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'Lack of speed, execution is a sure shot killer for start-ups'

The youth of India should lead and create original ideas that thousands can emulate. Be passionate like Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg, says Anuj Srivastava, CEO of Livspace
'Lack of speed, execution is a sure shot killer for start-ups'

Homepolish interior designer Heidi Callier experimented with a mix of glam, mid-20th century accents and bright color for this San Francisco home office.

Image credit: Photo by Aubrie Pick/Homepolish
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Bet it an entrepreneur, early-stage investor or a product manager, Anuj Srivastava does not have to do too many different things to play multiple roles. His strong Internet product instincts and mentoring skills help him recognize opportunities in fast pace environment. “In start-up parlance, founders and investors use the term ‘pivot’ to describe the phenomenon. But each of these opportunities present to you the forum to learn, try bolder things and succeed,” says Srivastava, CEO of Livspace, an end-to-end home design and décor service provider and curated marketplace for homeowners and designers.

While conveying his message to today’s youth, Srivastava says, “My message to the youth of India is to lead and create original ideas that thousands can emulate. Be passionate like Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg,” he adds.

He further shares some useful guidelines for emerging start-ups:

1. Innovate through 10X thinking: One thing that we practice at Livspace is how we can improve things ten times more than they were, how we can rethink problems, and create truly inspiring ideas.

2. Fast is better than perfect: When you’re rapidly innovating you will try hundreds of new things, succeed at times while fail at others. One thing that I learnt early is that lack of speed and execution is a sure shot killer. My advice is to do things fast, rapidly iterate, learn and move on.

3. Get things done, as execution is the only intellectual property: Ideas are dime-a-dozen and execution is the only intellectual property. The only way big ideas come to fruition is when someone decides to work on them.

4. Be humble, build relationships & be intellectually honest: Above all, my advice is that be irreverent, but humble. Humility and the relations you make early in your life will go a long way. I’d also advise our youth to be intellectually honest and call a spade a spade rather than dance around it.

Entrepreneurial Journey

When Srivastava had an apartment in San Francisco, it took him nine long months and a lot of miseries to find an interior designer. From there, the idea of starting Livspace came into his mind. His co-founder Ramakant Sharma was here in India and spent countless months with carpenters and designers, who are not very well trained, and visited many stores to finally get his kitchen and home design done.

Shagufta Anurag, the other co-founder, while working at Space Matrix, had worked with thousands of apartments through property builders and realized that this is a complicated problem and needed a smooth addressal.

“We collectively thought, if we can create an end-to-end experience where homeowners can discover thousands of great quality designs and personalize the designs to their liking. Our vision is to make home look beautiful and become the world’s largest home design brand online,” avers Srivastava.

Funding has always been a critical growth aspect for any start-up organization. One may have a great business idea, but to turn the idea into a successful business venture requires fund. Therefore, Livspace roped in Helion Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners and Jungle Ventures. The firm raised Rs 29 crore in its first round funding from the venture capitalists in December 2014.

“We needed partners who add more depth to our thinking and bring more structure to our go-to-market plans. In Bessemer, Helion and Jungle, we found partners who are best-of-breed – be it in US, India or South-East Asia. We work like a family together and our investors believe that Livspace will be one of their marquee investments. The investments are in line with that collective goal.”

Achieving goal

Livspace claims that within a quarter of launching the business, it has hit a multi-million dollar run rate with over 1,000 per cent growth in web traffic in the past few months. Livspace already has hundreds of interior design looks and over 30,000 SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit), which are being personalized by homeowners on an everyday basis. The company has also seen employee numbers growing at over 500 per cent since launch, with rapid hiring in areas like technology, data science, design and go-to-market.

When asked about the crucial strategy Livspace followed to attain this level, Srivastava says, “The strategy we followed to achieve the great success are create large, new markets centered on new needs – be the first mover in the market by the use of technology, growth hacking, data science, and design savviness, hiring the best and giving them adequate authority, projecting a double-digit million dollar run rate, massive social and community engagement which is 400 per cent more than any other comparable company in India, and the largest curated marketplace community of home designers in India."

Acquisition phase

With an appetite to strengthen position as India’s leading online marketplace for homeowners and designers, Livspace acquired DezignUp in March 2015, which is a dynamic design community and marketplace for consumers and design professionals. In May 2015, it acquired Dwll.in, India’s leading curated online network of interior designers.

“We found DezignUp and Dwll as complementary partners and made no delay in bringing them on board. Wherever possible, we will use strategic acquisitions as a natural extension of our strategy,” mentions Srivastava.

Making profits

In terms of revenue, Livspace intends to reach $10 million annual revenue run rate in a few months and plans to reach annual revenue run rate of $100 million by the end of 2016. “We started our business only in December and have been witnessing hyper growth ever since. We are already India’s only full service, end-to-end home design and decor experience online platform and plan to consolidate our leadership position in the market,” concludes Srivastava.