Home >Companies >News >Ikea finds mattresses score over bookcases in India
Jesper Brodin, chief executive of Ikea Group (Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint)
Jesper Brodin, chief executive of Ikea Group (Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint)

Ikea finds mattresses score over bookcases in India

  • Ikea is running into the problem of slow furniture sales as Indians, unlike Westerners, tend to use their furniture for a long time
  • Ikea is still bullish on India, having already laid the groundwork for stores in Mumbai and Bengaluru, and plans to open smaller stores as well

Mumbai: Ikea of Sweden AB claims its Billy Bookcase is sold somewhere in the world every five seconds. But this iconic product is not on the bestselling list in India, where more mundane items such as mattresses and cutlery are the most popular at its sole Indian store in Hyderabad.

“We had to do some adaptation of our products," Jesper Brodin, chief executive of Ikea Group, said in an interview. “I think we are tapping in with the right products at the right price levels, in a way thanks to the market research we learned about (Indian) homes and people."

The do-it-yourself (DIY) furniture retailer, which opened its first Indian store in August last year, has been mostly selling cutlery, home interiors and tool kits. But like other furniture sellers in India, Ikea is running into the problem of slow furniture sales as Indians, unlike Westerners, tend to use their furniture for a long time.

“People usually buy furniture on two occasions: first, when they move to a new home and the second one is when they have their first kid," Brodin said. Also, DIY furniture is quite a new concept for India, he said.

Still, Ikea is bullish about India, given its huge middle-class population. It has already laid the groundwork to build stores in Mumbai and Bengaluru. Apart from having a flagship store on the outskirts of a city, the company plans to open smaller stores across Mumbai to make products more accessible, as people usually do not want to travel too far to shop.

“During our research phase, this lady kept telling me, ‘Why don’t you open a store close to my house?’ That is when we decided to take this approach," added Brodin.

But furniture remains a slow-moving category in India. Retailers including Landmark Group-owned Home Centre and Bengaluru-based Urban Ladder face similar issues.

“There is a challenge in furniture growth because, in India, the household furniture segment is very slow. People usually buy furniture keeping in mind that it should last them forever," Vasanth Kumar, managing director of Home Centre, said in an interview on 3 April.

“Interior and home accessories has been exceptional for us as it comes from impulse purchase, whereas furniture is flat," added Kumar. Also, the segment is still largely controlled by the unorganized players.

The Swedish furniture maker is trying to create an all-new segment. To get more footfalls, the company also plans to use food as leverage. When Ikea started operations in Hyderabad, one of the major attractions was biryani. This trend, of bringing a city’s famous dish to the food court, will continue in other flagship stores.

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