Sona Modi: A business mentor and proptech entrepreneur re-envisioning real estate

5 Most Influential Women in Real Estate To Watch in 2022

People want to live, work, play, learn, shop, and eat in a place that provides comfort and peace. To create a place like this need specific skills in designing, engineering, supervising, managing, and communicating with clients and builders to understand the actual requirements. Creating an interior of a place is not just filling the place with colors it also includes an overall design of the building and other structures, and not limited to its appearance. An architect or architect firm makes sure that buildings/houses/offices not just look beautiful but functional, safe, and economical. The structures must fulfill the needs of the people who use them. Architects consider all these factors when they design the interior or exterior of buildings and other structures.

Meet Sona Modi, Founder, and CEO of Gofigo, a firm that creates photo-real 3D visualizations from floor plans or architectural drawings. Sona is an experienced startup mentor with a demonstrated history of working in finance and venture capital as well as strategy consulting for the FMCG industries.

Expanding the Boundaries of Knowledge is Success

“I’m driven by an innate desire to learn; a successful year is one in which I am better equipped with knowledge than the last,” says Sona.  She points out that with knowledge one can improve their business, conversations, relationships, finances, as well as the quality of help they can provide others.

She believes, “Knowledge comes from books but also from experiences. I try to fill my life with different experiences, those that come from travel, extracurricular classes, charity work, and so on.” She also tries to expand her network with people from a diverse range of backgrounds and sectors as possible. As per her experiences, one never knows where the next flash of inspiration is going to come from.

Started to Fulfil the Service Gap

For Sona, there were several professional and personal reasons to set up a business. She had been an advisor for organizational growth for many years, and it included large global brands such as Samsung, also early-stage, pre-revenue start-ups. She had also been investing in real estate for many years, from the age of 23 and had noticed loads of problems within the sector that needed solving. She admired the energy and passion the founders she had been working with. She says, “It was infectious.” She further adds, “It came to the point that I just felt confident and inspired enough to take the leap.” 

Challenges Bring New ways of Improvement

Sona finds that challenges can make people stronger, but they can also make them lose heart. The trick is to see each challenge as a problem; instead of seeing it as a negative, start to view it as something that just needs solving.

She recalls the time when she used to be terrible at giving presentations. She had always watched her bosses give presentations. They were much older men with their own styles, and when Sona tried to mimic them, she ended up sounding quite bored and depressed. She deems, “I felt down about it at first, but I quickly realized that all I needed to do was to find my own style. I decided to join Toastmasters, a global company with local clubs organized to help people improve their public speaking. Not only did I improve my public speaking, but I also made a whole new lot of friends.” 

Advanced Architectural Composition

Gofigo takes floor plans of a building and turns them into 3D photographs, demonstrating what the final space could look like. These are called computer-generated images (CGIs). While these do already exist, they currently cost a lot of money (they can cost up to £5,000 per image) because they are extremely manual and time-consuming to create.

Gofigo is automating the process of converting 2D floorplans into 3D images, allowing the team to create CGIs quickly and cost-effectively, but this also means that the team can create numerous variations for A/B testing and rapidly make decisions on designs. The company states, “We are building a variety of tools aimed at property developers to help them sell their projects off-plan faster and cost-effectively.”

Stimulating Work Culture fueled with Innovation

At Gofigo, the team is always thinking of new product features and new ways of monetizing. Sona encourages her team to save and share their ideas and routinely schedule Friday afternoons as a time to consider these different ideas in more detail. The company has a culture of experimentation so that, as the team, they can examine some of these new ideas and flesh them out.  The management starts testing these ideas with various stakeholders before deciding on whether these ideas may be a suitable addition to the company’s future roadmap.

Being a Proficient before Becoming a Leader

After completing an MA in Design Management, often dubbed ‘the MBA of the design world’, Sona began her career as a Strategy consultant, advising FMCG companies on their product or innovation strategies. This is where she honed her approach to innovation; one that puts consumers at center of the process.

She took this approach to her next role working in venture capital, where she helped successfully launch and grow various start-ups.

Immediately before launching her business, she spent some time working in Delhi and Stockholm to broaden her worldview and also took part in the Entrepreneur First and Antler incubators to broaden her work network.

Sona’s visionary approach and hard work attitude has brought her recognition in the respective industry. She opines, “Recognition isn’t about awards it is about other people’s trust in your business idea. This happens from incubators like Antler VC and various other investors backing your business, as well as great feedback from happy customers.”

Responsibilities as the CEO of Gofigo

Sona sees herself as a passionate individual with highly influencing ideas. She asserts, “You have to be passionate about your business, and what you do, otherwise there is no point.” Like any other entrepreneur, Sona’s responsibilities comprise creating the vision, hiring the right team, and making sure that the company never runs out of money!

A Perfect Balance Combines; Life, Work and Happiness

Everyone has struggled with the idea of balance, given the recent lockdown. As someone who doesn’t watch TV, Sona spent most of the time working. However, she believes, “It is important to remember that no matter how excited you are to work on your business, it is a marathon, not a sprint.”  

Sona leads at Gofigo by encouraging a healthy work-life balance. She doesn’t expect her team to work all weekend and all evening. She encourages them to go outside and do something else. On the other hand, she knows that if there are deadlines and a requirement to go the extra mile, her team always prioritizes the work, and they can give 100% because they are rested, motivated and happy.

Vision for Future

Being a ‘business leader’ is only part of my life,” says Sona. She lives with the idea that her personal goals are focused on improvising her own personality and skills. She has recently completed an MBA and wishes to use the skills she has acquired from running a business to make a positive contribution to society. She opines, “I am currently the trustee of an educational psychotherapy charity and the governor of a local school.”  

For the company, Sona’s vision is to build a self-service tool and to expand globally. As she states, Gofigo is already the first point of call for UK residential developers selling projects off-plan. The team offers the services and features that CGI companies don’t or can’t currently offer. These offerings include interior design, shoppable images, multiple variations, quick turnaround, and affordability.