The Ikea of Home Building: Meet the man behind Revolution Precrafted, the Philippines' first unicorn
True to his start-up's name, Revolution Precrafted, Robbie Antonio believes he's starting a revolution with his property business
True to his start-up’s name, Revolution Precrafted, Robbie Antonio believes he’s starting a revolution with his property business. Established in December 2015, Revolution Precrafted marries Antonio’s dream to fuse his experience in constructing exclusive buildings with his passion for contemporary art. Result: highly customisable prefabricated properties such as modular homes, condominiums, pavilions, pop-up retail stores, and fitness centres.
The start-up’s innovativeness has helped attract many investors, with accelerator 500 Startups pouring money in early 2017 and bringing the company’s valuation to US$256 million, followed by a fresh round of funding led by Singaporean venture capital firm K2 Global that took the start-up over the billion-dollar mark and made it the first start-up in the Philippines to achieve a unicorn status.
At the moment, they have about six residential communities in the Philippines such as Batulao Artscapes in Batangas, Revolution Flavorscapes in Pampanga, Revoution Hill in Rizal province with footprint in 31 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, North, South and Central America.
Antonio, the youngest to be featured in Forbes’ 2017 list of the 50 richest people in the Philippines, belongs to a family that has made its fortune in real estate. The early exposure helped him in creating his career path. “I’ve always wanted to create an asset-light company that can expand to more geographic locations without the usual problems of funding and manpower. But then again, I am heavily exposed to the field of real estate and this is an industry that I was passionate about. So I tried to create an asset-light company in the field of real estate,” says the 40-something entrepreneur.
While thinking of new possibilities in real estate, Antonio came up with the idea of creating branded prefab structures. “It’s true that even before we launched, there were a lot of prefab companies already but no one is doing units designed by celebrities, designers and artists. So that was a niche segment that I thought can be explored,” he explains.
Making Art Accessible
Prefabricated homes, often referred to as prefab homes or simply prefabs, are specialist dwelling types of prefabricated building, which are manufactured offsite in advance, usually in standard sections that can be easily shipped and assembled. This means that you don’t have to go through the hassle of hiring contractors, manufacturers or builders, and also save on the astronomical fees of commissioning a famous architect.
On average, prefab homes are about 10 per cent cheaper as compared to traditional homes, shares Antonio. “You also save money since prefab homes are faster to build. We can build homes in as fast as two to three months,” he claims. But how challenging was it to get such big designers create products at such less prices? “Our hope was to convince some ‘starchitects’ about what we are doing and about what we hope to achieve. Thankfully, they understood the importance of giving the public more access to art and high design. They supported our goal of democratizing design, and the rest of the community took notice,” he says.
Critics say prefab structures are substandard, ugly and unreliable. Antonio disagrees. “I wanted to prove that by partnering with great artists and designers, we can create a new line of prefab structures we can all be proud of.”
The increasing demand for such homes is also a proof. “People want homes fast and beautiful but cost efficient. When we started out, we’ve always strived to address the common pain points of most consumers, which are speed, cost and aesthetics. And by applying advanced robotics to our production systems, we are able to speed up the process, and bring down the overall cost of home construction,” says Anotnio.
A stickler for details, Pooja Singh likes telling people stories. She has previously worked with Mint-Hindustan Times, Down To Earth and Asian News International-Reuters.