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NEW DELHI : Kavitha Rao, country commercial manager for Ikea India, is responsible for sales, marketing, home furnishing, customer experience, and food businesses. In an interview, Rao said Ikea is following a two-pronged approach to drive brand awareness in India, and ensure that customers understand the functionality of its products and services. Edited excerpts:

 

Most Indians weren’t familiar with Ikea. How did you start marketing the brand?

One of the most important things for us was getting to know consumers in the India market. It was really important for us to visit customer homes, understand the day-to-day activities and look at how home furnishing played a role in their everyday life. In the initial years, we actually visited about 2,000 homes across all the major cities in India, trying to understand what life at home, in the Indian context, was all about. It really helped get into the details of what consumer behaviour in the context of home furnishing was. The second important step for us was to look at how our products fared. We actually placed Ikea products at customer homes, and really looked at what their usage pattern was.

The third important step was to look at the cultural context of India and link it up to what it meant in terms of Ikea’s culture and values.

We saw a lot of similarities and differences and our positioning statement—‘Make Every Day Brighter’—came about.

The idea was to say we would like consumers in India to look at the Ikea product range as a set of well-designed, functional, affordable products. And we would also like to look at how can we increase interest in home furnishing among our consumers in the India market.

Does Ikea have a template for marketing its products and services in India?

We still don’t have a template in place. When we entered the Hyderabad market—it was our India entry— the campaigns that ran were quite big and there was a need to create awareness for Ikea. In December 2020, the Navi Mumbai store opened just at the end of the first wave of the covid-19 pandemic. So, it was a very muted marketing campaign. In fact, we had a registration-based entry process to make sure that it was a safe shopping experience.

Now, when we look at the next step where we will be launching a small-format store in Mumbai—the first such store in India for Ikea—it becomes very important for us to give consumers the option to choose from the many different ways that they can get to Ikea.

So, I would say that it is still too early for us to create a specific marketing template. What we have really tried to do is to stay agile to the ecosystem and the changes that are happening and really tweak our marketing campaigns to the needs at that point in time.

In India, are you focused on brand familiarity or on the products that Ikea sells?

As a philosophy and ethos, at Ikea, we believe that the product range is our identity. If you are able to take well-designed, functional products at prices so low, that as many people as possible in India can actually afford them, I would say that that is a job very well done.

Having said that, we are also well aware that we are in the early stages of our journey in the Indian market. We are a nascent brand, trying to build awareness and also create interest in the home furnishing category.

So, it is actually a two-pronged approach. Of course, we would want our products and solutions to stand out, but for the many Indians who do not know Ikea, we need to create awareness and desire for the brand.

Are you building brand engagement on digital platforms?

Spends on home furnishings in India are quite low—about 2.5% in terms of the total disposable income that is available. That is far lower than most other markets across the world. There is a need for us to build even more interest in the context of home furnishing. We have done a whole series on home stories and continue to do. Additionally, we have forayed into a lot of the user-generated content.

People are delighted to share their homes on social media platforms and that, in turn, generates a lot of interest in the category.

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