Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why dont we have Ikea in India?

After an amazing non-stop run of 11 continuous daily posts, I finally succumbed to the atrocities of a hectic work life and no internet connection at home. I missed 4 days of posting and probably lost all my readers :).

But there will be an effort to get back on track, and like all things in life, I shall persevere to overcome the hurdles presented by trivial realities of the life of a middle-class IT genius (like the triviality of a snow storm which severs the home internet connection). And at the same time I will stick to the advice of mah best friend. To write when I feel like writing, not because I have to write. I agree. I want to maintain the sanctity of what I write, and continue to write for myself, not for my audience :).

Its been a roller coaster week. And the highlight has perhaps been not having internet at home, about which I have cribbed in my previous post.. even now the connection at home is not working but one of my colleagues has been nice enough to lend me their 3G wireless card. Which makes me sure that I will apply for one at work the next time I meet my manager and ensure that my dedication at work is not affected by natural disasters like a cut internet connection :) However not having internet at home has helped me relax and have a really lazy weekend. I slept through most of yesterday, watched some nonsense on TV and cooked. It is officially spring in Sweden, but this is what Stockholm looked like on Friday.. (the pics are from before.. but it should give you an idea of what the road to my workplace looks like when there is heavy snow!)

Today I had planned trip to Ikea with my apartment owner to purchase furniture. It was an interesting trip. My apartment owner, lets call him ‘A’ is an interesting old man who is a musician and piano/music teacher. We went to Ikea in his car, and interestingly, when he switched on the radio (tuned in to a national radio channel), the channel was playing “Kaale Megha Kaale Megha” from Lagaan. I was pleasantly surprised and extremely amused to find a hindi song playing on Swedish radio. ‘A’ wasn’t surprised, he didn’t notice it was a hindi song till I pointed it out to him. I guess the people here are more exposed to international music than we Indians are. He even told me that he is a big fan of Pandit Ravi Shankar. He said that he connected with Pandit Ravi Shankar on a personal note as well because Panditjis daughter was a Sitar player, pretty similar to A’s own daughter who had also taken up music and was an Opera singer. Well, the world after all, is a small place. I enjoyed my ride, its not often that one gets to listen to Bollywood music driving on the roads of Stockholm.

Have you ever wondered why there is no Ikea in India? (If you haven’t heard of the phenomenon called Ikea, please read about it on Wikipedia by clicking at the link: HERE . It is the pride of Sweden and is much talked about here because it was founded in Sweden by a Swede called Ingvar Kamprad in1943)
It is there everywhere.. in nearly all states of US, in Canada, in 24 countries in Europe, all over Australia, most parts of Asia and even in one location in South America.. Its absence is noticeable only in Africa and India. For Africa we can perhaps find economic reasons for the absence but its absence in India is very conspicuous. Check out the picture of Ikea presence below, and you will know what I mean (The green parts are present locations of Ikea, the blue are planned locations):

. Photo Source: Wikipedia .

Now think about it, we have all the worlds biggest brands, from McDonalds to Gucci to Mercedes. Then why do we not have Ikea?

The basic concept of Ikea according to me is affordable furniture with the best high class designs in the world which is “designed to be assembled by the consumer”. Also the showrooms are huge and are designed exactly as your rooms would look like if you purchase their stuff, complete with bedcovers, table lamps, cushions and soft toys.
Wikipedia says “Much of IKEA's furniture is designed to be assembled by the consumer rather than being sold pre-assembled. IKEA claims this permits them to reduce costs and use of packaging by not shipping air. This is also a practical point for many of the chain's European customers, where public transport is commonly used; the flat-pack distribution methods allow for easier transport via public transport from the store to a customer's home for assembly".
Well, I would say that all the above points will be points of advantage for the Indian market as well. Affordability, oh yes, that’s something that would help in India. Ability to ship it using Public Transport.. once again something we could do with. But why do we not have Ikea in India?
I have posed this question to quite a few people, and some of the answers have been hilarious and some interesting. Here are some of them (please note these are not my opinions, but those of other people I know)..
1. Indians are by nature lazy, it is unthinkable for an Indian to buy a bed and then sit and assemble it themselves
2. The low cost factor of Ikea emerging out of self-assembly is lost in the Indian market because of extremely low cost of labor. Why should someone buy Ikea furniture and assemble it themselves, when they can get furniture fully assembled, delivered and set up at their homes at lower cost?
3. I don’t know if many have seen the Tele2 ad campaign which promotes the “Proud to be Cheap” concept by using a Black Sheep (symbolically) to talk about how cheap is the new ‘in-thing’ (interesting ad >> Click HERE to view it on YouTube). This will go down well with the Indians, who are famous for haggling and giving a lot of importance to a “good deals”. Ikea cannot be the best deal in the market because you cannot beat the prices of the local carpenter. So in India, if there was an Ikea, people would take their local carpenters to the store, take photos of the designs and ask their carpentars to replicate them. And it doesn’t matter if the furniture is not perfect; it’s still a ‘good deal’!

Whether in India or not, for me, Ikea continues to be a constant source of awe. After spending 2 years trying to understand complex marketing theories, I am amazed at how Ikea has used the simplest of marketing concepts to become the world's largest furniture manufacturer. Any European would tell you that most people get a kick out of assembling the Ikea stuff themselves. It’s tapping into the psychological mindset of the euphoria and pride of “creating” furniture for your own home. It’s the same gratification you get when you assemble a Lego town, or put the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. And its simple.. no marketing theories involved here. Saves the cost of assembly, simplifies the supply chain by reducing transportation overheads and gives the customer a kick. What else can you ask for?
And for those of you who haven’t yet heard of the famous Ikea commercials, I suggest you go to YouTube and search for “banned ikea commercial” :). You will know what I mean when I say they had a different kind of advertising strategy. They did a lot of things different. And the craze spread to the whole world. I only wish we had Ikea in India. Till they come you can always fly to the US or Europe with your carpenter and then replicate!

We switched from daylight saving today, so I am now one hour closer to my loved ones in India. Sometimes its tough to explain the concept of daylight saving to my friends in India, and I have a tough time adjusting to it as well. We Indians think that going forward and backwards in time should be left to the Gods and so we stick to one single time, come rain, sun or snow. And touchwood, we have good and healthy doses of daylight throughout the year. SIGH! I miss India.

Swollen Tomato is getting married and has sent me an invite. I wish I could attend, I wish her a very happy married life. I also hope that Iya gets married soon :).

And now the posts will keep coming. CHEERS!

1 comment:

  1. I really love IKEA furniture. I can be often found browsing through its website.

    I'm sad that the brand has still not entered India and guess it will take time so I refer to IKEA website and catalogues and ask the carpenter to do the job :)

    And read this :(