How Ikea tweaked its products to woo India's shoppers

21 Mar 2022
195 times

When Neha Mandlik moved to India's western city of Ahmedabad in October, she bought Ikea furniture and bric-a-brac for her new home.

Ms Mandlik ordered study tables, stools, lamps, a carpet, dishes and glassware for her one-bedroom apartment. The Swedish furniture giant, which opened in India in 2018, operates large-format stores in two cities and offers online shopping in seven, including Ahmedabad.

When guests come, Ms Mandlik joins the two study tables to make a dining table for eight. White, beige and grey dominate the colour palette of her new home. It reminds her of the 18 months she spent in London in a shared Kensington apartment, pursuing a masters in design research from the Royal College of Art.


"My tastes in furniture have changed completely over the years. And for some reason, Ikea seems to fit my new aesthetics," says Ms Mandlik, an architect who teaches at India's prestigious National Institute of Design.

She grew up in a sprawling joint family home in the western city of Aurangabad. Most of the furniture was heavy: teakwood sofas and chairs, glass-top dining tables, bulky metal folding chairs. Bric-a-brac picked up by her parents during holidays - lamps, baubles, miniature wooden boats, masks - also took up space. "Now families and spaces are getting smaller, and mobility has gone up. The way my generation looks at furniture has changed," the 35-year-old architect says.

This was possibly one reason that encouraged Ikea to set sail for one of the world's most complex furniture markets. Here antique furniture is handed down as a family heirloom; bespoke furniture continues to be made by carpenters; and tens of thousands of unorganised small outlets offer a more modern range that they assemble and deliver swiftly.

India's $40bn (£29bn) "home and living" market - of which furniture and furnishings is a big component - is mainly powered by the country's middle class. Ikea believes it is slowly making inroads - many of the 8,500-odd products on sale at its two 430,000 sq ft stores in Hyderabad and Mumbai, and online, are tailored and tweaked to suit Indian consumers. "Ikea is not in a hurry. They are all about creating and expanding an organised, price-sensitive, modern retail furniture market for India," said Ankit Bisen, senior vice-president at Technopak, a consultancy.







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