StartupTalky presents Recap'22. This is a series of interviews in which we conduct in-depth discussions with founders & industry leaders to understand their growth in 2022 and their predictions for the future.
The construction industry in India is a significant contributor to the country's economy, with a market size of around $126 billion in 2019. The construction industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6% during the period of 2020-2025. The report also states that the Indian construction industry is expected to reach a market size of around $340 billion by 2025.
The Indian construction industry is characterized by a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and unorganized players, with only a few large companies. The sector is also known for its low productivity and low-profit margins. The government's 'Housing for All' initiative, increasing infrastructure development, and rising foreign investment in the real estate sector is expected to drive growth in the Indian construction industry in the coming years.
For this Interview, we invited Iesh Dixit, Founder & CEO of Powerplay, and we talked about the growth, challenges, insights, and future opportunities in the Construction Industry.
StartupTalky: What service does your company provide? What was the motivation/ vision with which you started?
Iesh Dixit: Powerplay is a freemium app to simplify communication between construction sites and central office teams. It enables specialty contractors, general contractors, and builders to manage site work, materials, and labor on its SaaS platform.
The platform has multiple modules that offer palpable convenience through its framework of seamless interoperability. The offered free modules are made readily available for the site teams to use on Android, iOS, and web browsers.
The premium modules include project management, financial management, and procurement management services, which are suitable for office teams. Located in Bengaluru, Powerplay, the SaaS-based construction management platform was founded by Shubham Goyal and me (Iesh Dixit), in the year 2020.
The initial spark was ignited when my father was building a house for my family, giving me a glimpse into how time and budget estimations go wrong in the Construction industry. But at that time, I never understood the reason for the same.
Fast forward a couple of years, when Shubham and I moved in together in
Bangalore to continue their entrepreneurial journey, We decided to get their apartment renovated, and this time again both the budget and timeline were exceeded by 40% — Forcing us to stay with the carpenter and painter for a week to keep the cost & time under control and understand the problem.
We wondered how such delays affected larger projects if smaller projects like this faced so many issues. That’s when We realized that owners lose a lot of money when construction projects exceed budgets and timelines. We both validated the problem by spending weeks on multiple construction sites and started to build technology to solve those problems. Making plenty of mistakes along the way, we have got some fantastic clients now and a long way to go.
StartupTalky: What new features have been added in the past year? What is/are the USP/s of your SaaS?
Iesh Dixit: Construction is one of the key contributors to the Indian economy but still uses clunky and archaic solutions. We are helping the sector to reduce its construction costs and time by enabling smart management via the use of technology. We are on a larger mission of accelerating the growth of socioeconomic infrastructure in the country.
We provide a SaaS base application to construction clients to track and manage their labor, material, and tasks. Meticulously tracking these day-in-day-out details is a painful task for construction businesses. They generally use traditional methods like pen-paper, WhatsApp, and excel spreadsheets to track these details on a daily basis. With Powerplay, we help them reduce their construction cost and time by carefully managing all on-site stakeholders at ease.
The platform also provides features like - Geo Tagging, Org Level Dashboard, Multiple-languages, etc. It is available on Android, iOS, and the Web.
StratupTalky: How has the construction industry changed in recent years, and how has your company adapted to these changes?
Iesh Dixit: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, like all other industries, real estate and construction have adopted technology in their day-to-day construction management activities. During the lockdowns, it was difficult for site managers to travel to sites and get real-time updates. We saw an opportunity here as we were doing the right thing at right time. With the Powerplay app, the on-site team can now update their supervisors regarding tasks, labor, and material at a click. When we started in 2020, the task module was the key requirement as site supervisors were keener on observing progress while they worked from home. And since then, we identified two more pain points of construction management and introduced them on our app - labor and material management.
StartupTalky: How do you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in your industry?
Iesh Dixit: Being closely connected with our paying and non-paying customers helps us with grass-root-level insights. And this has helped us grow tremendously since our inception. Our teams regularly connect with users and visit sites to understand their pulse, and take corrective actions accordingly.
StartupTalky: What key metrics do you track to check the company's growth and performance?
Iesh Dixit: Being in the growth phase, alongside MMR, we currently very closely measure the number of active users (users who use Powerplay more than 4 days a week) and their engagement with the platform.
StartupTalky: What were your company's most significant challenges in the past year and how did you overcome them?
Iesh Dixit: Moving people from traditional platforms like Whatsapp and excel was one of the biggest challenges. Bringing a behavioral change is never an easy task. With our freemium approach, people started ‘trailing’ and slowly were confident and motivated enough to access the paid premium version of the platform.
StartupTalky: Customer Success has become more important than ever. How do you keep your customer engaged to stop churn?
Iesh Dixit: With customer centricity as one of our key approaches, we believe in delivering a positive experience for our customers, paid or unpaid. In order to stop churn, we introduce and upsell new features which may be beneficial for their business. We also have a strict policy of resolving customer grievances within a set turn-around time.
StartupTalky: What are the different strategies you use for marketing? Tell us about any growth hack which you pulled off.
Iesh Dixit: At present, our key goal is to build a community of active users who engage deeply on the platform. We have a community on Instagram (@CivilEngineersDiary) which has close to 900K followers. With this page, we are trying to build a strong connection with civil engineers and the on-site engineers’ community. Also, we are using a mix of ATL and BTL marketing activities. Digital Marketing, SEO, Social Media Marketing, Referral, PR, E-mail, etc are some mediums we are currently using to create a buzz amongst the target group. Being an extremely niche market, we are yet to explore our fullest potential via marketing.
StartupTalky: Content marketing and Community building are something everyone is talking about in SaaS, How do you plan to leverage that?
Iesh Dixit: The success of a SaaS product is highly dependent on the number of active and engaged people on the platform, and hence it gets extremely essential to keep the target group hooked. While content marketing may help in acquiring new clients or generating interest, it is the platform ultimately that will decide how far will they engage. For this, robust troubleshooting, behavior research, and delivering features or updates even before the client thinks of them are extremely necessary. While we do all this, we never forget to keep the app - simple and easy to use. That’s the secret mantra to keep audiences engaged.
StartupTalky: What are the important tools and software you use to run your business smoothly?
Iesh Dixit: Slack and Google suite are the basic software we use company-wide to work effectively. Parallelly, individual teams use much other software like Trello, Whimsical, Mix Panel, etc for their internal work and task tracking.
StartupTalky: What opportunities do you see for future growth in your industry in India and the world? What kind of difference in market behaviour have you seen between India and the world?
Iesh Dixit: We launched our product in the US market this year, and by far we have observed minimal differences. While we do have competition in the US market, most of the existing players are currently focusing only on monetization and revenue.
We would rather want to focus on the user engagement aspect as that is very crucial for scalability. Hence the opportunity is immense. However, the US has more tech-savvy blue-collar workers and higher penetration of iOS users when compared to India.
StartupTalky: What lessons did your team learn in the past year and how will these inform your future plans and strategies?
Iesh Dixit: We have collectively learnt that it is user engagement over monetization. I am sure that this learning will help us grow much faster as a PLG SaaS company globally.
StartupTalky: How do you plan to expand the Customers, product features, and team base in the future?
Iesh Dixit: National and international expansion is on our radar. We are working toward making self-serve software and building intuitive product flows. This would reduce human intervention and help us scale faster. While we are expecting to grow our OS user base, we are committed to delivering a glitch-free experience as we scale. To meet this promise, we are working towards expanding our tech team by bringing in a few industry leaders.
Expanding our software offering to cater to wider segments of global users is our immediate action plan. With the high penetration of iOS users in the US market, creating a universal application that runs cohesively across platforms (android, iOS, and web) will be our key focus area for the next few months.
StartupTalky: Iesh finally, one tip that you would like to share with another SaaS founder?
Iesh Dixit: Focus on user engagement and not monetization in the initial phase of your SaaS business.
We thank Iesh Dixit for spending his valuable time and sharing his learnings with all of us.