New Delhi: Radhika Khandelwal checked out five projects offered by her interior designer before settling on her choice to get three of the four bedrooms in her house redone recently.
“I had my room redone with a Japanese theme,” said the 24-year-old customer relations manager, who lives in a joint family with her parents, brother and his family. “The colours of the walls, the furniture and the curtains are in red, white and black, and I had an artist sketch bamboos on my cupboards.”
The Khandelwals of Anna Nagar in Chennai are spending almost Rs8 lakh on painting their house and redoing the flooring in two rooms. There was “no particular reason, other than we were bored at looking at the same old walls”,she said. Now, Radhika is thinking of redesigning the kitchen so that it goes with the newly-painted house. She plans to spend about Rs4 lakh redoing the kitchen.
Saif Ahmad and his wife, Sana, are browsing through Home Town, a 1,25,000sq. ft home-improvement store selling everything from window curtains to wooden furniture in the New Delhi suburb of Noida. The Ahmads plan to buy beds, furniture, plasma television sets and refrigerators for the 4,000sq. ft apartment they just purchased in a high-end development in Noida called The Forest, where every apartment comes with a gymnasium, sauna, steam, jacuzzi and massage chair. The Ahmads purchased the apartment recently for Rs2.5 crore and plan to spend about Rs60 lakh on the interiors. Saif heads an information-technology company based in Noida.
Consumers like the Khandelwals and Ahmads comprise an emerging class of young consumers who are willing to spend on their home décor.
“They are the young yuppie types, IT professional and young business people,” said K.E. Ranganathan, managing director of Parryware Roca Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture between Chennai’s Murugappa Group and Spain’s Compania Roca Radiadores SA. “They just ask for world-class products and don’t mind the prices.”
An economy that has been growing by more than 8% in the last three years is padding up the wallets of many Indians every year. A recent Hewitt Associates survey said salary hikes in India are expected to top in Asia for the fourth straight year. With the rise in prosperity comes splurging on everything from consumer items to cars. Home décor is one area where young Indians are spending heavily, making it one of the fastest growing segments in retail.
Buying a home is the top priority for many young Indians. Indeed, home loans disbursed by banks have more than doubled to Rs86,034 crore in the fiscal year ended March 2006 from four years ago, according to the National Housing Bank, the regulator for housing-finance companies. One of India’s largest mortgage companies, HDFC Ltd, says the average age of home owners has come down to people in their mid-30s from those in their mid-40s 15 years ago.
Anuj Puri, managing director of Trammell Crow Meghraj Property Consultants Pvt. Ltd, says India needs between 10 million and 15 million dwelling units each year. Despite a sharp rise in housing-loan interest rates—it has almost doubled to 12.5% from four years ago—Puri sees no major dent in the market. “There is a shortfall of about 15% every year,” he said. “Demand by far outstrips supply… I don’t see a dent in the end users” due to rising mortgages.
At The Forest, where the Ahmads have a flat, rates have doubled to Rs6,500 per sq. ft in the last three years. “The Forest was a hot seller,” said Arvind Parekh, chief executive of Omaxe Ltd that built the project, adding, “We are in the process of building more such projects.”
Parekh said the company has launched The Forest 2 in Surajkund outside Delhi at a price upwards of Rs6,500 per sq. ft and “a large number has already been sold”. He declined to give figures.
And it doesn’t stop at getting an expensive home. Several stores in New Delhi’s upper middle class neighbourhood of Greater Kailash are selling expensive foreign branded goods from sanitary items to furniture. R.C. Gupta & Sons stocks everything from Spanish tiles to Austrian shower cabins to German bathroom furniture. Toilet seats at the store are priced at Rs20,000-75,000 per piece. “Whatever we have are top of the line European brands,” said storeowner Rahul Gupta. “Obviously, they are expensive.”
The manager at the FCML Store nearby that deals in the US’ Kohler brand of bathroom accessories said his company has fittings for a single bathroom that cost as much as Rs20 lakh. There are many takers.
In West Bengal, Supriya and Sukanto Ghosh have travelled 20km from their residence in the Salt Lake suburb of Kolkata to buy a chimney for their kitchen at an outlet of Italy’s Faber. “We are buying a chimney for the first time, and we know Faber is a known brand,” said Supriya Ghosh, who works at research group Bose Institute. They settle for a metal-based chimney for Rs25,000.
The store’s manager says their latest product costs around Rs75,000 per chimney and they have already sold three pieces in the last three months.
Home World in central Kolkata offers gold-plated tiles for Rs5,000 per sq. metre. Proprietor Ravi Jhunjhunwala said a family recently redid their five bathrooms because they wanted imported Cotto tiles.
As India grows, millions of new houses are built every year to keep pace with the country’s soaring middle class. That’s creating even bigger opportunities for home-décor companies and Indian retailers have opened hundreds of organized home-décor stores in recent years.
C.K. Nair, head of the home division for Shoppers’ Stop Ltd, said the Indian customer spends between 10% and 18% of the value of the house on home décor. He said the demand for high-end products has prompted the company to introduce recliner sofas, duvet covers and pillows made from dove feathers.
“Customers are willing to pay a price... giving more preference to lifestyle products rather than treating them as a commodity,” Nair said.
India’s largest listed retailer, Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd, made its foray into home décor this month with the Home Town hypermarket in Noida.
Chennai-based Bohra Kitchens Pvt. Ltd sells imported modular kitchens from Italy’s Aran Cucine and they are priced between Rs1.5 lakh and Rs15 lakh. Bohra Kitchens says sales have been growing up to 40% annually.
But not everyone is impressed. Interior designer Shraboni Chanda feels Kolkata residents are still price-conscious and, though they might check out new varieties, they will still settle for the Indian one because of the price.
Market analysts say there has been a noticeable shift in the Indian mindset over the years. More than a decade ago, Indians would always think of saving, but now things are changing and consumers are spending more. “Unlike (in) the earlier days, when an investment in furniture was a lifetime affair, today it is different,” said Nair of Shoppers’ Stop. “Customers are willing to change their furniture and replace it every five-six years.”
Mumbai restaurant owner Tony Singh has discovered the Indian’s growing appetite for good things. In the six months since he launched Versace bathroom concepts in India, he has imported six containers of fittings, bathtubs, floorings, foyers, washbasins and other essentials. Singh says two more containers are on the way. “Given the pace of life today, the bathroom is the place, the retreat and so they are more than willing to spend lavishly on it,” he said.
Bangalore-based Jansi Nandish has waited almost a decade to see her stained glass design business pick up. When she first set up Kiara Glass Concepts in the late 1990s, it was a task to sell a 10-15sq. ft piece of stained glass, with most people unwilling to accept new ideas and home-décor concepts. Today, Nandish receives orders for up to the range of 100sq. ft and, depending on the intricacies of the design, she charges between Rs1,000 and Rs2,500 per sq. ft. “Earlier, clients would just refuse to look at stained glass as a design element in a home,” said Nandish. “It’s meant for churches not homes, was the standard reaction I would get.”
But now with clients willing to fork out up to Rs2.5 lakh for a large-size stained glass panel, business is booming for Nandish. She specializes in the classic white on white stained glass look that finds favour with homemakers for use as puja room doors or as panels that divide rooms and create private corners in large rooms.
Kuppuswami Sundar, who runs architectural consultancy firm Sundar K & Asssociates in Bangalore, has clients who seek integrated lighting solutions for homes that can cost anywhere between Rs10 lakh and Rs40 lakh, depending on the features chosen. “Integrated lighting solutions offer options like mood lighting where a central switching system adjusts lights across the home depending on your choice and your moods,” Sundar said. An integrated lighting control with security devices and remote operation of home lighting can cost up to Rs40 lakh.
At Edifice Constructions, architect Namrata Raj spends a large part of her time sourcing accessories for her clients’ homes. These can range from innovative wall tiles such as Bisazza, that cost up to Rs250 per sq. ft, to door hinges from Germany, mostly under the Hittech brand, that cost anywhere between Rs700 and Rs10,000 for a single door hinge. “Well-travelled clients are extremely particular about the small details and are willing to pay for the best in class,” said Raj. Despite her advice to minimize use of glass in Indian conditions, where temperatures touch 40 degrees Celsius in summer, Raj says clients demand large windows with no frames so they can have an uncluttered view of their front lawns. So, she shops for toughened glass that can provide security minus grills and frames at a base price of Rs350-450 per sq. ft. A single bathroom sliding door or a window pane can cost upwards of Rs65,000.
Saif Ahmad, who shuttles between New Delhi and the US for work, said the Home Town concept has been a saviour for him.
“People like us won’t have the patience to go to several different markets and hunt for these things,” he said. People are willing to spend on products of their choice and the convenience of getting them under one roof, he said.
Aparna Harish in Kolkata, Abhinav Ramnarayan in Chennai, Sudha Menon in Pune and Saumya Roy in Mumbai contributed to this story.