With the way that India has opened up to the world in the last few years, it’s no longer a milestone for an international brand to celebrate five years in the country. Yet, Ikea India has reached that landmark, while also celebrating 80 years across the world. To mark the occasion, their new collection Nytillverkad reinterprets (often in eye-catching colours or updated materials) a curated selection of classic pieces.
So you’ll find the leaf-shaped Lövet table, first introduced in 1956, reinterpreted in marigold orange, royal blue and apple green, while being given the new name, Lövbacken. Speaking at the launch, Erik Jan Middelhoven, Home Furnishings and Retail Design Manager for Ikea India, said, “We wished to celebrate our legacy of sorts. We have done so many beautiful designs these 80 years.” The collection looks at the design archives and revisits both personal favourites and bestsellers.
Some of those favourites are made in India, where Ikea does a lot of sourcing. Items like the Tuvkornell candle holder, Domsten stool and Kulturskog plant stand are all made and exported from here. Over the last few years, as the company has become both a supplier and seller in India, Middelhoven stressed the need for balance. “We have our own Scandinavian aesthetics and Indian preferences as well,” with the latter leaning towards more wood used in the interiors, a lot more prints and bolder accessories against a darker backdrop. As a result, the designs made specifically for India take into account local needs — like a specially designed idli-maker, as well as a focus on cushions and textiles — given our love for prints and the way that Indians use cushions as seating.
The country, which is a prioritised market for Ikea currently has five stores of which three are in Mumbai with one each in Hyderabad and Bengaluru. For their Diwali collection, Middelhoven pointed out that it was “inspired by the traditional marigold and brass”, but it is reimagined to “still express our philosophy but it resonates with Indian tastes”. These collections are now released internationally as well, where, he said, “it’s considered ethnic”, adding the marigold-inspired Aromatisk collection sold very well in Europe. For India specifically, Middelhoven highlighted that the company was looking into everyday items like designing idli steamers and working on harder mattresses, as Indians preferred that. When it comes to country-specific items, he said, “A lot of products can be developed quicker than we can design them.”
Locally, the company’s storage solutions sell very well, including the Kallax storage unit, Pax wardrobe system, the baskets, boxes, dividers and organisers. Not surprisingly, last year’s IKEA Life at Home India Report says that nine out of 10 people struggled with clutter management.
At the moment, the company’s offerings are only available to a limited audience, with delivery available only in Mumbai, Pune, Gujarat, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. That will extend to Delhi and the NCR next. Middelhoven said, “There is a plan to build up on our current e-commerce markets” and to add “physical touchpoints” in Pune and Chennai after Delhi. In the long-term, the goal is to have a wider e-commerce network.
Given that distribution is limited, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of fakes and resellers in the market. Middelhoven said, “We are aware of it and although flattering, it of course harms our brand.” He said, with resellers, there’s the problem of selling the brand at a higher price, which is at odds with the company’s goals of democratic design and so, “we tackle all of them because it infringes on our rights, on our logo, and of course if it’s not even our range then we act for sure”.
The brand is also committed to becoming climate positive, and internationally, part of the goal is achieved by buying back customer furniture and reselling it.
While it has been tested in some countries, Middelhoven pointed out that “it works well in those cities where people are quite mobile with their own transport”, as it is harder to transport fully assembled furniture. He pointed out that it was available in Austria, his previous posting, and it was available in Japan, Canada, Australia, France, Russia and Germany. Internationally, the company is also increasing its focus on repair of their furniture and renting it for events like weddings and conferences — both of which could make their way to Indian shores eventually. With expansion plans and a lot of the country still to cover, the Swedish company is going to be investing in and designing for the country in the long-term, while keeping the environmental footprint in mind.