Interior designers, space designing experts, home décor service providers – call them what you may, their job remains the same. To turn your 1,000-odd square feet property into something that you can call home.
This essentially includes personification, elements of aesthetics, and beautification of your bricks and mortar. Interestingly, the word ‘beautiful’ – or as it is called in several European languages, bonito – is a part of the very fabric of Bengaluru-based Bonito Designs. This interior design startup was launched in 2012 with one primary focus: to bring in stories into spaces.
Close to seven years in operation, the company, founded by Sameer AM and Rickson D’Souza, is now a team of 100-plus members, having worked on over 1,000 projects. With their focus on the mid-range segment of the home market, Bonito Designs is trading its curated yet cost-effective designs for high-profit margins.
The startup is eyeing to close this year with a revenue of Rs 50 crore.
Nothing like good vibes
Gone are the days when setting up a home was a household affair. In big cities especially, the task of searching, negotiating, and finalising a property itself is a mammoth task. One that leaves little time and energy for brainstorming over the design and aesthetics of the interiors.
Add to this, the struggle of communicating and extracting service from the legion of designers, contractors, material suppliers, and decorators, and you might find yourself in the midst of a mini-crisis. The problem is not that there aren’t enough service providers in this space. The fact that these people are part of a largely unorganised and fragmented market is the real challenge.
“It causes absolute havoc sometimes,” says Sameer AM, a computer science graduate and the brain behind Bonito Designs.
“We have had customer telling us how they lost Rs 50,000-Rs 1 lakh. We have heard so many stories of people trusting someone and the person not delivering. Even if they do, the final product was so different from what was promised.”
Sameer says such stories are rampant in his field. In fact, when they started out, the team had to deal with many such experiences. But then, experiences are also known to be the best teachers.
With Bonito Designs, Sameer’s aim is to bring in “vibes of goodness, comfort, and convenience” along with the trust factor that is largely missing in the home décor market.
“Can someone actually put in the love, effort, and thought, the way we do because it’s our home?” That was the problem statement behind the genesis of Bonito.
The sweet spot between ‘luxury’ and ‘budget’
It might be usual to tap an app each time you need something, but the online home décor space has been an underdog for years. The market has gained momentum only in recent times, as per a Technavio report.
If market analysts are to be believed, the online home décor market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 50.42 percent in revenue over the period 2014-2019.
Naturally, with this segment picking up steam, there has been a flurry of new startups and venture investments. In March 2019, Bonito Designs announced a pre-Series A fundraise to the tune of $6.3 million led by early-stage strategic investment fund Tomorrow Capital. The aim was to use the fresh capital in R&D, expand the product base, and improve the digital infrastructure.
Although Sameer is reluctant to disclose much about their technological arsenal, he happily lets us in on their target audience, a market segment which he calls the “sweet spot” for Bonito.
“Interiors is a vast market… You have the affordable segment, where the property pricing is between Rs 30-40 lakh, then there is a mid-range segment, which ranges between Rs 1 crore and Rs 2.5 crore, and then there is the premium and the luxury segment.”
Bonito caters to the mid-range segment. “Neither do we want to completely go into the luxurious end nor do we want to call ourselves an economy studio,” Sameer explains.
He adds, “There is a tradeoff on both sides of the spectrum, the sweet spot has always worked out for us… in a way an accessible, bespoke kind of experience.”
A 5-step process of personalising homes
“Bonito was started with an initial investment of around 6 lakh from our own pockets,” the founders say.
In the seven years of its existence, Team Bonito has gone from strength to strength; starting with finding their place in the market to coming up with a unique psyche analysis tool and ensuring an influx of fresh funds.
Their process-driven delivery model is what separates them from the host of other interior design startups. It’s a simple five-step process:
– Getting to Know You: As the name implies, this first step is all about getting acquainted with the client, the families, or individuals.
– Design Phase: Post the acquaintance and understanding of individual preferences and personalities, the aim is to create a personalised design for the home.
– Production Phase: In this phase, ideas are converted into realities.
– Execution Phase: The Bonito team says this is when “you start seeing a lot of activities in your house”.
– Handover: A bespoke, personalised home is handed over to the client.
As simplistic as the steps seem, the challenge is to bring together all the different demands and processes, and still be complicit with design aesthetics. Sameer and his team have a very straightforward approach to this.
“The simple answer is we listen to clients,” he says. “The complex answer is on the backend we are building technologies; we are investing a lot into the R&D and the behavioural sciences.”
At the end of the day, the road to customer satisfaction, as they say, is always a little bumpy. Sometimes it means giving in and designing for the happy customer. And on a few occasions, it’s all about turning even a 10 by 12 feet wall, adorned by a larger-than-life image of a devi,pleasing to the eyes, with a pinch of creativity!