Hipcouch, Pankaj Poddar, Covid 19 impact, Coronavirus lockdown, Design fraternity, Measures to combat economic loss

The interior industry vs Covid19

Pankaj Poddar, co-founder of Hipcouch, shares how the slowdown has affected them, challenges faced and the plan of action for the future

This Covid19 pandemic will go down in history for all of us. Never has anyone faced a case of such natural emergency that would affect the entire world at just one time. The economy is shaken with businesses suffering huge losses. While we have been sadly reading the repercussions of this lockdown and economic slowdown on every industry, here's a take on how the Interior Design industry has slowed down and the challenges they face!

Given that this entire industry primarily relies on work being done on site (residential/ commercial), our entire logistics and operations have come to a grinding halt. There is no material or labour movement which translates into zero progress in work.

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Most of our clients, whether residential or commercial, have a current rent agreement for their respective spaces and usually have a tight deadline in terms of getting the work done so they can move to their new spaces in a timely manner. Given the nature of disruption currently, there is complete uncertainty on these deadlines. We have clients who are renegotiating current leases. Other clients have opted to postpone the work indefinitely. For one of our commercial clients, whose business was primarily reliant on people from overseas visiting and spending extended periods of time at their property, their business has hit the proverbial full stop and they have also decided to postpone this work indefinitely.

Hipcouch has started providing few services during the pandemic. We launched a video design consultation service for our clients. This service offers the same experience as that of an in-person design consultation meeting. Clients can finalise layouts, designs, 3D views, cost estimates and all detailed drawings before work on site begins, from the safety of their home. More details here.

We have made a plan of action for the future considering the  challenges we are likely to face. We are trying to conserve capital, as much as possible. To ensure survival, we (co-founders Pankaj Poddar and Parikshat Hemrajani) as founders gave up our salaries and had to also institute pay cuts for the team. Our budgets on all fronts have been pared down and we will be monitoring them on a regular basis. We foresee a lag in our industry where it might take additional time for us to resume work on all fronts even after the work/travel restrictions get lifted. There is a lot of migrant labour employed in this space and it might be a while before they return.

Our team really has shown incredible solidarity during these tough times. Even after instituting salary reductions, we had quite a few members of the team who came forward and offered their entire salaries so that others who have a bigger need can avail the extra help. We are also taking this time to encourage people to take online courses and learn, not only pertaining to our work but subjects/ classes that they are deeply interested in but do not get time during our normal lives. We are also hosting sessions from the industry experts on a diverse set of topics including mental health. Our clients also understand the constraints of the environment and have shown support in terms of understanding. We are also working with all our vendors and consultants and evaluating each front on a case by case basis.

In conclusion, profitability, or the path to it, will become the central mantra for all startups, small or large.



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