Home-furnishing retailer IKEA may be adapting its products and strategies to suit the heterogeneous Indian market, but the company wants to maintain its Swedish identity when it launches the first of its stores in India at Hyderabad early next year. To offer potential customers a glimpse of what will be offered at the store, IKEA launched an experience zone called Hej Home at a mall in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
“This is to give the taste of what IKEA is all about, and also the taste of Sweden, where we come from. We’d like to showcase different products and home-furnishing solutions at very affordable prices,” IKEA India’s country marketing manager Ulf Smedberg told The Indian Express. The “taste of Sweden” was also evident from a variety of products up for display at the experience zone. One such product was a utensils cabinet in the model kitchen, which made use of the empty space with a drawer within the cabinet. Another such example of a product was a pendant lamp conceptualised by Swedish designer David Wahl, which IKEA plans to sell at its stores in India. However, the products up for display at the Hyderabad Hej Home were only a fraction of the 7,000-8,000 products that will be for sale at the store.
Apart from home-furnishing solutions, IKEA is also known for its gastronomical offerings at cafeterias inside its sprawling stores. There, too, the company plans to have a balance between Indian and Swedish dishes at its upcoming stores. The one in Hyderabad is expected to have seating arrangements for 1,000 people at a time. IKEA India’s country food manager Henrik Osterstrom said that even though Indian food will be there at IKEA cafeterias, focus will be on bringing the Swedish cuisine including the chicken and vegetarian version of meatballs, salmon fillet, Swedish cookies. “After all, for the entire year, Indians do eat Indian food, for one day when they visit IKEA, we’d like them to enjoy Swedish food,” Osterstrom said, while giving a tour of IKEA’s makeshift cafeteria at the Hej Home.
Various consumer-facing multinationals have offered India-tailored products to suit the local palette. For example, McDonald’s offers an India-specific burger with McAloo Tikki, PepsiCo’s Lays that are available in the Magic Masala flavour, or Pillsbury marketing its flour as “chakki-fresh atta”. In fact, there have been examples of international brands trying to push the global flavour to Indians, and failing. A prominent case-study taught at advertising school is that of how Kellogg’s, when it entered India in mid-nineties, failed to establish a significant base for cereals as a breakfast option.
The Hej Home is one such strategy for IKEA to build its brand in the run-up to its store launch. Justifying the 1,00,000 euro branding exercise, IKEA Hyderabad’s store manager John Achillea said: “One thing that’s unique for us here, and I’ve worked in the US before where we were an established market, the fact that we are the first store in India, it was important for us to invest the right amount of money in the right places for the customers to meet us as quickly as possible. So, they can begin to see what IKEA is all about.”
In terms of marketing, some of the steps IKEA is taking for India are being taken for the first time in its 74 years of existence. Smedberg said that ahead of launch, the company’s teams have been researching how people live and furnish their homes in different cities. “All the Hej Homes will reflect the cities they are in. Most probably in Mumbai, the homes will be in smaller space, because there has to be a clear connection to where we are operating. We did hundreds of home visits, and with the knowledge of home visits, we have created this,” Smedberg said.
He added that one of the marketing initiatives specific for India would be an active presence on mobile and internet platforms. “We would be very active on mobile and digital, which is more adaptive to needs in India, and we will have lot of interactions. We are also going to start a platform for digital and television, what we call, home-makeover, which will show what your home looks like before and after (being furnished with IKEA products). This will be done for the first time in India,” Smedberg said. Apart from mobile and digital advertising, for India, he said, the retailer will also be looking to deploy augmented reality and virtual reality technologies to showcase its offerings. Furthermore, to sell its products in India, IKEA will also take the e-commerce route, but that is on the back-burner for now, deputy country manager Patrik Antoni said on Wednesday, adding that the e-commerce foray would be done captively and not by listing the products on another marketplace.
IKEA also wants to take from its global sales experience. One of the IKEA shopkeepers, who will be assisting customers at the Hyderabad store in making purchases, said on condition of anonymity, that they had been training across a number of IKEA stores across the globe for almost the last two years.
IKEA’s future India plans: 5-6 stores in coming year
Hyderabad: Earlier this month, IKEA purchased its first plot of land in Delhi-NCR regions at Gurgaon, despite being in advanced stage talks for a plot in Noida. In Gurgaon, the company plans a 4,00,000-square feet store, which is its fourth store in the country after Hyderabad, Mumbai in early 2019, and Bengaluru. Patrik Antoni said that for now, the company hasn’t finalised any further plans for Gurgaon, as it is still waiting for the land to be allotted. However, in the coming years, the company plans to open five to six stores in NCR area.
In fact, the first IKEA store at Hyderabad, if launched as planned in spring of 2018, will be after several delays in the timelines earlier announced. “Sometimes things just don’t play out as planned in India,” Antoni said.
Telangana government’s Principal Secretary in the Departments of Industries & Commerce, and IT, Electronics & Communications Jayesh Ranjan said Wednesday that IKEA should ensure that it sticks to the timeline of spring 2018 for the Hyderabad store launch.
“We are very delighted with the announcement that in spring of 2018, the first store in India (will be opened). I guess this will be the 410th store worldwide, so the 410th IKEA store will be opening here, and I was just joking…to delay beyond spring the 410 may possibly become 420, which is not a very auspicious number in India, so ensure this becomes your 410th store,” he told IKEA officials present there. Pranav Mukul