Paresh Lunagaria, chief of Rajkot-based Maruti Interior Products Pvt Ltd, avers that the much-awaited schemes and reforms such as The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA), ‘Housing for All’, and Goods and Services Tax will prove to be a growth trigger for the modular furniture industry. He adds that his company, which markets kitchen storage solutions under the Spitze brand, is gearing up to become a one-stop kitchen solutions provider. In an interview with SH, Lunagaria talked about the slew of steps that Maruti Interior is taking, as well as his assessment of e-tailing on the kitchen segment.
By Mrinmoy Bhattacharjee
How will GST affect your operations? How have you prepared yourself for it?
The complex tax structure was more often than not a hindrance in the path of success. With GST seeing the light of day, companies will now be able to devote time where it matters. GST will not only eradicate the tax complications but also make it easier for companies dealing in different states, as the rates will be standardised across the states. GST being a completely online process, it will also save a lot of valuable time. The ball has been set rolling in our organisation with regard to the changes in software and other formalities that GST brings with itself.
Do you feel that RERA and the ‘Housing for All’ programme will have an impact on your industry?
We are sure that there will be a positive impact. The RERA Act was long overdue in a country where the real estate market is so diverse and unorganised. With this Bill coming into existence, the faith of the buyers will return to this slow moving sector. Builders will now be held accountable for the deadlines they set. Once all the cogs of the wheel are set into motion, the demand of kitchen storage accessories is bound to grow. Gone are those days when consumers preferred an empty flat. The majority of buyers are in the 30 to 45-year age bracket. Often these buyers are working couples who prefer a fully furnished flat, and are inclined towards modular kitchens which match their needs. No wonder the builders are preferring to work with reliable, long-term and cost-effective partners like us for furnishing the living room, bedroom and the kitchen space.
On the other hand, schemes such as ‘Housing for All’ open a new dimension for us. These are mostly targeted towards the lower strata of the society where the objective of the government is to provide small but affordable housing. The critical word here is ‘small houses’. In smaller apartments, the fight is to cram in as much as one can. Kitchens often bear the brunt of this constraint and end up looking messy. But with our unique storage solutions, the same amount of items can be easily stored without making the kitchen appear crammed or messy.
Are you concerned about the growing popularity of e-commerce? Do you think it will affect your existing retail network?
The boom of e-commerce is out there for all to see. Consumers from not only tier-I cities, but also tier-II and III have gradually shifted towards this platform and this is good for a growing organization like ours. However, we are of the opinion that consumers are still maintaining their distance when it comes to products such as ours. The primary reason is the lack of the ‘touch-and-feel’ of the product. While demonstration videos can give you an idea about the product, the Indian consumer still believes in visiting the store when it comes to such a big investment. Other aspects such as return or replacement also play a big role when it comes to ordering such products online. We are confident that the retail channels will continue to dominate in this product category, and in fact, we continue to invest to strengthen our network.
How is the future of retailing poised?
As the cost of setting up new showrooms keeps increasing, companies will have to find alternative cost-effective ways to present their products to customers. Showcasing the entire range is never going to be possible in one store. In our opinion the sooner companies stop shying away from technology and the investment it deserves, the better it is for them. Augmented Reality (AR) is one of the ways forward. AR reduces your dependence on imagination as to how the product will look in your kitchen, and shows you exactly how it fits into the interiors. But, this deserves a one-time investment. However, it would be unfair to negate the role of retail stores. Retail stores and studios are here to stay. But the future of lead generation is surely online.
How are you ensuring a superlative experience for your customers?
The major discomfort of the consumers in our segment is often with regards to the delivery and assembly complications. To overcome this, we have tied-up with FedEx (for same day delivery) which provides door-to-door delivery. All our products are essentially DIY (do it yourself), and come with installation guides and templates to make assembling of the product very easy, even for a layman. To add to this, all our products come with a 10-year manufacturing warranty. We have strict norms when it comes to acquiring raw materials, which essentially results into a complaint-free product for the consumer.
Is any expansion on the cards?
With the ever growing demand of our products, our company is in the process of increasing production capacity. All the necessary requirements with regards to purchase of advanced machinery have been in put into process. Another key area of focus is expansion of our dealer network in tier-I and II cities. Last but not the least, consumer outreach is our main focus. We plan to reach the end consumer directly through marketing and branding activities. A full-fledged above the line (ATL) campaign is on the horizon, which will soon come into the fore.
What is your vision for your company?
The aim is to become a one-stop solution for all kitchen and wardrobe needs, which essentially means venturing into the unexplored segments of kitchen and wardrobe space. Maruti Interior Products has been working towards it rigorously since the last few years. The day is not far when the entire bouquet of kitchen and wardrobe essentials will be available through our studios across India.