Father – Daughter Duo’s Startup Offers Innovative ‘Dustless Painting’ Service for Homes and Offices
In 1996, Atul Ingale was painting his new house in Thane himself when the dust generated during the process made his two children fall ill. This made him start to wonder if one could eliminate the dust from painting… and his research began.
After researching, experimenting, inventing and perfecting the art over two decades, in 2014, he co-founded Dustless Painting, a Limited Liability Partnership firm, with his daughter Niyati.
At an annual turnover of around Rs 30 lakh in 2016-17, Atul’s research and work hasn’t reaped profits yet but then money was never his driver – his motivation was to invent a technique that is not hazardous to children’s health.
He researched, tried, failed and researched more and tried again for 15 long years and then finally, in 2013, got the chance to showcase the art of dustless painting professionally, at a friend’s house.
The father-daughter duo, Atul (65) and Niyati (30), were working on their site at Chembur, Mumbai, when we caught up with them.
Niyati used to be a business journalist before joining her father and co-founding Dustless Painting. “It was his passion that made me leave my career and join him,” she explains. “He never stopped trying, and his research on dustless painting is on till today – constantly wanting to improve the technique and use the best possible equipment.”
Their journey started in Vasant Vihar, in 2013, when Atul's friend Dheeraj Gadgil asked him to try the dustless painting technique on his house. He paid Rs 3 lakh for it and the job took 21 days.
“He knew about my research so he asked me to try it,” says Atul. “During the painting, nothing was moved out of house and I hired people whom I had been training for months. The work was done excellently and Dheeraj was happy.”
Dheeraj recommended Atul’s work to other friends and slowly the assignments started trickling in.
Born in 1962 in Nagpur, Atul studied electrical engineering from Veermata Jijabai Technical Institute. He was always an excellent student and routinely topped his class. His career started with Crompton Greaves, where he worked for five years, before moving to Saudi Arabia and working for many companies – like Honeywell, Khayber Trading, Beta Consultancy – till 2004.
“While I was working, my research was always on,” explains Atul. “So much money has been invested on the research itself but then, for me, it wasn’t as much about doing a business as finding a solution to a problem.”
After two years of research, Atul developed a machine in 1998 but it failed. Undeterred, he kept his research on. “In 2004, I came back to India and finally, in 2011, I succeed. I painted my own house without dust.”
Atul invested around Rs 28 lakh in 2014 to start his business. He invented a scrubbing machine with dust control and started using it successfully for dustless painting.
Niyati, a Bachelor of Mass Media from Ruia College, went to University of Buckingham in 2009 and, after returning, joined CNBC. In 2014, she quit her career for Dustless Painting.
“We had a detailed discussion on how to go about the business, and how we would make people accept this concept,” says Niyati.
However, it was hard to get business and for two years they had almost no jobs. This is when Niyati realised it's important to invest in advertising.
“We had no work in the initial year, this is when we started advertising at public places and online too,” she says. “But it’s a new concept and it’s costlier than the traditional style, so it’s still difficult to get work but I know soon people will accept it.”
There was more than one setback in setting up the business. They tried to tie-up with architects and take projects through them but it didn’t work and some didn't even pay them.
"We use top products and give high quality service,” says Niyati, “but people aren't ready to pay. When some big name architects duped us of lakhs of rupees, it was a shock… but we learnt our lessons and kept going.”
Creating awareness is the biggest hurdle for Dustless Painting. While trying to do that, they have faced additional losses – they would pay and attend exhibitions but get no business in return.
After great struggle, they finally got a job to paint a Mumbai-based special children’s school in 2016, where, in 43 days they had to paint an 18,000 sq ft area with eight labourers, and they did it effortlessly.
“The trustee of the school approached us as he didn't want the children to suffer due to dust, so we took it without thinking twice as it was for children,” says Atul. “It was a good opportunity for us and now he is giving us the contract for another school.”
As of now, Dustless Painting has done 37 projects – the majority is residential work but, apart from the school, they also painted an ENT hospital.
Niyati and Atul have faced many financial problems while running the company. They have invested around Rs 80-85 lakh so far and face a loss of Rs 3 lakh per year.
However, Niyati remains optimistic about the future. Dustless Painting is now working with Aum Architects and they have a good working relationship.
“Our concept is new, so the process is slow but I am optimistic that people will soon accept it,” says Niyati. “In India, there is only one other Chennai-based company offering this service so we are early in the market and want to build on that advantage.”
The money will eventually come in, but Atul is quite happy to continue doing what he loves.
This Article is Part of the 'Super Startups' Series
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