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Published on: July 12, 2021, 3:08 p.m.
Design Café has a plan to grow
  • Offering the best of designs and manufacturing processes to everyone

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

The Bengaluru-based Design Café, founded in 2015 by award-winning architects Gita Ramanan and Shezan Bhojani, is one of the fastest-growing home interiors brands in the country. The past five years have seen Design Café, backed by WestBridge (PE) and Fireside Ventures (which invested $35 million), grow from handling 20-30 projects a year to a firm that delivers three homes a day across three cities – Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

The Rs100-crore home interior solutions firm, having grown at 100 per cent (y-o-y) and designed more than 5,000 homes, now commands over 16 per cent share in the organised market. The company, which has five centres across three cities, aims to become a Rs1,000 crore entity in the next five years.    

With the success of the Bengaluru market (where it is the second largest firm) already under its belt, Design Cafe has also launched its largest home interiors experience centre in Mumbai (August 2019) and Hyderabad (March 2020). It now has plans to expand to other metro cities, including Pune and Chennai. In fact, the firm, which strongly leverages technology for enhancing customer experience and providing the best work in the industry, looks to expand its footprint to 10 major cities by 2025.

With the vision of democratising design, this furniture-to-fit-outs brand has been the first in the business to vertically integrate with its own designers, workforce and a 35,000 sq ft factory in Bengaluru, manufacturing all its products.

“Being one of the largest companies in a highly unorganised market, Design Cafe makes maximum use of technology in multiple ways that helps us in simplifying internal processes and providing a superior home interiors experience to our customers,” says Ramanan, CEO & co-founder, Design Café. “This includes both back-end and customer-facing technologies – the latter being of great significance, since it helps in differentiating us from the rest.” 

 Transforming customer experience

“Also, augmented reality (AR) truly allows an immersive-experience for our customers to visualise our solutions directly in their new home/existing home they are renovating,” she adds. “While the Covid pandemic has already driven customer behaviour online, with a higher acceptance towards digital products than ever before, an AR-experience, not just for loose furniture and furnishings (which is in the testing stages today), but for the entire home design, in a room-by-room manner, will transform the customer experience, and therefore, the home interior space. We are excited by the technology that is going to make this completely immersive experience a reality.”

After graduating with a B Arch from BMS School of Architecture, Bengaluru, Ramanan worked with well-renowned architects with specific exposure to premium homes, hospitality and recreational design. She is also a graduate of ISB, Hyderabad’s Entrepreneurial Management programme, and was selected by Goldman-Sachs for its world-wide 10,000 Women Entrepreneur Program.

After a decade-long successful career of working on varied projects in the residential and hospitality sector, she, along with her partner, decided to focus her energies to fill the existing gap in the designer home interiors space, with the idea of giving access to the best of designs and manufacturing processes to everyone. In other words, they look to democratise the market using technology and scale.

Ramanan is also a renowned speaker and has delivered speeches on many prestigious platforms like TEDx, NID, Design Open & Design Day, to name a few. She has also been an integral part of IIID (Bengaluru chapter) and was instrumental in organising the first Designuru. Recently, she was awarded the ‘Best Businesswoman of the Year (Home Interiors) by ASSOCHAM.

 Design Café has been proactive and successful in trying to overcome the challenging issues arising from the ongoing pandemic. It has shifted a significant part of the customer journey to digital media. It provides its customers with 3D walk-throughs on its website, which practically recreate the activities of its experience centres. 

With changing demographics and rising incomes, the domestic home décor and improvement market has grown rapidly in the last few years.  Currently, the industry, pegged at $30 billion, is expected to grow to $100 billion in the next 15 years. Though the share of organised players in it is less than 1 per cent today, with more technology adoption and digitalisation of experience, the market is likely to shift significantly towards organised players.

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