IFJ Annual Trend Survey

Posted in International, India on Thursday, 28 February 2013. Print

owning a space is deemed inadequate, consumers have realized that their interiors must resonate with personality to complete the experience

IFJ Annual Trend Survey
— by Team IFJ

Despite the economic slowdown across several nations, activities in the Indian interior industry have held up well in the year 2012. The global focus has shifted from saturating American and Japanese markets towards the currently sustainable markets of Russia, India and China. Referring to India as a young and niche market, Sunil Suresh, CEO, Stanley Lifestyles Ltd., Bengaluru, feels that design and trends are making their way into the daily lifestyle of the average Indian man. He says, “Being culturally vibrant, the Indian market is further split into various regional markets, each reflecting its individual style and consumer ideology. While Hyderabadis enjoy modern classical furniture with a dash of Mughal influence, an average Mumbaikar prefers the interiors to have a clean and contemporary look. What one needs to understand is that each Indian city has a different pulse of its own; colours, designs and trends in India change according to the city; a potential market none the less!”

Trendsetter Raseel Gujral Ansal, Creative Head, Casa Paradox Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi says that interior trends unlike fashion, are not seasonal. She adds, "You may design a piece of furniture or an accessory, and you don't realize when you set the ball rolling and when that one product evolved into a trend!"

evolution of the industry

In the late twentieth century, European products created a buzz in the Indian interior industry and imported furniture gained focus. An industry earlier monopolized by select players is now the playground for a multitude of local and international brands. This competition from international markets pushed local manufacturers to design and innovate products of superior quality. Ajay Chopra, CEO, Visage India, Gurgaon, feels that the evolution of taste and understanding of the end user has bought about a parallel evolution in the industry. He says, “You suddenly see a lot of companies planning to step into India because of the market potential. It is encouraging as everybody wants a piece of the action on the supply part and the customers have the finances and taste to purchase.” Catering to the nation of plenty, many players in the industry have adopted an aggressive stance; retail outlets have downsized their huge showrooms or given out franchisees and dealerships to spread across the country to ensure accessibility and visibility of their products.

Although the interior industry has evolved tremendously over recent years, a majority of the industry professionals feels that India still lags in terms of the much needed design evolution. “Not many manufacturers design keeping a target audience in mind. A brand needs to be associated with a particular look, for instance, the textile giant Raymonds. In our industry every brand wants to cater to all the segments; we need to have a target segment instead of designing mass appealing products,” says Vivek Khandelwal, Director, Floor & Furnishings India Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon. Further, Shahineh Mansoorian, Partner, Le Jardin, Bengaluru shares that designers abroad are constantly researching and updating manufacturers with newer materials and designs, most of which are eco friendly. She adds, “There are collections which change every season and then there are the timeless collections; as of date a very small number of Indian manufacturers research and create designs.”

awareness and customer attitude

Awareness is essential in widening the horizons of the interior industry in the country. With easy access to various forms of media, the average customer is informed and educated about products available in the market and alternatives; however, there exists the segment which is reluctant to change, orthodox towards the use of newer materials and skeptical to experiment. Manjul Trehan, Director – Sales (Indian Subcontinent), Lutron GL Limited, Gurgaon, says that creating awareness and educating the customer is a long and tedious process. “Customers may be well travelled and educated, but they still don’t seem to know how to look at the value of a product; this is where they need education. How does one figure out the difference between solid wood and medium density fibreboard, or what type of fabric to chose? Education is an important part of luxury,” says Vasanthi Ram, Vice President – Interior Design, Mon Chateau, Bengaluru.

Dismissing the common belief that the influx of international brands is a major driving force of the interior trends in India, Manohar Gopal, Director, Featherlite Collections, Bengaluru, feels that the international presence in India is negligible in terms of steering change. He says, “There are very few international stores that have a presence in India, and the footfall they receive is minimal. What is driving the change is the exposure of the Indian customer to the global market.”

Irrespective of budget, the Indian customer has developed a design-centric attitude and is in search of products which make a statement. “Everybody has an individual choice and there is a mix of choice as well; but people want something which is soothing to the eye and which will be everlasting,” says Ajay Chopra. The Indian consumer today is savvy and invested in their spaces; colour, expression and aesthetics play an important role. With aspirations set high, the re-designing and re-furbishing activities of a home are no longer scheduled to coincide only with festivals and occasions. Sourabh Sharma, Partner, Strokia, New Delhi, says people are in no rush to have their homes ready; they take time to contemplate products and styles. No longer dependent on contractors and interior designers, customers today have started taking an active interest in every aspect of their interiors.

customization

Buyers today are individualistic, fascinated by aesthetics and the sensuality of high quality materials, convinced of the need for functional forms and comprehensive design. Berty Tarrab, Managing Director, Top Products India Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, markets Bulthaup in India and says they now understand people’s desire to set themselves apart from cookie-cutter tastes and fashion trends by creating their own highly personalized space. General Manager, Nilkamal Ltd., Mumbai,Thomas Johan, Senior concurs, “We have been emphasizing the use of the interior planning software kiosks setup at our outlets which enable walk-in customers to share the layout of their spaces with our team and help us assist them with the furniture that suits their requirements.” A number of lifestyle stores offer their clientele the option to select products from their display and place custom orders. Vasanthi Ram says, “We prefer that the client does not pick up items directly from the floor, instead allows us to help them customize every aspect of their furniture from the stitch on the fabric to the selection of the hardware.”

Private companies such as Dreams Furnishings Studio provide sourcing, conceptualization, designing, production, manufacture and after-sales service for a variety of soft furnishing products to materialize their client’s vision. Ilyas Yusuf, Design Director, Dreams Furnishing Studio, Mumbai says, “We offer our clientele hands-on services of our experienced in-house design team to take care of the complete aspect of home furnishings, thereby understanding the clients viewpoint and transforming them in tune with the essential personality. The project can be revisited in tandem with the designer and client sensibilities, style quotient, colour palette, budget and other requirements.” Keeping close to the furniture and furnishings segment of interiors, kitchen manufacturers also provide custom options for modular kitchens. Kasturi Sawhney, Executive Director, Alno, Bengaluru says that each kitchen is custom-made depending on the size of the kitchen and the modules selected. Project planning at Alno for high end apartments and villas begins as much as six months in advance at the drawing board phase in proper synchronization with the architect in order to define the electrical and plumbing requirements.

the indian interior space

Two major factors driving furniture design today are ergonomics and comfort. Sunil Suresh says, “When it comes to an Indian customer, they do not buy furniture for its looks but prefer to buy furniture which is comfortable.” Furniture trends in the Indian vary with income group and are influenced by lifestyle, with a niche segment inclined towards modern classical furniture which goes beyond clean lines to an oomph factor, while the futuristic modern trend evident in early 2010 has morphed into minimalism. The line between indoor and outdoor spaces is getting blurred as India sees a rapid growth in demand for outdoor furniture. “This is a new emerging segment and India is yet in the initial stages with a long way to go. People like to entertain outdoors; either on terraces or balconies, and these spaces require outdoor furniture,” says C K Chengappa, Country Head, Patio, Bengaluru.

Soft furnishings have gained importance in the recent years and are used to enhance the appeal of spaces, especially in the residential and hospitality sectors. The rich tradition of textiles within the country enables manufacturers to offer the customer sufficient depth and range of products without the need to rely on imports. The trend has gradually changed from complementing shades and contrasts towards organized chaos and mix-n-match colours. Ilyas Yusuf says, “Soft furnishing products offer versatility. Creative designs are produced with the use of newer technology such as laser cuts and digital printing. Bright, dynamic and bold colours matched with large geometric patterns, graphic motifs and broad stripes are unique and currently in vogue.” Suraj Nehra, Managing Director, Heirlooms, Gurgaon, sees a distinct trend linking soft furnishing products to fashion, and evolving homes into becoming the next step in an extension of personal taste and design.

Kitchens have become increasingly glamorous spaces. Kitchens have graduated from being mere cooking areas to communication hubs for families and friends. While the base carcass is designed from solid wood or MDF, kitchens are available in various finishes from high gloss and matt lacquer, laminate, veneer, ceramic, stainless steel and glass. Kitchen appliances which are an integral part of every kitchen setup have also helped revolutionize the way kitchens function. Dhananjay Chaturvedi, Managing Director, Miele India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, says, “There has been an emergence of dry and wet kitchen concepts. The dry kitchens are an extension of the living space which offer lifestyle features like teppanyaki grills, warming drawers, barbeques and wine coolers; the concept is to engage the guests in conversations while being host to the gathering. The wet kitchens are the areas where actual cooking takes place, they are replete with hobs, food storage spaces, dishwashers, hoods and water sinks.”

Modular kitchens have made their mark on metro and tier two cities across the nation and developers are now providing their clients with built in setups to facilitate the concepts and save time. Numerous players dominate the unorganized sector of the kitchen industry with an estimated 80% of the work being undertaken by local carpenters and contractors.

A huge and reletively untouched market in the Indian interior industry is that of lighting products. Consumer awareness is restricted to energy saving and decorative lighting, and lighting designers say consumers fail to understand the potential that lighting technologies and applications have. Energy saving solutions like daylight sensors, occupancy sensors and dimming modules are widely used in the commercial sector. The current trend in the lighting industry is focussed around the use of LEDs (light-emitting diodes)with few going beyond. Manjul Trehan says, “Our general direction is to make our products user friendly to integrate into the daily lives of ordinary people. Wireless products are being developed to remove the hurdles of running new wires in existing homes and commercial spaces. Products now are compatible with third party devices to enable consumers to control their lighting with the use of smartphones.”

Today, all manufacturers offer low volatile organic compound (VOC) and eco-friendly paint. Modern appliances such as paint mixers have enabled customers to choose the shade they want and have it made instantly. Percy Jijina, Sales Director – Decorative Jotun Paints, Jotun Paints India Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, says that the Indian paint industry is estimated to be close to (INR SYMBOL) 210 billion and  considering the current Indian economic scenario, it is safe to predict a 9 to 10 percent growth rate in the next five years. He says, “The manufacturing process of paints has evolved over the years and we use raw materials like citrus peel extract, beeswax, seed oils and tree resins. Cutting edge technology helps us deliver durability, colour protection and significantly enhance heat reflection. Technology has proven a boon for the paint industry.”

looking ahead

Presently the sentiments of the Indian markets are cautious owing to the worldwide economic slowdown; however, they seem to be veering towards the positive as the country moves into the buying season. Gagan Mathawan, Proprietor, G M Furniture Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon  feels the industry is headed in the right direction with customers demanding innovation without compromising on the quality of product. “There is always some sort of upheaval but the Indian interior market sustains and the business grows. Customers are using home decor products as a means of self expression, creating their own style and experimenting with strong character. All in all, we are headed into interesting times,” says Shalini Goyal, Director, Designwise India Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon.

Competing with international manufacturers, Indian players have proven that they can produce better furniture. “Today we no longer care for international competition simply because we have our own competencies in place as far as manufacturing is concerned. It might not be easy but we are capable of competing with any foreign company coming to India. Having said that, the smaller companies will find it challenging as more and more players from across the globe are eyeing the Indian market. Going ahead in this industry is viable for companies that can manage the progress,” says Manohar Gopal.

The future inclines towards industry players who can innovate and produce high quality products. Sunil Suresh says one must either have the strength to mass manufacture like the Chinese or have the ability to understand design and produce highly skilled furniture to compete with the Europeans. He adds, “The interior industry mainly flourishes in the tailwind of the construction industry. As long as there is construction happening, there will be tremendous demand for interior related products. Look at the number of ongoing villas, houses and apartments alongside the various commercial, institutional and hospitality construction activities; the next ten years are going to be a fantastic ground for home grown products for the Indian interior industry.

Shahineh Mansoorian, Partner, Le Jardin, Bengaluru, aptly sums up saying, “When you have international brands like Armani Casa and Fendi Casa and world renowned architects such as Zaha Hadid showing interest and visiting our country, I don’t think there is anything stopping us!”


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