I’m a Delhi boy. After completing my civil engineering studies in 1998 I found that my interest lay in home design, which led me to take up my first job with an architect. Thereafter I started learning aspects of interior design. Soon I got an opportunity to work at Arcus, India’s first big box home and building store, as a designer-cum-salesperson to design kitchens and wardrobes. Those were the years when modular kitchens and wardrobes were hardly known to people in India, and it was tough to convince them to decorate their homes using this new concept of standardisation. That’s when I figured out that there was a seller hidden in me, and from then there was no looking back.
Thanks to the organisations I worked with in the past like Arcus, Scavolini, Hacker, Home Town and Kohler, I acquired immense knowledge about the kitchen business. With time my technical and selling skills grew, along with strong values of ensuring customer satisfaction, which made me one among the finest kitchen professionals in the industry (as per feedback from other industry professionals).
During my professional journey I found that there was immense potential in the modular kitchen sector, and that customers were not getting the services they were paying for. There was a gap between what was committed and what was eventually delivered, and I started believing that I should do something on my own and also contribute to the industry.
But it’s not that what you think is possible immediately. I needed the funds to set out as an entrepreneur. Around that time I got a chance to work for Hafele as its national sales manager heading the OEM vertical based in Mumbai. The company was known as a great place to work, since it provided all round exposure about the kitchen business to its people. I took the chance and made up my mind that I would start saving so that at the right time I could live my dream.
Finding a Partner
One fine day in May 2016 I was in a discussion with my industry friend; he wanted my opinion about what he should do to increase the portfolio of his woodworking business. I advised him that since he had already invested in the infrastructure required for wood working, he should diversify into manufacturing and retailing of kitchens. But my friend remained unconvinced, since he said he had received feedback from other sources about the unattractiveness of the kitchen retailing business. I laughed and said what he had heard was baseless, and went on to say that if I had the funds I would have started my own kitchens business.
That comment probably triggered something, and after a few days he called me and asked if I would like to partner him in a new retail venture. I was of course joyous and happy to accept. That’s when we decided to pool funds to establish a venture and bring a new brand into the market. I quit my job with Hafele at the end of 2016 and returned to Delhi.
My partner Saurabh Jain, who is also the founder of Decora Group, comes with great knowledge of woodworking and is known for his quality work. The first thing we did was to decide on a principle that ‘we would offer only high quality solutions to our customers, and would remain ethical in what we say and what we deliver’. This was also our commitment to each other, and it led us to name our brand Impegno which in Italian means ‘commitment’.
Impegno has been funded from our personal savings, and in future, if required we may raise funds from external sources. Our business model is based on offering complete kitchen and wardrobe solutions to our customers. The product kitty will be expanded over time, as we want to have a strong product line which is long lasting and competitive in price.
Our strategy would be to invest in online presence via social media and other tools in order to reach out to a larger audience. At the same time, we will be actively working with influencer segments like architects and interior designers who play a key role as deciding factors for clients. We want to present them with latest designs and materials so that they also remain updated.
Choosing the right location for a studio is always the most important decision. We considered many locations, but found Kirti Nagar to be among the best for us because for years it has been known as the hub of furniture and buyers come here from many different states. Also in recent times Kirti Nagar has elevated itself as a premium furniture market, and here we could rub shoulders with a number of big brands. Since we would be offering fine quality kitchens and wardrobes and wanted to cater to a wide spread of customers from across the NCR, we decided to set up our first store measuring 1,200sft in Kirti Nagar.
In our industry a well designed store easily takes up a budget of over Rs 50 lakh. I think we have invested more so that we can give a great experience to our customers. Being right on the main road, rentals here are upwards of `125 per sft. Currently we are a small team of five people. However, this could increase depending on the work we are doing.
Saurabh and I are both directors in the company, and we are equally involved in all major decisions like strategy, finance, marketing and selection of materials, etc. However, in individual capacity he handles the production and procurement of materials and I am responsible for front end marketing, design and sales.
We want to measure our progress through the eyes of our customers and earn more references through them. We will keep correcting ourselves for the smallest of errors, and eventually franchise the brand to multiple outlets in different cities. I expect that we will come out of the startup phase early this year and start working on multiplying our retail presence.