Thiruvananthapuram: For the common man, who belongs to the middle or upper-middle class or non-resident Keralite category, one of the biggest dreams in life is to build a house. But it is a challenging task, both financially and physically. But here is good news for them. A Thiruvananthapuram-based startup, BuildNext (www.buildnext.in), launched by a group of IIT and IIM graduates, is on a mission to revolutionise the construction sector by creating a virtual commercial platform for purchasing materials required for building construction.
WHAT IS BUILDNEXT?
BuildNext.in is a multi-channel building material procurement platform for construction professionals and customers. The web-based user interface of BuildNext enables customers to prepare their building budget and make right purchase decisions by staying within the budget limit.
“Proprietary VR technology enables customers to walk inside their future home and select products by actually trying them out in their home. BuildNext Experience Centres will be available at major locations to help customers utilise our technology solutions through the course of their building construction. Experience Centres are currently live in Kochi and Kozhikode, and will soon come up in Manjeri, Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad,” says Gopikrishnan V, Founder-Director, BuildNext.
Finaz Naha, who earlier worked with Amazon, is the Co-founder Director of BuildNext. Both Gopikrishnan and Finaz were batch mates at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. Gopikrishnan is also a BArch graduate from IIT Kharagpur. The duo spent years discussing the idea with industry experts before launching the technology company of building materials supply chain in October 2015 with angel investments. So far, the company has received many rounds of funding.
BuildNext has several tie-ups with manufacturers and distributors of building materials as well as logistic partners, to provide a hassle-free and rewarding purchase experience in the sector. The firm claims to minimize marketing and inventory holding costs, helping manufacturers target their customers at a much lower cost.
“It is creating a win-win situation for manufacturers and customers. We have been able to offer conveniences like flexible payment terms to businesses through our model to align ourselves perfectly with market requirements. Our model has the best of a pure online and a pure offline channel put together, making us the best building material provider available for the businesses in the sector as well as customers,” says Gopikrishnan.
THE E-COMMERCE MODEL FOR SELLING CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS
The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of the company is its technology. The web portal offers a wide range of building materials to choose from. The selection of materials through the portal is given a new dimension by incorporating Virtual Reality (VR) purchase experience. Meanwhile, the customer who logs on to the portal can also make sure that she or he will not overshoot the budget as the website helps set a budget limit.
However, one of the biggest challenges for the tech company is to stay relevant in the market and successfully penetrate it. But here is where the brains behind BuildNext’s virtual platform applied some practical thinking.
“A pure e-commerce model is not enough because quite a few of the materials require consultation and a visual selection process. We have therefore adopted an online-offline model and hence, we are setting up experience centres in major towns to enable customers to select products through our virtual reality (VR)-enabled process,” says the founder-director of BuildNext.
THE CUSTOMER-SUPPLIER CONNECT
One may think how the company based partially on an online platform could connect with market players who generally prefer conventional methods of trading. It is said that building contractors often benefit in terms of discounts from a trader when he or she remains loyal.
However, BuildNext thinks that such benefits in the real world are ‘‘partially a myth”. Gopikrishnan says that benefits may come in only as “flexibility” in terms of payments and deliveries. “Businesses are much more loyal to their suppliers than customers due to high shifting costs,” he says.
There are 32 employees and five interns working at the main offices of BuildNext. Gopikrishnan hopes to set up more experience centres of the company in the State and neighbouring states, so as to remain customer oriented.