In the mid of 2016, Cityrene Builders Pvt. Ltd., was incubated by the Founder institute, a well renowned global incubator of startups. Transformation began there, at every point the idea was pivoted and refined. A well-established group of local and global mentors, most of them are Founders and CEO’s began to test the financial model, market size and viability of the company. And within a short span of time of 4 months, the company Cityrene was not just an idea it was incorporated as a private limited company with senior board of directors and a well experienced team of advisors. Cityrene uses some of the unique “think out of the box” techniques to build luxury living spaces and communities with state of the art architectural multi-purpose design.
About the founders
Dilipan Bose (Founder & CEO) was working as an assistant professor in a engineering college. During 2015 floods his house was severely affected among the million others. He got involved in rescue operations along with his friends. At that time he saw a house powered by solar which provided shelter to everyone in that area. That’s when he thought if one house powered by solar could save people in an entire area how much people can be saved. Eight months after the floods many of the borewells in Chennai got dried.
At that time he started wondering where did all the water go? Why didn’t we save it? At this rate what will happen to us in future? He started researching more on building a self sustainable house using alternative construction technologies which wouldn’t harm the environment. He then joined founder institute- a global startup accelerator program. His idea was refined and guided by many mentors who are expert in the industry and formed the company Cityrene.
We are publishing an interview with Mr. Dilipan Bose – CEO, Cityrene Builders Private Limited:
Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
Ans: 1. Urban water scarcity, 2. Inefficient power supply, 3. Time consuming & poor construction of homes.
Q.: Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Ans: This year Chennai faced it’s biggest drought and every year it’s getting worse. We clearly see that we are devastating our water sources. Frequent power cuts, fluctuation of power supply. If it rains for few hours the power supply is cut in that particular locality. This scenario would change if we could generate our own power using solar. People were stranded & suffering without power during the floods. Without power there is no internet, mobile phones, television etc. The entire communication is cut off. It was a matter of life and death during the floods without power & communication. No food supply for days, no water supply, people with medical emergencies could not contact each other.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans: We build homes using eco friendly technologies GFRG (Glass Fiber Reinforced Gypsum) and AAC Blocks (Autoclave Aerated Concrete). These technologies are eco-friendly and recycled materials. Our homes can generate their own power using solar, drinking water from air and organic vegetables from terrace gardening. They recycle the waste water without usage of electricity. An average family of four uses upto 1000 litres/day. We take the water from borewell but we never return to it. Our recycling system will return upto 700 litres/day. A 1000 sq.ft. house can save upto 5 lakh litres of water every year combining rain water harvesting & waste water recycling. This is much more than what a family will use per year. By implementing this we can build water positive homes. Our product became successful in the market because we give all these at no extra cost. Customers get added benefits at no extra cost.
Q.: What is your USP?
Ans: We are providing the entire product as a package -smart & self-sustainable home. There are people who are providing individual solutions and builders who are constructing using conventional methods. Our USP is providing a smart & self-sustainable home built with eco-friendly technology which can generate it’s own power, food & water.
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Ans: Our assumptions were: People would be interested in new technology homes, which are eco-friendly. When homes are built with a better technology they would get better homes and a better value for the money that they are paying.
What we have learnt: No matter what good the technology is how better it is, majority of the people are bothered about the cost. Most of them are even willing to build lesser quality homes for a lesser cost. Pricing is the major market differentiator or USP in Indian market. So we have adopted to the market and made a different value proposition where customers get the basic house for the basic cost and other benefits at additional cost.
Ideal customer: Young professionals working in a corporate company aged between 35-50 years who is also an early adopter.
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans: Business partners- Expecting people to work with the same vision and interest was my biggest failure. What I have learnt is finding a business partner is equally important as finding a life partner, we shouldn’t rush into it.
Q.: How are you pricing the Product? Explain your thought process.
Ans: Pricing of the product is based on cost per sq.ft. If someone owns a land we build a home for them in their land by charging cost per sq.ft. of total built up area.
Q.: How did you get your first customer?
Ans: It was very crucial for us. Since this is a construction of their home people were not easily ready to accept. Building a home with new technology was a big no because building a house is one of the biggest investments in their lifetime. So it’s a huge risk for them. We finally found our first customer in the startup accelerator where I graduated. He has been watching me closely for a very long time during the program so he believed in us and he was our first customer.
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans: We are a bootstrapped company and currently don’t have any external investors.
Q.: Is there any interesting success story? If yes, please write about it. ?
Ans: Yes, as I had mentioned earlier we started this startup was founded after we got affected in 2015 floods. It was started out of necessity. In the early stages had the idea but didn’t know how to implement it. How to start a company? etc. Then Dilip joined Founder Institute – a global accelerator for startups. There our idea was refined and formed into a company. We were mentored by experienced people who were already into multiple businesses.
Then our company was formed into a private limited company with the help of Founder Institute and mentors. In the early stages we found it really hard to find our first project. People are emotionally bonded in their homes so they didn’t want to construct their home with a new technology and a startup who had no experience. Those were difficult days. Then we go our first project from Mr.Gopi Mattel who was also the director of Founder Institute, Chennai. He has been with us for a long time and watching our progress closely during the accelerator program. He believed in us and gave us our first project of building a beach side apartment for him in Chennai.
Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans: Our big goal is to build self sustainable communities in busy cities like Chennai. Urban cities are running out of water. It’s not too long before we have completely depleted our natural resources. Without water cities will be inhabitable. We would like to stop that and make the cities self-sustainable.
We would like to build gated communities of 100+ homes where the entire community will be self sustainable in terms of power & water and use the govt. supply as a backup. A 1000 sft. house built by us in Chennai can save 5 lakh litres of water just by rain water harvesting and waste water recycling. It’s much more than what they will use per year. If we start this, every other builder would follow the same path which will result in making the world a better place.
Q.: Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? Please explain in details:
Ans: We have some total website visitors of 10,000+ We have had 500+ enquiries. We have completed 6 projects with more than revenue of Rs.2,50,00,000. We have 6 more projects to be started this year.
Q.: What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
Ans: Insight we have about Indian market is no matter what differentiator we show in our products people are concerned about the cost. Cost will be the main differentiator they expect. The scenario is changing currently. Sustainability is no longer a luxury it has become mandatory. In the near future we will have no other option but to build sustainable homes just like how we have banned plastic bags and using paper bags now.
Uniqueness about our startup is we provide the self-sustainable home as a complete product rather than provide solutions. We build homes using eco-friendly technology GFRG (Glass Fiber Reinforced Gypsum) instead of conventional bricks. We are the only builder to be trained & certified by IITM for this technology.
Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles.
- S. Dilipan Bose (CEO) – M.Tech Structural Engineer, NIESBUD solar certified, IITM trained & certified for GFRG construction, Trained & certified in digital marketing, google adsense. Takes care of the sales, overview of construction activites & marketing
- A. Nivethitha (Head of Design & Marketing) – M.E Structural Engineer. Trained in digital marketing, social media marketing, architectural and structural designing of buildings. Takes care of the designing of buildings, marketing strategies, marketing activities etc.
- S. Pradeep Saravanan (Head of construction & operations) – M.Tech (Construction Management) has completed over 50+ homes. Takes care of the entire construction activities, planning, scheduling, sourcing of labour, materials etc.
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans: We perceive Zed Homes and Good Earth homes as our competitors. We differentiate by using green building materials like GFRG, AAC Blocks.
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Ans: We aim to complete 5+ individual self-sustainable homes in the next six months.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans: Perseverance is the key. Things may not go well initially. Quit your job. It’s simply not possible to focus on a full time startup and a full time job. Ultimately, people lose one among these and mostly it will be the startup because their full time job will be their bread winner. Find a way to sustain financially for minimum 1 year. Get into startup, build a minimum viable product, get into sales, generate revenue, then improvise. If we wait till the final ultimate product it wouldn’t be possible to sustain in the market that long.
Thanks Dilipan. Best wishes!