Buying a new house or moving to a new place is a beginning of sorts – for various reasons. One of the things it sets in motion is the search for people with different skillsets – designer, carpenter, painter, plumber and electrician among others - who will come together to make the new house a home.
While there are many start-ups and traditional firms available that specialise in home interiors, the commercial space appears largely unattended with stores and brands still dependent on the unorganised market.
There seemed to be a huge opportunity for an organised player and Amit Bansal along with his co-founders Puneet Bansal & Amit Mishra entered the fray with their start-up 91Squarefeet.
The eureka moment came about in 2019 when the two Bansals visited a place in Goregaon in suburban Mumbai where they saw hundreds of workers making store signages. It immediately hit them that the whole segment is unorganised that would only impact the quality and consistency.
“We studied a few success stories of brands leading to rapid retail expansion. We discovered that Starbucks opened 10,000 outlets within the first 13 years after its inception. Luckin Coffee, another Chinese brand, launched 8,000 outlets in the first three years after it was launched. However, no retailer in India has taken the market by storm at such a pace,” says Amit, an alumnus of NIT Kurukshetra and Mumbai's National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE).
Simply put, Gurugram-based 91Squarefeet, which is a part of the current Y-Combinator W-22 batch, helps brands build and maintain retail stores without them having to set up their own big project teams.
When a brand signs up with the start-up, it breaks down the whole project into individual elements like signage, tiling, lighting, chairs, etc. and signs up an item rate contract.
Later, the start-up raises an invoice as per the rate contract after building the store for the brand that pays the complete project cost to 91Squarefeet, which, in turn, pays to the suppliers.
In other words, it has built a managed marketplace of contractors with a project planning software layer built on top of it. The start-up offers brands with hassle-free turnkey retail fit-out solutions, starting right from conceptualisation to completion.
The AI-powered project management tool lets brands seamlessly upload all the retail fit-out components like tiles, lighting, furniture, etc. of their store templates.
This assumes significance as more than 98 per cent of the retail fitout industry is unorganised in India with increasing offline footprints often looked upon as a huge challenge. Interestingly, brands can initialise the execution of their new store on 91Squarefeet with a simple click as the system allocates each component to the right fit-out vendor and even reports the progress to the brand on a real-time basis.
“We are three times better than the unorganised contractors in delivering projects on-time,” says Amit. “Soon we will launch more categories on our marketplace. So, a brand would also be able to buy different types of equipment like digital screen, mannequins and kitchen equipment,” he added.
While Puneet Bansal is the Chief Product Officer and is involved in making tech-based innovations at the start-up, Amit Mishra is Chief Finance & Strategy Officer and Amit Bansal is Chief Executive Officer responsible for overall growth, operations, and stakeholder management
In terms of growth, the start-up, which raised $1 million in September 2021, is growing at 20 per cent month-on-month and is working with more than 30 marquee brands, including Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail, Himalaya, Reliance and Tata, on their retail expansion plans.
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