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Progressive thoughts in designing

M.A. Siraj
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Ikea is known for eco-friendly and easy-to-assemble home products and the company’s social ideals are something that comes into focus. A look by M.A. Siraj

Home furnishing retailing giant Ikea will be soon with us, opening its portals in several Indian cities. Ikea was founded with the objectives of providing home furniture with eco-friendly interior design, constant development of products in sync with fast-changing home appliances, adaptable furniture, stiff cost control, and delivering to-be-self-assembled goods to customers. True to its motto, Ikea lowered its prices by two to three per cent during the last decade despite constant spiral of prices of the inputs.

An acronym

Ikea was founded by a 17-year-old boy Ingvar Kamprad in his farm Elmtaryd in Agunnaryd, a nondescript village in south Sweden, in 1943. The IKEA is an acronym, derived from first alphabet of I ngvar, K amprad, E lmtaryd and A gunnaryd. In 2010, the 332 stores of Ikea spread over 38 countries sold furnishing products worth $ 23 billion. Its catalogues list nearly 12,000 products. Most of these are manufactured in developing countries to keep the costs down. The material for the manufacturing is sourced from 50 countries. Though designing is mainly done in Sweden, most manufacturing takes places in units based in China, Poland and Italy.

The ready-to-assemble furniture items such as beds, chairs, tables, and dressing tables are always shipped in flat-packs. This is done with two objectives: to keep the packing and shipping cost down and to make the customer a co-worker by involving him in the final assembly of the home accessories.

Over the years, Ikea has aligned its manufacturing policy with the principles of environmental sustainability. To begin with it phased out use of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) from wallpapers, shower curtains, and lampshades, and from packaging. Next it minimised the use of formaldehyde in textiles. Following this, it eliminated the use of acid-curing lacquers. Further on, it introduced air-inflatable furniture in order to reduce the use of stuffing material, leading to reduction of transportation weight and volume to about 15 per cent of that of conventional furniture. Then it was the turn of reduction of the chromium for metal surface treatment.

Being the third largest user of timber, it decided to procure it from responsibly-managed forests that replant and maintain biological diversity. Some of the measures adopted by Ikea were country-specific. For instance, taking cognisance of wide use of bicycles in Denmark, it introduced rental bicycles with trailers for customers there.

The company adopted the policy of giving each product a single name rather than a code number as names are remembered easily than numbers. For instance, OSLO is a name of a bed. DUKTIG is the name of line of children’s toys. SKÄRPT (meaning ‘sharp’ or ‘clever’) is a line of kitchen knives. DINERA (meaning ‘to dine’) for tableware, and KASSETT  (meaning ‘cassette’) for media storage.

Suppliers of raw material to Ikea have to comply with a code of conduct called IWAY which lists several safety, environmental and ethical norms. Several Ikea stores generate their own power by fixing solar panels over the roof.

The stores are advised to collect used electric bulbs and drained batteries. Restaurants in Ikea shopping malls only use reusable plates and cups.


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