Interview with Kunal Sharma, Founder & CEO at Flipspaces
Kunal is a serial entrepreneur and an angel investor who has founded and invested in game-changing startups.
With more than two decades of experience in the industry, he has a passion for building innovative, scalable and sustainable products and businesses.
Additionally, he has deep a domain expertise in business strategy, sales design operations and product management that has helped many companies move forward in the market.
Presently, Kunal spearheads Flipspaces – a design-tech venture with tech-enabled solutions spanning discovery, design and build, along with SAAS offering for relevant industry stakeholders.
With his acute business acumen, he enables Flipspaces to redefine the rules of commercial discovery, design and build in India and the US.
Prior to starting Flipspaces, Kunal has also been a Co-Founder and Director of Mexus Education – one of India’s largest educational enterprises with footprints across around ten thousand schools, touching over a million students across 8 countries.
He has also invested in many tech and tech-enabled startups – Tushky.com, Gloob Décor, Weddingonclick, Axiom Education and Aakar Knowledge Solutions.
Kunal has been a panellist and keynote speaker in several business and educational forums. An IIT Bombay alumnus, he has also been a guest lecturer for entrepreneurship in IIT Bombay and Ruia College, Mumbai.
He is an amateur vocalist, a theatre artist, a playwright and a poet at heart with a zest for entrepreneurship, enterprise building and technology which aims at solving complex problems.
Can you share with us the story behind Flipspaces and what inspired you to start an interior design tech startup?
Kunal Sharma: Before Flipspaces, we started off as a product supply and distribution brand in the furniture and furnishing industry.
While the business did well, there was something amiss which we felt – the revolutionary idea! That was the time when the complete interior design industry was an unconsolidated sector with no novelty in terms of customer experience.
There was absolutely no synergy between the three aspects – space design, product supply and project execution in the interior design space.
It was quite a fragmented value chain with different companies offering piece-meal services. What we felt was that there was a lack of a seamless customer experience which could be delivered at a level of scale.
In 2015, when we started working on the ‘big idea’ around technology, we felt and believed that we had cracked the code to take the consumer experience in interior design to the next level which was backed by a vision of a multi-module technology product and as a result Flipspaces was born as a first-of-its-kind, interior-design-tech brand. Ultimately, designing a new space is like creating a new world.
But the joy of this creation is taken away by lack of transparency and efficiency at every step of the interior design and build process.
What should be a child-like joy of creating something new is replaced by a frustrating experience for the SME owner or developer looking to design and build related products or services.
Our endeavor is to put the joy back into this process by driving customer delight in every step of this process which is only possible through a bespoke tech-suite combined with category defining processes and benchmarks.
How does Flipspaces leverage technology to revolutionize the interior design industry? Could you provide an overview of the key features and functionalities of your platform?
Kunal Sharma: At the core of all offerings is our proprietary tech suite named VIZWORLD which enables businesses with a one-stop integrated solution that brings the fragmented pieces of space planning, interior designing and visualization, furniture selection, services and project management under one roof.
It all begins at the client discussion stage where layouts are created based on the bare-shell floor plate and mapped to the clients requirements.
If a client has not yet found a commercial space and needs to find the right kind of property as per their requirements, the team helps them with the same using VIZTOWN which is a one-stop property discovery platform.
Post this, during the space planning stage where the technology allows to convert 2D layouts into a basic 3-D walkthrough, clients are also given access to the in-house product supply domain called VIZCART where clients can choose from market available interior products and finishes on the go.
These products and finishes are real time changeable through market available products during the 3D visualization walkthrough stage which is also known as VIZWALK.
Once all the details are finalized and the project is being executed, the technology allows clients to use VIZDOM, the execution management platform which has a range of features that benefits the client with real time updates on the project, remote site viewing amongst other features.
The result of this revolution has been nothing but extraordinary, evident in the way the brand is expanding in the international territories eyeing the $1 trillion global market size.
Kindly brief us about Flipspaces, its specialization, and the services that it offers
Kunal Sharma: Founded by Kunal Sharma and Ankur Muchhal in 2015, Flipspaces is an interior design-tech venture based out of 12 cities worldwide having offices in cities including but not limited to Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and New York (USA).
It uses its multi-module technology stack to bridge the gaps in the customer experience journey pertaining to the interior designing, associated product and services supply, and project execution industry.
While solving tangible issues faced by different stakeholders in the value-chain through its proprietary technology suite, Flipspaces is redefining the way commercial interior design and build industry operates.
With over 6+ million sft. of delivered space across almost all commercial real estate categories, it has become the de facto choice of turnkey design and execution brand for start-ups, co-working, retail, corporates and F&B players.
Traditional interior design processes can be time-consuming and costly. How does Flipspaces streamline and simplify the design and execution phases of interior projects? What are the benefits for clients and designers?
Kunal Sharma: Interior Designing has been evolving at a rapid pace over the past few years with the rise of technology within the domain.
With regards to us at Flipspaces, we believe that Technology is the way forward and will always be at the forefront.
With a tech centered approach, we at Flipspaces tackle each phase and element with a detailed process, with a few examples below of how we help clients with certain elements.
Technology: With respect to incorporating technology into their office design briefs, we’ve suggested things like smart lighting and temperature control, collaborative technology such as video conferencing and interactive whiteboards, and IoT devices such as smart locks and sensors.
For Litera, Ahmedabad – the conference rooms were all tech enabled understanding the requirements of the client.
Also in the Boston office for Quantiphi we also created a specific AI room which follows the movement of AI generation in terms of design as well.
Comfort: When a design brief is received which involves prioritising employee comfort we include factors such as lighting, temperature, acoustics, and ergonomics.
With this when a well made comfortable office space is designed and built, it can help reduce employee stress and improve overall well being.
For example, Allied Digital, an IT firm – keeping in mind the age group of the employees, it was vital to have multifunctional seating which were comfortable to the youth.
So we incorporated seating booths in windows, a few sleeping pods, ledge seating and a lot more age specific seating solutions.
Flexibility:When we consider designing a flexible office space that can adapt to changing needs as the company grows we try to include things like movable furniture, adjustable lighting, and flexible workspaces that can be reconfigured as needed.
Our client Simpl, wanted to renovate their office space to fit their current needs. Since the office cabins are designed with dry walls or partitions, they can be easily dismantled for any future expansion or revamping into smaller zones within the office space.
While providing multifunctional zones, one has to keep in mind the basic HVAC and MEP services are planned to accommodate future changes.
Apart from this we’ve also worked with Quanitphi, for whom we’ve designed and built 5 different offices in different cities while retaining the essence of the local culture of the city while maintaining our guidelines with respect to our design and build approach.
Each office is flexible enough whether it is to imbibe a new age design ethos for their Mumbai offices or maintaining a traditional office in Bengaluru to a neutral themed office space in Boston, US.
Sustainability and eco-friendly design practices are gaining prominence. Does Flipspaces incorporate sustainable design principles into its offerings? How do you support clients who prioritize sustainability in their projects?
Kunal Sharma: We at Flipspaces balance the need for innovation and creativity in office design with the practical considerations of budget and timelines through a combination of careful planning, efficient processes, and transparent communication with clients.
Our use of a systematic design process that incorporates elements of innovation and creativity while remaining focused on the practical considerations of budget and timelines.
At the core of all offerings is the global-first proprietary technology suite called VIZWORLD which creates efficiency at every level of workflow including design, product fulfillment, and project management.
The tech-suite is actually a boon for businesses who do not want to deal with multiple stakeholders in their design and build journey.
Thirdly, we have an in-house team of over 100+ experienced designers and architects who are skilled at finding creative solutions that work within budget and timeline constraints.
They use their expertise to suggest alternative materials, layouts, or finishes that can help achieve the desired look and feel of the space while staying within budget and timeline limits.
The interior design industry is highly competitive. What sets Flipspaces apart from other interior design tech startups or traditional design firms? What unique advantages does your platform bring to clients and designers?
Kunal Sharma: With over 600+ projects being executed with a floor plate of over 6 million sqft, we as a firm also have an expertise of handling a vast number of startup clients from various industries and categories.
We understand that each firm is unique when it comes to their requirement for an office space which also depends on numerous factors for example, the kind of seed round they’re currently in and what is the growth plan for the firm as well.
With clients such as BharatPE and Open Money from the Fintech Sector to Vymo from the CRMtech sector, each office created for them is unique and focuses on factors such as inclusivity and collaboration.
For clients such as No Broker which is one of the unicorns in the Poptech Sector, each office designed for them focussed on break out zones and collaborative spaces for cross functional teams to brainstorm and ideate on new ideas and overall improve the productivity and engagement between fellow colleagues.
For a real estate startup, The Address we have created spaces & zones which encourages collaboration and a sense of connectivity with the brand which directly or indirectly enhances workforce productivity and resilience among the team as well.
Overall, with our proprietary technology suite and the experience we have of designing and building offices for startups and future unicorns, it’s safe to say that we are the de facto design and build firm for 7 out of 10 startups in the country that want to design and build their first and subsequent office spaces with us.
On the back of our tech-driven vision, Flipspaces tech-platform suite has now catered to over 6+ million sqft of commercial spaces globally for renowned companies across corporates, start-ups, MNCs, retail brands and SMEs such as BSH, NoBroker, Open Financial, Times Group, Aditya Birla, InstaOffice, BharatPe, Nivea, Oppo, P&G, Reebok, Royal Enfield, Razorpay, Bounce and PlaySimpleGames in India and the US.
We target categories across commercial-like offices, retail, hospitality, education and health care institutions among others and provide a one-stop, tech-enabled solution to our clients for design and build.
The interior design industry is constantly evolving, with new trends and technologies emerging. How does Flipspaces stay ahead of these trends and adapt to changing client needs? Do you have any plans for future enhancements or new features?
Kunal Sharma: Every firm, whether it be a Startup, a Co-Working Space, Managed Space or an MNC. They all face unique challenges when it comes to office design, including limited budgets, changing needs, and the need to create a space that reflects the company’s culture and values. Here are some ways Flipspaces addresses these challenges:
- Limited Budgets: Many firms have limited budgets for office design. Flipspaces works with its clients to identify cost-effective solutions that can help them achieve their design goals within their budget. This includes using cost-effective materials, repurposing existing furniture and equipment, and finding creative ways to maximize space utilization.
- Changing Needs: Every company often has changing needs as they grow and evolve. Flipspaces designs office spaces that can adapt to changing needs by incorporating flexibility and modularity into the design. This includes things like movable furniture, adjustable lighting, and flexible workspaces that can be reconfigured as needed.
- Company Culture: Every firm has a unique company culture and a set of values that they want to reflect in their office design. Flipspaces works with its clients to create custom designs that reflect their brand identity and values. This includes using the company’s logo and colors in the decor, creating custom graphics or murals, or using unique materials that reflect the company’s values.
- Collaboration: Firms often have a collaborative work environment, with employees working in teams on different projects. Flipspaces designs office spaces that foster collaboration and teamwork, incorporating elements like open workspaces, breakout areas, and collaborative technology like video conferencing and interactive whiteboards.
- Future Growth: Regardless of the company’s size, they are often focused on growth and expansion, and need office designs that can accommodate future growth. Flipspaces designs office spaces with future growth in mind, incorporating scalability and modularity into the design to allow for easy expansion as the company grows.
By addressing these unique challenges faced by various clients, Flipspaces has been able to carve a niche for itself when it comes to designing a commercial office.
Backed by an enviable strong body of work and years of expertise, the team understands the pulse of the commercial workspace industry and enables its clients to create an office space which fosters disruptive growth, rapid scale and inviolable brand affinity.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own tech startups in the interior design or construction industry?
Kunal Sharma: Starting a tech startup in the interior design or construction industry can be an exciting and challenging venture. Here are some key pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
- Start by identifying a specific problem or pain point within the interior design or construction industry that you want to address. Understanding the needs and challenges of your target market will help you develop a product or service that provides value and differentiation.
- As a tech startup, embrace technology to drive innovation and efficiency in the interior design or construction industry. Consider leveraging emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance your product or service offering.
- In the design and construction industry, user experience is crucial. Ensure that your product or service is intuitive, user-friendly, and solves the pain points of your target audience. Continuously seek feedback from users and iterate based on their needs and preferences.
- The tech industry is fast-paced and constantly evolving. Be prepared to adapt your strategies and offerings based on market feedback and changing trends. Stay updated with the latest advancements and continuously learn and iterate to stay ahead of the competition.
Overall, entrepreneurship is a journey filled with challenges and uncertainties. Stay resilient, remain passionate about your vision, and learn from failures along the way.
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