In an interaction with Industry Outlook, Vijai Subramaniam, Founder and Chairman at Royaloak Incorporation shares his insights on how the furniture industry addresses sustainability and eco-friendliness in its sourcing and production practices, how the furniture retail industries stay updated with the latest design and technology trends in the industry to keep their product offerings fresh and relevant and more.
Vijai Subramaniam, an Indian entrepreneur, and Founder-Chairman of a renowned furniture retail enterprise is a visionary leader. Vijai's comprehensive perspective offers valuable insights into the industry's current challenges and prospects, inspiring a more sustainable, customer-focused, and technologically advanced future.
How does the furniture industry address sustainability and eco-friendliness in its sourcing and production practices?
In terms of sustainability and eco-friendliness in the furniture industry's sourcing and production processes, there are several key factors to consider. First and foremost, the sourcing strategy is very crucial. Especially raw materials like wood that come from abroad which impacts the overall sustainability profile. However, it's worth noting that we make conscious choices to prioritize eco-friendly materials such as compressed wood and recycled foam in our production. Most of the furniture manufacturing takes place outside India to minimize waste and optimize resource use for domestic operations.
Compared to countries with larger production facilities like China, India's furniture industry is relatively eco-friendly. We place emphasis on efficient energy usage and employ recycling practices extensively. However, the commitment to sustainability extends to the remanufacturing of products, thereby reducing our environmental impact. By sourcing materials from abroad, conscious endeavors can utilize eco-friendly materials, minimize waste, and promote a recycling position in the Indian furniture industry as a relatively eco-conscious participant on the global stage. Prioritizing sustainability at every production step ensures a greener and more responsible industry.
How has e-commerce impacted the traditional brick-and-mortar furniture retail business, and what strategies have been effective in adapting to this shift?
E-commerce has profoundly impacted the traditional brick-and-mortar furniture retail industry. In the past, customers relied on nearby shops and often ended up with suboptimal furniture or customized pieces. With the rise of e-commerce, customers now have a plethora of options. They research, compare, and educate themselves about various furniture styles, qualities, and materials online before making a purchase. This shift has led to customers seeking specific styles like marble, glass, wood, or bohemian, whether classical or modern. As a result, traditional retailers have adapted by expanding their collections and establishing online presence to meet these evolving demands.
While customers are well-informed and increasingly inclined to shop online, they still value the tactile experience of seeing and touching furniture. They visit physical stores to complement their online research. This transformation underscores the significant impact of e-commerce on the entire furniture industry, prompting retailers to continuously evolve, expand their online offerings, and bridge the gap between digital and physical shopping experiences.
With the rise of online marketplaces, how do furniture retail industries differentiate themselves in terms of customer experience and product quality?
In the era of online marketplaces, furniture retailers differentiate themselves by emphasizing distinct characteristics in customer experience and product quality. Comparing marketplaces to the retail chain, there is a continuous enhancement of collections, designs, and international sourcing. With over 150 Indian factories and 250 global ones producing the furniture, including unique designs crafted in collaboration with designers from the UK, USA, and Italy, the excellence of the products is ensured. Despite marketplace competition, challenges are addressed by encouraging customers to visit the stores, offering a seamless shopping experience, and constantly improving the retail business.
How do furniture retail industries stay updated with the latest design and technology trends in the industry to keep their product offerings fresh and relevant?
Furniture retail industries keep their product offerings current by staying updated on design and technology trends. We achieve this through various means, such as attending international exhibitions held in China, Shanghai, Italy, and Istanbul, where we can explore new designs and cultures. This firsthand exposure helps them stay on top of trends. Additionally, they use online social media platforms like Alibaba and India Mart to stay connected and informed about the latest designs, trends, and products from around the world. This interconnectedness allows them to continuously evolve and provide fresh, trending designs to their customers, ensuring their product offerings remain relevant and appealing.
With the growth of smart homes and IoT (Internet of Things) devices, how is the retail furniture industry integrating technology into furniture design and manufacturing?
The retail furniture industry is undergoing a significant transformation by seamlessly integrating technology into furniture design and manufacturing. For instance, smart furniture has gained prominence, with features like built-in speakers, charging ports, and app-controlled functionalities. This extends to multifunctional pieces, such as convertible beds or dining tables that become workspaces.
Automation plays a pivotal role, with advanced equipment sourced from countries like Germany and Italy. These automated systems are integrated into manufacturing units, resulting in approximately 50% of furniture now being automated. Recliners, popular in the Indian market, are equipped with technology to adapt to users' body shapes, offering automated massages and adjustable configurations via remote control.
This technological integration extends across the entire furniture industry, ensuring that each piece incorporates new and innovative features. As smart homes and IoT devices continue to proliferate, furniture manufacturers are at the forefront of this evolution, enhancing the functionality and convenience of their products to meet the demands of modern consumers.
How do you envision the evolving role of technology shaping the future of the furniture retail industry?
Envisioning the evolving role of technology in the furniture retail industry, I see a future where online and offline seamlessly merge within the comfort of your home, thanks to VR and AR technology. Customers will effortlessly visualize and customize furniture, from beds to dining sets, eliminating the guesswork and unrealistic measurements. This technological transformation empowers consumers to make informed decisions on pricing, colors, and personalized designs. To thrive in this shifting landscape, staying updated and embracing these innovations is imperative, as they are poised to play a pivotal role in the industry's evolution. It's an exciting and transformative journey that awaits us, where technology reshapes the way we furnish our homes and make purchasing decisions.