One of the fascinating side effects of the start-up wave is how it has brought about this remarkable change in consumer behaviour. In no time, the five-minute walk to catch an auto has been replaced by a five-minute mirror check while waiting for an Uber or Ola. You can app yourself a plumber, a home-cooked lunch meal, a gardener or a runner to do your groceries.
The interior design industry has also been heavily impacted by the advent of modular furniture and web-based interaction. Our Chief Business Officer, Tanuj Choudhry, gives us little more insight into how consumer behaviour is in a state of transformation in the design sector.
To understand the changes, he says, we need to look back at the recent past. “For many years, it functioned in just one way – people called a carpenter. Having someone on-site gave them a certain amount of control, a sense that they could change things as they wanted, and the satisfaction of seeing things happen in front of their eyes.”
How then does the new wave of interior design companies, which function on a factory-based model where most of the work is done off-site, find ways to intersect with these primary needs?
“Firstly, we use visualisation tools to give customers a complete picture of how their homes will look with the designs. At HomeLane, we use Spacecraft, but there is a range of such tools being used across the industry. Think about buying a car. In the old days, you probably relied on a word-of-mouth recommendation. These days, you have the option of a test drive. A visualisation tool gives you a similar experience in the virtual sphere, allowing you to make a more informed choice.”
And what about that element of flexibility?
“The beauty of virtual reality is that you can make all the changes you want without going through the effort and expenditure half-way through the project. You can witness the impact of your changes before you make up your mind about it.”
However, the biggest and most positive change, he tells us, is in core design expertise.
“In the old days, the value of a designer was primarily in making a space beautiful. Today, it’s about meeting both functional and aesthetic needs, while adapting to changing lifestyles and urban requirements. Working on larger scales, we need to be much more responsive to customer needs. For example, in Mumbai, we’d focus on space-saving furniture, which is what customers primarily want and need.
Or, in this time when people tend to work a lot in the home space as well, study tables are no longer just for kids. We’ve found that there’s a growing requirement for functional work tables for adults, as well.
Also, we communicate new trends which might meet specific consumer needs – like open plan interiors as a space-saving concept.”
In other words, even as start-ups are changing customer behaviour in both an abstract and a practical sense, adapting to changing customer needs is a vital part of their work.