Country has a dual identity – India and Bharat
. India is a place where GDP grows at a stellar rate, people figure out on the list of richest on the planet and who’s medical and IT sector are world renowned. Against this we have a story of Bharat. Here, large populations are still below poverty line, around half of all infants suffer from malnutrition and people face difficulty in finding a decent home for themselves
. While India counts mobile phones as a basic necessity, people in Bharat fall short of fulfilling their luxury needs of ‘roti, kapda aur makaan’. 20 million housing units are required to house every citizen of the country. A system of large scale mass production of affordable houses focussed on lower income groups is therefore the need of the hour.
‘Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’
by C. K. Prahlad became an inspiration in this regard. Prahlad's argument that the economically poor are a large market in emerging economies and their needs could be met through innovative business models based on low profit margins and high volume caught attention and cemented the decision to focus on this niche market.
Based on this ideology, Design Build Serve (DBS), has been working to establish an efficient, viable, and transparent system for large – scale mass production of houses that are affordable and financed through savings and credit systems accessible to the lower income segments of the population.
People are central to the business model of DBS. Every strategy and decision has been taken up by it keeping core concerns of customers as sacrosanct. It has been serving people near the bottom of the pyramid – people who have been denied opportunities for better lives – people who make up the Bharat.
DBS - Design, Build, Serve
The foundation stone of DBS was jointly laid down by B.R. Balachandran, Dinesh Jain and Sanjay Shah in August, 2009
. We commenced operations and subsequently expanded to incorporate more practitioners, professionals, advisors, and experts. A team of like-minded individuals emerged, who represented different sectors with a shared passion. Our early tasks included researching local markets to understand diverse issues, contexts in the housing needs of potential customers. These studies also helped us gain knowledge about innovative approaches and processes tried by others.
Rajendra Joshi joined DBS Board of Directors in November 2009 and introduced some market –oriented strategies
in development and social interventions to improve the life of the urban poor. He also brought in the required focus on community development and partnership with Saath Charitable Trust, which has a wide outreach to potential customers.
In May 2010, Umang Lambha in Ahmedabad
, the pilot project was launched to an overwhelming response. Almost 300 houses were booked within a week
, confirming the huge demand for affordable housing.
In March 2011, Umang Narol (1 & 2)
and Umang Aditya in Ahmedabad were launched. Subsequently, Umang Sachin, Surat was launched in February, 2012. Each of these projects experimented with different implementation model, thereby enhancing the business concept to address multiple concerns and issues.
Meanwhile, DBS was invited to Global Summit on Housing Entrepreneurs in Barcelona in December 2011
. Among the participants from more than 8 different countries which included business, finance and citizen leaders, DBS model for holistic community development through housing was greatly appreciated.
In 2012, DBS launched two other projects namely, Umang Homes Vehlal and second phase of Umang Narol (3 to 8). This year first of the customers started occupying houses that DBS has built. These customers’ inputs showed us the strengths and weakness of our approach, therefore, forming an integral part of DBS family. With Umang Vehlal, DBS ventured into different housing typology – row houses.
Subsequently, Umang Vatva was launched in 2014. The following year Umang Aslali was launched. This year also saw DBS endeavour in yet another city of Gujarat – Baroda.
The name of the company derives strength from three essential components of affordable housing construction.
Design reflects true space requirements and aspirations of potential customers. Introduction and refinement of design elements is a continuous process. Additional efforts are to be made to provide space for community interactions where development initiatives of community development can take place.
The improvised design should be built in a way that potential customers are most comfortable with. Technological advances available helps in bringing down the construction costs but they should only be implemented after one has educated one’s customer of the latter’s benefits.
In affordable housing, one need to thoroughly engage with residents even after possession of units has taken place. This is a step further than traditional real estate. While ‘Design’ and ‘Build’ ensures provision of house, it is the ‘Serve’ component that truly makes it a home
Hence, at DBS we ‘Design’ and ‘Build’ to ‘Serve’ the people.