Bonito Designs: Meaningful Interiors for Home

Sameer AM,CEOMany people dream of starting a business making money their passion, and for many others, it remains just that – a dream. But not for Sameer AM, Rickson and Vathsala CR. Sameer and his friends Rickson & Vathsala started Bonito Designs, an interior designing company that delivers work by them and their friends that not just represent aesthetic beauty but also incorporate functionality at every level. Today, they’re managing a thriving, award-winning business and have designed more than a 1000 whole houses till now 900 of which are in Bangalore itself. The idea triggered during their meet-ups where they often discussed the interior designing market being highly disorganized. Vathsala, a designer from the heart was working with Future Group and Sameer was a techie associated with some big names in the industry. Since Vathsala’s creative quest went glossed over at the MNC, she began freelance work whilst Sameer started growing fervour for Internet marketing.

During their meet-ups, Vathsala often ranted about unhappy customers even if they were ready to pay; there was no system in place to accommodate their customization needs. This prompted Sameer to research further on the market and to his surprise, the market was highly unorganized although it had a lot of potentials. Both of them narrowed down to the common idea of exploring the market and creating a one-stop shop for Interior designing solutions. Together, they co-founded Bonito Designs in 2012. At the same time, appeared their third partner Rickson who first approached Sameer and Vathsala to get his home interiors done. After the completion of designing, he showed an interest to be a part of their venture. That’s how Bonito Designs marked its beginning on the paths of creating magnificent interior designs. Since then, they have heavily relied on YouTube as their marketing tool and there was an organic inflow of customers.

“Vathsala now is not involved in the operations. She's focusing on one of her passion projects. We have three more promoters who have joined us in the course of planning. So as of now, it's the five of us who lead the company. In the early stages, the roles were interchangeable so we never had a defined job function. Now, Rickson is looking after the operations, I am heading the company and Bharat looks at the design aspect of the company, Arun looks at the people front and Pradeep takes care of technology,” informs Sameer.

Soon after Bonito, they zeroed in upon Squadro to give clients access to the economical model of furniture. “We had built the entire product system and customisation engine. In fact, we had built the tech aspect of the whole business which could then connect to the back end players who could basically manufacture those customised pieces but yet on the bottom line the numbers were profitable from 1 unit to 100 or 1000 units.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t give it the light it deserved. But we have been using the same technologies to Bonito's advantage. Going forward, if there were to be a cross road wherein it comes into effect, we'll probably put it back on the front,” asserts Sameer.

"Bonito’s constant endeavour is to deliver its clients a concept, a space that becomes a permanent source of positive energy and enthusiasm"

Sailing against the Wind
Over the years, team Bonito has struggled to surpass the initial challenges that any start-up comes across – from acquiring the first client to gaining visibility in the market. Along the way, the team has made friends with the market and the eco-system yet believes to walk lengthy roads!

“Reaching out to the customers with your services requires solid co-operation and alignment. The person who receives the check from the customer to the person who delivers the furniture. If you look at interiors, it is an amalgamation of hundreds of thousands of various disciplines formed together as one solution or one product. And how exactly do you align all of these people who are motivated either by business or by money in order to be customer-centric remains important puzzle to be cracked.

Despite having built the best of the systems in place, we still have unsatisfied customers at the end of the pipeline because someone somewhere did not align. This has always been a major challenge for us. One more challenge is once you systemize some thing, you are basically running the risk of being monotonous. We make sure to constantly innovate and bring something new for the people while at the same time not breaking the enlisting systems and traffic,” speaks Sameer.

Regardless of working in an industry that is still crawling its way to aggregation model and is still being organised; the team’s never give up attitude materializes projects in such vibrancy which is hard to approach by anyone else.” We have grown to keep our roots in the happiness of our customers and the experiences that delight them,” he says.

Till date, the team has designed more than 1000 whole houses, 900 out of which are in Bangalore itself. Out of these 1000 designed spaces, they have executed 670+ houses. “These are completely end to end turnkey projects where right from putting up completes furniture like kitchen, wardrobe, the balcony garden, entertainment unit to painting the wall, getting the curtains installed, putting up a false ceiling, picking up the entire electrical; we have done everything,” he adds.

There is no Failure. Only Feedback
Feedback can be a driver of tremendous growth at the company — both in terms of people and the product or service. Throwing light on the customer feedback process, Sameer says, “On the not-so-great feedback that we have received, customers generally hold us responsible for the delay of the projects. That is to an extent disturbing because we give our 100 percent to keep the options open and transparent for the customers and that generally trades off with time.”

Keeping this aside, the quality of designs that team Bonito provides are unquestionable and lets customers discover thousands of interior designs by colour, material
and style. The team does not believe in the concept of catalogue approach to home design as there are great deals of innovations taking place in the interior designing space every now and then.“We believe in maintaining utmost transparency with our clients. There are no hidden surprises, no last minute changes and anything of that sort.

Team Bonito Designs

Throughout these years, we have hardly had any customer complain about our quality of work. This is an achievement in itself, I feel,” Sameer further adds.

With three principles of designing namely time,care and attention, Bonito with time, has moved past the notion of considering interiors to be just a decor addition to a home and entered a realm where the team understands the importance of designing that is directed to thrive, rejuvenate and eventually get in touch with their blissful self for a much more meaningful life. The team leaves no stone unturned to bring in fresh perspectives of designs and makes every small and single effort in building a relationship with the client. “The whole experience around a particular customer is tailored as per his/her requirement and the persona of individuals taking shelter in that home. No matter how much technology we put up or artificial intelligence we lay over, the essence of human connection is not going to go away and we are extremely invested in that. And that’s what makes us different”, smiles Sameer.

Bonito’s constant endeavour is to deliver its clients a concept, a space that becomes a permanent source of positive energy and enthusiasm. “Great interiors involve placing you and your personality’s needs at the centre. It’s about how each of these can be played in order to define your space around you; for you. That’s our motivation; figuring you out as a person, and then going on to create the interiors of your home that makes sense every waking day to you,”he concludes.

Panel 1:
Leadership Mantra
First of all, the very first thing I look at is being vulnerable. At a personal front and with regard to the style of leadership, it's pretty democratic and outspoken. The reason being, in the current times, there will never be a state where you are fully prepared and you know everything. So, when that is the reality, there is a huge incentive on being open across on a consistent basis. What you hold dearly as truth often turns out to be a crumbly cookie of illusion.

As far as individual growth is concerned, I think that's where my questioning skills or questioning abilities come into play. Personally, I am able to see that a person has much more to pump out and some of the inhibitions are basically blocking them. That's when I bring in extremely hard questions on the table, sort of forcing them to look deeper into what they are saying and really come up with something extraordinary.I think that way and combining that with being vulnerable, sums up the whole leadership thing.