Monday , 25 March 2019

Building homes of wood

Businessman Caesar Fernandes, Benaulim, runs two successful ventures in building wooden homes and cleaning up of water bodies. For Wooden Homes India, he is looking to tap newer markets, discovers Diana Fernandes

It began with his grandfather’s carpentry business that Caesar Fernandes has now taken and built into a business that builds wooden homes for corporate clients and individuals. Wooden Homes India began as a means to set standards in fabricated wooden homes and is today looking to expand to the rest of India and the world

Back in 2006, Fernandes was appalled with the state of huts and cottages that tourists were offered especially along the beach shore of Anjuna and Vagator. For a state that runs on tourism, it was surprising that cottages made of palms were poorly furnished and unkempt.

It was then that the idea of providing aesthetic living accommodations coupled with comfort struck Fernandes and with it was born Wooden Homes India. Being a staunch believer in retaining tradition while adding modernity to it, he decided to build on his grandfather’s carpenter business.

Well known for his skills as a carpenter, Fernandes’s father took forward the skill and setup a workshop which is now made into a company providing quality fabricated homes to clients within Goa and pan- India.

“The point for us is to increase and improve tourism in the state with good structures while also adding value to it. That’s how we develop the designs. The main aim for us is to allow the tourist living in the house to be close to nature without anyone to bother them and still maintain a good level of comfort,” said Fernandes.

But when he decided to enter the market in 2010, it was no easy task. It took the company an entire one and a half year to get the idea to people and convince them to invest in wooden homes that were not only easy to install and remove but were also sturdy and comfortable. He recalls a time where he setup a couple of units in Palolem and while many inquired, nobody was willing to buy owing to the high costs of investment.

“I finally got a break with my first client, Indian Kitchen who bought two units and helped market the product after which we began selling three, five and seven cottages. Even to this day, some of my first clients order for more units on a yearly basis,” he said.

When he began, Fernandes would import the wood used in making the homes from Canada, Sweden and other European countries. Today however, the company uses only Siberian wood which is superior in quality and different in feel from European wood.

Based on the design of the unit, the fabricated wood is processed on a machine that works on a wood lock system at its head office in Benaulim while assembling is done on site. Currently the company employs 12 administration staff and around 100 ground staff that include daily wage workers and contractors and sell over 100 units per year but hope to increase this number to up to 350 per year.

With the tourism season beginning in November, work on most orders begins in August where over 40 units are produced and handed per month. The company has clientele not only in Goa but from the Andaman islands of Port Blair, Havelock and Neil Island as well as places like Shillong and Kerala. The major focus now is covering other areas of India and engaging in exports.

Though the focus had been on catering to hotels, resorts and the tourism sector, Fernandes has also begun venturing into residential homes. “More recently we’ve begun designing two to three-bedroom homes with a one plus floor design for families to live in. Unlike in the traditional sense of building homes, having a wooden home allows you to upgrade every few years,” he said.

And to set as an example, Caesar set his own home in Colva as a fabricated home that has three bedrooms and an extensive landscape that was done in a matter a month. He has also developed a design of a wooden home on stilts that he is currently looking to market. But selling the idea to the public is still a task, he said while adding that convincing middle class families at the moment was not possible the company was targeting higher income families that setup second homes and farm houses.

Nature and the environment being close to his heart, Fernandes has also setup a joint venture with his wide Dizzy Fernandes called Kafmar Environmental Services LLP,  that aims to provide a clean environment for the future generation. The main thrust area has been in cleaning and restoration of water bodies in the state.

Kafmar has completed seven projects including cleaning and restoration of the Villa Nova Creek in Colva, Davorlim spring, Murida Creek in Fatorda, Maimollem Lake in Vasco, St. Inez Creek in Panaji and most recently the Kurmane Khazan in Karai- Shiroda. They are currently working on Vodlo bandh that has seen an invasive weed Salvinia occupying the water body. Through their website, the company has also opened their hands to cooperate with individuals and other companies in these works.

“A lot of the water bodies in the state are extremely polluted and it is my endeavour to help in whatever way I can to preserve it for posterity. Our ancestors were wise and reasoned with how the water should flow. We today need to take this sort of logical approach when we too deal with our precious water bodies,” said Fernandes.

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