In India, the Housing boom came and went by. The retail boom came and cooled down. Yet the way furniture retail operates has changed only a little. The only perceivable changes are
1. Modular Plastic furniture
2. Imported furniture, use of newer materials like wrought iron etc to make designer furniture.
However the real change that I am seeking is redefining the way in which the whole industry is organized. The problem is that in India there are 2 options for the people
1. Hire a carpenter:
a. He if unprofessional. i.e. never sticks to the schedule, if hired on a daily basis would loaf around a lot, if hired on piece meal basis would often rush the job producing shoddy work. They also often tend to supplement their income by charging commission to the retailers and a lot of supplies are wasted (hence inflating the bill of materials)
b. Since the work would be done in the backyard or a temporary shed, a lot of productivity that can be brought because of mechanization and proper tools and fixtures is lost. There is no economies of scale.
c. A carpenter has to do all the tasks hence there is no room for higher quality because of specialization.
d. Furniture now is not confined to A good design demands not only good workmanship, but also different materials and latest styles. Beautiful pieces of art is often not the specialty of unorganized carpenters.
e. You cannot commission a carpenter for a small stool. It has to be a significant assignment involving atleast a week of labor for him to be interested.
2. Do it yourself.
Thanks to the cheep labor available its not a popular option. I have not known many people who can do more than basic repairing and installation/assembly.
3. Retail Shops.
World over most people buy modular furniture from companies like Ikea etc. because its cheap and affordable. The workmanship is good, and the furniture is designed in a way that eases packaging, transportation and assembly. This not only saves cost, but increases the usability.
However most Indian stores don’t have economies of scale. They operate like boutique stores. i.e.
1. High inventory
2. High markup/price
3. Smaller revenues
Whats even more starling is that modular furniture, ready made items costs 2-3 times more than their customized counterparts.
There has to be a way that can resolve these inefficiencies and pass on the benefit to the common man. Afterall spending 1Lakh in furnishing and woodwork even for the most modest of the homes is not uncommon.