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Home Sweet Home? This Start-Up Will Help You Design It The Way You Are Founded in 2012, Bonito Designs has grown quickly in the last few years, and now plans to strengthen its presence in Bengaluru before venturing out into newer territories

By Debroop Roy

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Debroop Roy
Sameer A.M., Co-Founder and CEO, Bonito Designs

There's a certain sentimentality involved when people build and design their own house. And while engineers and architects help build the structure, how a home would look like from the inside is almost entirely dependent on those who would live in it.

What if an outsider could understand this sentiment and design your house from start to finish? Enter Bonito Designs.

A design-centric start-up based in Bengaluru, Bonito's journey started in 2012.

A Freelance Project

The whole idea that culminated into Bonito started as a freelance effort, says co-founder Sameer A.M.

Sameer had a fair amount of experience trying different things, with informal forays into real estate brokerage and education, and after a few conversations with people about the lack of a real design to delivery player in the market, he decided to take the plunge.

With him was a friend, Vathsala Rangegowda, who had a background in designing.

"There were furniture players, there were service vendors, but as one package, nobody was actually able to get hold of customers, really get to the roots of what it is that they want, and then figure out the whole stuff for them," he says.

To land the first customer, Sameer says he had to make about 150 calls. For the first three-four projects, they sourced everything from a local contractor.

And then came Rickson D'Souza, the third co-founder. Rickson, a former acquaintance of Sameer, came to know about their little project when he was building his own house. After contracting Sameer and Vathsala to design his home, and watching them work their magic, he asked to come on-board.

"The addition of Rickson kind of certainly brought a very immense ability into what we were doing," says Sameer.

The Process

Bonito first tries to understand the aesthetic requirement of each customer through a set of questions.

Thereafter a team looks at the answers and build designs around them. A lot of times, asking the customers directly about one product or a design is not the right way to go about it, as customers themselves often do not know what they want, according to Sameer.

"You talk to people, you figure out all their life stories, and what are their thoughts or dreams about what they want their home to be," he says.

Once done, the company works to incorporate those learnings into the empty space, the house. "That's your creative limitation, that's your canvas."

While the process is largely manual now, the company is banking on technology to make the process more optimum, introduce things that one cannot otherwise.

"We are harping a lot on tech and behavioral sciences to be able to add that angle," says Sameer.

Once the designs are final, through multiple interactions with the customer, the products are manufactured by the company, each customized and then delivered.

From Then to Now

Bonito has scaled quickly over the last few years. In the last fiscal year, Sameer says they had about 140 projects, a number they have already surpassed in the first six months of fiscal 2019. The company currently has over 160 employees.

Earlier this year, the company raised $6.3 million in funding led by early-stage venture investment firm Tomorrow Capital.

"In a year, we want to have a statement out there of what is actually possible when you put the user and the design at the center," Sameer says.

And while the start-up is looking to explore and establish their presence in other metropolitan cities across India—Mumbai being right up there on that wishlist—they want to become the dominant player in the Bengaluru market before that.

Debroop Roy

Former Correspondent

Covering the start-up ecosystem in and around Bangalore. Formerly an energy reporter at Reuters. A film, cricket buff who also writes fiction on weekends.
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