strategies have you used to promote your startup?
Akshata: We have done SMS blasts to prospective clients as well as have sent emailers, distributed pamphlets at strategic locations etc. Majority of business though, comes from word of mouth

Startuptimes: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Akshata: e-commerce is something I really feel excited about. It’s a great alternate way to shop, and gives a chance to people like us to shop almost anything sitting at home, starting from grocery to clothes to electronics. I really feel this industry adds a lot of value to consumers.

Startuptimes: If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
Akshata: A lot of people ask me this question that how do I manage team of carpenters, painters, electricians who might not be educated enough and difficult to handle. I guess once you are determined to get a task done, it doesn't matter whom are you working with; all it matters is how you manage your team to ensure it’s done effectively.

Tags: de space, interior design startup india, interior design business model, revenue model of interior design business, akshata menon Vig,

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