You need to have a heart of steel to be an entrepreneur, especially when you already have a prolific and an illustrious career to leave behind.
Tithi Tewari certainly falls under this category who switched gear to entrepreneurship in 2015 after fifteen years of global experience in the design and architecture industry in senior leadership roles in international design organizations.
Tithi’s foray into entrepreneurship – How it all started
Tithi has worked with multiple firms on large-scale projects throughout her career where she experienced challenges in communicating design with static 2D software, which often led to dissatisfaction and discrepancies at both ends.
“I have seen architects complain about differences between the clients’ perception of a project and the end-product,” says Tithi.
“Another challenge was to bring all stakeholders to the same level of understanding of the project for effective design collaboration,” she points out.
These challenges pushed her to come up with a solution that would facilitate seamless design collaboration, virtual co-location of teams, and remote working without a hitch.
This idea gave birth to SmartVizX in 2015, a startup that leveraged VR to provide professional services and solutions within the realm of design communication to architects, suppliers, and real estate developers.
In 2018, Trezi came into existence under the ambit of SmartVizX to improve the design collaboration process and facilitate quick decision-making.
Touted as India’s first fully immersive VR product for the building industry, Trezi allows users to review, modify, and experience a project’s design at full scale while facilitating the collaboration of all stakeholders involved in one common digital space.
Situation of the Indian construction industry
The Indian building sector is fairly disorganized and fragmented. “As foreign players enter the construction industry and entire towns are built from scratch across the country, there is a need for solutions especially devised for the building industry,” says Tithi.
With the support of SmartVizX’s line-up of architects, VR experts, and visualizers, Trezi has set itself apart from its competitors with its agile cloud-based functionality and virtual collaboration capabilities supported over VR Headsets and desktop systems alike.
“This directly results in fewer errors and omissions, reduced material wastage, and improved decision-making,” says Tithi.
In just five years of operations, the startup (SmartVizX and Trezi) has an overall revenue of approximately $4.5 million. While it was self-funded in their first year, the team raised angel round funding of $500,000 from IAN and Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs in 2016.
Two years later, the startup raised Pre-Series A round of $1.5 million from YourNest VC and IAN Fund.
It recently raised approximately $1 million from its existing investors and Rockstud Capital Investment Fund.
Impact of Covid-19 on the business and the industry
Covid-19 has battered the businesses across the country and the world. As a result, there has been a marked decrease in the number of hands at all workplaces.
The building industry, in particular, has been hit hard. “The immediate and the tangible are often seen as the only way to get work done within the AEC space, and the need to go remote has severely disrupted established workflows and protocols on sites and in offices alike,” says Tithi.
The industry have been a little averse to new tech and this pandemic may just wake everyone up to that reality. A new way of working, collaborating and information sharing is bound to emerge.
Like most businesses, the startup has switched to remote working to ensure that our customers are well supported at this time.
“Leveraging technology in these tough times allows us to mitigate the impact of this global pandemic,” says Tithi.
Opportunities amid Covid-19
Tithi believes it is unfortunate that we needed a pandemic of this nature to push the envelope of technology. However, it has certainly got many designers and product manufacturers to take to Trezi for design collaborations.
Talking about the growth amid Covid-19, Tithi shares, “Our product usage is up 50%, free trials have surged by almost 200% and demos have grown during the pandemic.”
“Our product’s acceptance has increased manifold. People were taking baby steps towards this technology before as they had plenty of doubts. Now their trust and reliability have increased,” adds, Tithi.
Gender Equality in Indian Companies
It isn’t rocket science to understand that having women in the boardroom can help create more inclusive and engaging work environments, whether in the tech realm or elsewhere.
Tithi says, “The lack of women in the industry was much more glaring during the nascent stage of the company. However, times have since changed, and we are witnessing a considerable increase in women’s contribution across all levels of tech enterprises.”
The building industry has traditionally been perceived to be a male bastion and this is a perception that has existed forever.
“To truly bring diversity to the workplace, we need more women-led startups and corporations, to effect top-down changes in tandem with ground-level shifts in attitudes towards women pursuing STEM careers,” adds Tithi.
It becomes important to follow what we preach and Tithi rightly believes in this theory. “SmartVizX is an equal opportunity employer,” she says.
“The positions given to employees are solely based upon their capabilities and not according to gender. We are a women-led organization and are sensitive to women-centric issues,” she further adds.
As of today, over 50% of India’s top 50 architecture firms use Trezi and it currently has two customer types – architects and designers, and building product manufacturers.
In the meantime, the startup is working on its second customer base of building product manufacturers from the ground up and helping them establish virtual storefronts for products and prototypes that would typically take days and weeks to transport and generate enormous costs to procure sales.
The startup is also working on its platform strategy, which will make the entire offering more exciting and diverse.
“With this underway, more third-party app developers can create content on top of our SDKs, listing platforms and integrate websites,” says Tithi.
“We can provide useful data and analytics to our customers and charge for transactions once they start taking shape,” she further adds.
On the business front, the startup intends to grow its sales through distributors and channel partners in various geographies like MENA, US, and South-East Asia.