What do Playboy and Ikea have in common? Both companies are keen to establish themselves in India, yet they are being denied the opportunity to bring their full range of offerings that gives each entity its unique appeal and identity.
Playboy clubs without Playboy bunnies, not to mention the magazine that started it all, and Ikea without its meatballs and with half its product line banned—such as textiles, decorative products, gift articles, travel products, lifestyle products, beach products, toys, etc., (the list is long)—make little sense.
Playboy’s play in India appears to be ambitious, with plans to open over 100 outlets in India, starting with a massive beach-front club on Candolim beach in Goa that’s set to open next month. With no nudity and the promise of venues being sanitized zones, one wonders just what the point is of having a Playboy club at all. One thing that may draw members is the lure of access to global clubs and parties at the Playboy mansion that will dish out all that the local clubs cannot deliver. I could not believe my ears when a lawyer told me earlier this year that Playboy bunny earrings and apparel are illegal in India. Now that Playboy retail outlets are in the offing, at least it’s a step in the right direction and a relief to know that I will not get arrested for sporting bunny earrings.
However, for Ikea to be Ikea it needs to be a one-stop destination for all that you need and many things that you did not even know you needed but are so glad to have. Many of us in the US counted on Ikea for quickly setting up a new home at one shot. It has been a little disappointing that some much-loved items that were sold in stores over 10 years ago are not available any more—notably, a futon that converts from a sofa into a bed with a simple one-two motion that even elderly folks can operate with ease. Still, the stores are packed and the lines at the cafes are always long and new stores are always welcomed by those who no longer have to drive long distances to shop at Ikea.
To allow Ikea to enter India but to prevent it from bringing its range of products that make it the much-loved go-to destination worldwide is a loss for the Indian consumers. With other odd restrictions such as not allowing Ikea to mail newsletters to its customers and the onerous local sourcing rules, the move to allow foreign direct investment in supermarkets is a classic case of one step forward, 10 steps backward.