Bengaluru: With apartment sizes shrinking across Indian metros, space-saving furniture or multi-purpose furniture is being eyed as a potential opportunity for growth by retailers such as online home interior company HomeLane and Godrej’s furniture arm Godrej Interio.
Sofas that double up as beds, study units that can be folded away, and beds that can be stood up against the wall are among items expected to be in demand, fuelled by shrinking homes and a growing affordable housing sector.
To be sure, the segment itself is not new. Indian consumers have long been accustomed to using folding tables and chairs, stackable chairs, and sofa-beds. However, the category has been disorganized—one reason demand has not grown significantly so far.
“The main issue in this category is that while it was multi-functional, it never gave the feeling of any function in a proper manner. For instance, if it was a sofa-cum-bed, it never looked like a good sofa and when it was made into a bed, it was never a comfortable bed. But now designs are evolving," said Anil Mathur, chief operating officer of Godrej Interio.
In terms of adoption, space-saving furniture is probably 2 or 3 on a scale of 10, according to HomeLane’s chief business officer Tanuj Choudhry. In contrast, he puts the adoption of modular furniture at 6 or 7. Choudhry agrees with Godrej’s Mathur that the quality of such furniture has not been good enough to warrant more demand, but says the lack of demand has, in turn, led to high prices, thus creating a vicious cycle.
However, the twin trends of shrinking home sizes and a surge in affordable housing could help break that cycle.
“This (space-saving furniture) is the only way we will be able to create more space in compact, affordable homes. You can actually bring an almost premium feel to the apartment by setting up space-saving furniture," Choudhry said, adding that he expects value per square foot to play a huge role in the way customers buy furniture in the future.
“Apartment sizes in the metros are shrinking, as the prevailing market sentiments are constraining developers to come up with affordably-priced homes. The highest demand for flats is in the affordable-to-mid segment categories. Price points play a big role in housing sales today, which is why we have even seen balconies beginning to more or less vanish," said Anuj Puri, chairman, real estate brokerage firm Anarock Property Consultants.
However, some companies, like online furniture retailers Pepperfry and Urban Ladder, still view space-saving furniture largely as a single-city trend. Apart from Mumbai, they do not see any significant potential in other cities, including Delhi and Bengaluru, just yet.
For Ashish Goel, online furniture retailer Urban Ladder’s chief executive officer, space-saving furniture is a passion. But the company has had varying degrees of success when it has tried it, and Goel attributes that to the single-city (Mumbai) phenomenon and higher price points.
His peer at Pepperfry, Ambareesh Murty, is of a similar view and believes that the studio apartment culture will have to pick up in India for space-saving furniture to truly take off.