Kirit Joshi started Spacewood Furnishers, a modular furniture manufacturing venture in the year 1994. By 2010, Spacewood had its first owned retail store in Gurgaon and now has multiple stores across the country. Over the years, the company has seen the Indian market grow in size and seen a swift change in the consumers behaviour. Indian furniture market is highly unorganised. In fact, Kirit estimates that only 15% furniture market is organized.
“People still prefer furniture made of solid wood which has more life compared to new age panel furniture,” he says when asked about the challenges faced by the industry. Sharing other challenges, he says, “Designer furniture is still not a priority. For modular kitchen a builder needs to updated about not to place counter top / granite top, as in modular kitchen, carcass is placed first then the counter top is placed over kitchen cabinets. The focus is more on price compared to product quality and aesthetics, and very few people in India try to experiment with new designs and materials.”
Some of these challenges are also geographical and result of the idiosyncrasies of customer. The fact is India is a wide market and often trends and consumer preferences changes with every state and even districts.
Kirit shares, “State to state sizes and aesthetics of furniture changes. Preference of Indians is darker colour furniture. Dark walnut, wenge are preferred in southern India as the size of homes in south India are larger. In west India, people prefer slightly lighter colour shades. In place like Mumbai, where is apartment size is smaller, lighter colors are used also furniture needs to be extremely functional with smart storage options. Beds with efficient storage, wardrobe with loft to more storage space.
In North India, where there comparatively larger homes, furniture is designed larger than life. King size beds are mostly opted, furniture colours are mostly solid wood and wood grain colours as people like solid wood. Eastern India follows mix trends, primarily [it] likes flashy colours, fancy designs with more design elements and straight like panel type furniture. India is large country with diverse culture and different type of living styles, for example, in a place like Meghalaya and Shillong apartment sizes are so small maximum sold beds are 1.2 meter in size.”
He agrees, that beyond these factors, ergonomics plays a key role in furniture selection now. “Yes, ergonomic in India is key factory, people are more concerned about functionally and ergonomics. Having good ergonomics and functionality is a responsibility of the manufacturer as the end consumer are not very technically aware about it.” Further, he shares some tips that must be kept in mind by consumers, “Kitchen is the most important furniture where the highest level of ergonomics is required where access of the frequently used items are to be placed on top drawers, kitchen designer has to ensure the same. Top storage which is used very frequently you can open it for some time while working and not hitting it on face is important. Storage can be added on counter top and storage on level. For beds storage panel should be easily openable storage. Having cushioned or storage on headboard is added advantage. Wardrobe there are lot of inaccessible area drawers should be used for maximum utilization of space.”
Which brings us to the question of Indian-ness of design. Is that important? Kirit says it is. “In India very few class of people follow European style. Maximum people prefer more localized designs. Here in India we have very different lifestyle, storage, cooking compared to Europe as more. For wardrobe we need more shelves as we don’t hang the clothes most of them are ironed and kept in shelfs. Also we need locks in wardrobes unlike Europe. Functionality and aesthetics needs are very different. Also beds with lift-on, pull-out and box storage are preferred unlike Europe where bed with storage is not much heard of.”
“As the houses and apartment are smaller. In Kitchen, lot of drawers, accessories and storage is required because of extensive cooking multiple ingredients are used in Indian cuisine. Designs of modular kitchen are curated as per Indian lifestyle. For living room, people love to use maximum space available so in India L & U Shape sofa are very popular. Mostly, the colours are adapted from international trends but the designs and aesthetic are changed as per Indian preferences,” he concludes.