In Conversation with Mr. Harsh Sethi, CEO, Construmart and Mr. Mitesh Singh, COO, Construmart

Construmart is a company focused on building materials, finishes, and hardware. With a vision to transform the construction industry by leveraging the latest technology, the startup caters to the retail market for construction and home improvement.

Recently, in an interview with Techstory, Mr. Harsh Sethi, CEO of Construmart and Mr. Mitesh Singh, COO, Construmart, talked at length about their venture, why they choose to start their venture in this particular domain, and also about the construction industry and their journey as entrepreneurs.

Techstory: Tell us more about your company Construmart. When was it founded? Who were the founders? Tell us more about them.

Mr. Harsh Sethi: Construmart was founded in June 2016 with the vision to transform the construction industry in the country. It is focused on building materials, finishes, and hardware, with significant involvement in the retail market for construction and home improvement.

It was founded by me and Mitesh Kumar. Both of us have over 25 years of cumulative experience in the companies operating in real estate and allied industries. We have hands on experience with B2B e-commerce companies, traditional trading companies, as well as manufactures.

I have over 15 years of experience of working with emerging brands operating in the B2B construction domain. Mitesh has held key positions across a variety of portfolios including internal systems, telesales, and marketing, and in companies like Power2SME and Tolexo. Mitesh has extensive experience in housing material sector and has held critical roles in companies like Buildzar and RAMA TMT.

Techstory: What inspired you to start your venture in this particular domain? What is unique about Construmart and the products & services offered by it?

Mr. Harsh Sethi: The construction sector contributes about 8% to the GDP of the country. This sector is at an interesting stage of growth right now and is ripe of disruption. As the last craft industry, construction has yet to enter the technology age. Today, more and more people are building their homes as per their choices but are procuring building materials in the same way they did 3 or 4 decades ago.

Economies of scale does not exist. We saw a need to transform the industry, by leveraging technology. We understood that this sector is fairly unorganized and has little cognizance with technology. Hence, we decided to begin our entrepreneurial journey with a concept that could be a one-stop destination for all construction needs.

Unlike other startups in this space, Construmart does not operate as a marketplace. Instead, we are trying to create a platform for sourcing of all construction materials, at the click of a button. We want to leverage the best of technology for a seamless and hassle-free experience in the building material procurement via our innovative interconnected concept of experiential store and online purchase.

Techstory: Would you like to enlighten us more about the construction industry? It would be great, if you can share some market trends in the industry.

Mr. Mitesh Singh: India is one of the world’s most vibrant markets for building and interiors at the moment. There are huge sums of money that are being pumped into a comprehensive range of construction projects, from major infrastructure upgrades, sweeping residential housing programmes, and wholesale city building.

According to a recent report by market research firm called Timetric, the Indian building market, the sector will grow at a CAGR of 4.16% until 2021. The report also states that residential construction is a key focus area. The Indian government is planning on building 20 million low cost units by 2022, to address the issues of affordable housing in the country.

According to Invest India, the construction market in India is expected to emerge as the third largest globally, by 2025. It is also expected to grow on average by 7.1% each year. It is interesting to note that the market of construction materials, whether raw or finished, is unorganized. The entire procurement process is tedious, time-consuming and there is huge variation in prices. There is a need to address this, by creating an innovative model that brings the best of offline and online.

Techstory: What are the challenges you have faced in founding your company? How did you overcome these obstacles? Are there any takeaways from them which can help in furthering the growth of your company?

Mr. Harsh Sethi: There have been numerous challenges that we have faced over the last 3 years. Hiring and retaining the right talent is one big challenge that all startups face & we are no different.

In order to address this, we have rolled out innovative campaigns aimed at better skill development, employee growth, and team bonding. These include initiatives like knowledge sharing sessions, at least one customer interaction per month for all employees, amongst others.

Techstory: So, how was your journey so far? Would you like to tell us about your current team and also its customer base and revenues.

Mr. Harsh Sethi: The company was incorporated in June 2016. It was bootstrapped for a year and a half. It received angel funding in December 2017. Construmart is currently a 13 member team, operating out of its Gurugram office.

Over the past 3 years, we have sold products across categories including Steel, Cement, Electricals, Plumbing materials, Water tanks, Genets, AAC Blocks, Bathroom fittings and Accessories, Sanitary-ware, Tiles, Flush-doors, and Hardware items.

The company reached the break-even stage in the 1st year of its operation. We are a solution-focused company and we are witnessing good traction. We will continue to focus on unit economics.

Techstory: So, what, according to you, are the strengths of your company?

Mr. Mitesh Singh: One of our core strengths is our innovative business model that simplifies the purchase of building materials for customers. We have a hybrid model.

Unlike other online players in this domain who have an online-only mechanism, we are able to provide samples of actual products to the customers so that they are able to take a more informed decision about the material while building their dream home.

We have extensive tie-ups with local distributors which gives us a clear edge over competitors. We deliver all kinds of building materials ordered by a customer, pick them from different vendors and then deliver them in one single shot to the customer.

Techstory: What are the addressable market and underlying opportunity you are going after?

Mr. Harsh Sethi: We are trying to tap the housing sector in India and are primarily focused on offering all materials required to build a washroom, across price points. We offer end-to-end solutions from conceptualization to finished materials, including bath fittings, bath accessories, sanitary ware, tiles, and lighting.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness in the country about personal & overall hygiene and we are committed to work in line with the Indian government’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign.

Techstory: How have you distributed your initial funds? Do you have any plan to raise funds in the near future?

Mr. Harsh Sethi:  We have utilized our seed capital and some part of the angel fund to scale up our business, acquire new customers, and build a team in line with our business requirements.

We do have plans to raise more funds as we begin expansion across India.