The 6th India Kitchen Congress, IKC, became a vibrant meeting ground where innovative ideas were discussed and new business partnerships initiated
The 6th edition of India Kitchen Congress, IKC, held at The Leela Ambience Gurgaon witnessed the amalgamation of manufacturers, e-tailers, start-ups, retailers, franchisees, component suppliers, designers, investors and HNIs. For two days, over 350 industry and design professionals and entrepreneurs shared experiences, learnt more about developments in the industry, and of course engaged in business networking. The two-day annual conference-cum-exhibition for the kitchen and modular furniture industry was designed with an ideal mix of panel discussions, keynote addresses and presentations, besides networking breaks for business discussions. This year the major focus was on Design, E-commerce, Manufacturing, Franchising, and Skill Development.
This years’ edition of the knowledge-cum-exhibition IKC was presented by Hettich; the silver partner was Action Tesa; the associate partners were Biesse, Bosch, and Zero B; while the knowledge partner was Franchising Association of India, FAI. Amongst the notable exhibitors were Homag, Alstone, Agmeco, Homelane.com, 2020, Maruti Interior Products Pvt Ltd, ALS, Sterling, Zimmber, EasyFix, Renomania, Surfactant, United Timber Works, etc.
The conference-cum-exhibition started with the customary lighting of the lamp followed by a tribute to the legendary Ramu Ramakrishnan. Ramu, as he was popularly known, breathed his last on February 7 this year. He was regarded as the country’s wood guru, and had been a source of constant support and inspiration to the India Kitchen Congress family.
A K Goel, managing director of Hettich India Pvt Ltd, in his keynote address spoke passionately about what the kitchen and modular furniture industry has in store for the various stakeholders. The Rs 5,900-crore organised market, he said, is all set to grow. He made it clear that e-commerce players in this segment have made it all the more interesting. These newbies have caused a stir in the market with customisation being their forte, and hold a considerable share in the modular furniture industry.
While the growth of the kitchen industry is closely linked to the realty sector, Samir Jasuja, MD of real estate analytics firm Propequity explained in detail the growth markets for the next 3-4 years. He put forward the fact that the top 14 tier-I cities of the country constitute 60% of the organised real estate industry, while the 19 tier-II cities constitute 40%. While giving a reality check of residential real estate, he said that even in hard times when the real estate industry will not perform really well, the furniture market will keep on growing in the next 2-3 years. He cautioned stakeholders to be prepared to deal with sluggish growth post 2021.
On the first day of the conference at IKC, e-commerce was widely debated not only during the panel discussion but also during networking breaks. Marketing consultant Rahuel Stone, who led the discussion, spoke about the current status of the industry and gave a global comparison in terms of where India stands with respect to China and US. The panel discussion, moderated by Stone, had as panellists Srikanth Iyer, co-founder, Homelane.com; Gopal Dwivedi, Livspace; Navneet Malhotra, co-founder, Renomania; Harshvardhan Singh Chauhan, category head, Shopclues.com; and Jidesh Haridas, COO, Capricoast. Each of the panellists shared what they practised in their respective companies and what they are doing in terms of logistics, training, new market strategies, etc. The panellists agreed that in India the industry is still in its infancy and with the government doing its bit to clear the air, the growth opportunities are huge. Parag Shah of Urban Ladder deliberated on how technology is being used to aid consultative selling in the modular furniture business.
‘Make in India’ is a subject of passionate discussion across the nation. This was a not-to-be-missed session at India Kitchen Congress (IKC). The panel – comprising of Swastik Ranka, Prabhjit Singh, George Paul and Govind Assudani – and moderated by Marc Pfetzing was of the opinion that an eco-system must be created wherein manufacturers can excel. The panellists felt that while the new government is marketing India as a new manufacturing hub, which is a welcome move, the homegrown manufacturers should not be left out in the process, they must be made an integral part of the process.
Pfetzing discussed the pitfalls that OEMs must avoid when it comes to manufacturing; while S Ganesan, quality head at Biesse India, shared his expertise on how to achieve ‘zero defect’ status when it comes to manufacturing. Ganesan spoke extensively about how zero defect quality system can cut down on cost due to poor quality. No doubt the base rates are going to increase, but the correct quality parameters will help manufacturers skip the expenses on failure, correction, and prevention, he explained. “It is to be seen that the employees have complete awareness about the quality standards,” he said, suggesting that there be a team leader to encourage and award them for performance.
Govind Assudani, managing director of Homag India, dwelt on best practices in manufacturing and what we can learn and adopt from them. He highlighted that before anything else, the first and foremost thing is housekeeping, followed by other factors like quality assurance, regular updating of systems and software, planning and scheduling (for timely delivery), packaging, and the last, single supplier policy. In-house skill development programme was a key issue that he discussed. According to Assudani, all these practices are a step forward to organising the factory functions and reducing labour work; hence making them systematic.
Nitin Vaze, managing director of Sleek Boards India, was at his best as he explained in detail the MDF story. He gave insight into his understanding of panel boards and focused on the growing use of MDF over plywood in the international market for various applications. He laid stress on using the material which is suitable for breathing indoors and doesn’t go beyond the threshold hazardous emission level. Counting the advantages and applications of pre-laminated boards on MDF, he said that it can be used in kitchens for the glossy surface, in hospitals with anti-bacterial properties and many other commercial places, besides being economical and sustainable.
The evening of the first day of the conference saw stalwarts of industry celebrate the achievements of a few good men and women, by honouring them with the India Kitchen Congress Awards 2016.
The second day had a more design-oriented perspective. Pratap Jadhav, national president IIID, spoke passionately about taking the design to the masses. He exhorted the industry to come up with solutions that benefited the common man and helped improve the quality of life. Shantanu Garg, principal at Shantanu Garg Design, shared his experience on how one should go about designing a kitchen showroom. Anuj Srivastava, co-founder, Livspace, spoke about his idea called Livspace and the journey behind it. He shared how the company works in collaboration with designers, builders, architects and the new markets that his team is looking forward to.
While e-commerce was the buzzword on the first day, the talking point on the second day was franchising. Rajeev Manchanda, VP of Franchise Association of India, shared insights on franchising as a business opportunity, and also moderated a session that had Sameer Kuckreja, CEO, Tasanaya Hospitality Pvt Ltd; Sam Chopra, CEO, Cybiz; Deepak Bharadia, CEO & MD, Meine Kuche India; Anastasia Bochhi, country head, Aran Kitchenworld, as panelists.
Chopra spoke about the mistakes that should be avoided if one has to successfully channelise the franchising model for growth. He made clear that it is best to understand the market and appoint a franchisee who is in sync with the company’s growth strategy. He pronounced that the location of a franchise is as important as the training of the staff. “Marketing needs to be done keeping in mind the neighbourhood, which will help spread a word about your franchise, along with discipline which will maintain a healthy relationship between both the parties,” he said. Bharadia spoke of yet another successful model that he’s been implementing – business partners, rather than franchises. Bochhi focused on applying global learnings and using them in the Indian context. Kuckerja shared his experiences from the F&B industry.
The next phase of growth can only be attained by the franchise route but for that to happen, the systems have to be in place before expanding through a network, felt the panel. The panel was of the view that for any global company, it is not possible to open its own retail outlets everywhere and hence franchising is the best way with which a company can expand brand presence. “It’s a synergistic relationship where a franchise adapts to the company’s principles and in turn, the franchiser listens to the needs of its franchise to make it work better,” said Manchanda.
How a good design makes us feel happy, is what Ar Jeyanthi Nadesalingam, a professor at Sushant School of Art & Architecture, spoke about. “We must rejoice in the power our households hold in our quest for happiness, and thus acknowledge the subtle significance of design,” she shared. She discussed a few of her own designs to get her point across while making it clear at the same time that no two people will respond to the four walls in the same manner. “Each room is our stage for a certain activity, and everyone performs their activity differently,” she concluded.
Energy-efficiency is being talked about and advertised by all leading brands. Nitesh Mathur of BSH Household Appliances deliberated on this theme in the context of built-in appliances and remarked that the German major, given its unique edge in technology, is all set to present Indian customers with the most energy efficient of appliances. The generation has moved on to the built-in range and the same applies to kitchen appliances as well, he said. “The built-in kitchen appliances are more efficient than the old-school appliances used in the kitchen,” he asserted and went on to explain how the new hobs utilise less energy to cook the same food prepared on the gas stove and the energy efficiency of dishwasher over the human. Overall, Mathur narrated the new techniques being adopted to make the built-in kitchen a mark above the conventional kitchens.
Navneet Malhotra, the co-founder of Renomania, spoke about his experiences as an architect venturing into the e-commerce domain. He put across a question to the design and architect community as to whether they are e-commerce ready. He explained how the new marketplace is a win-win for all the stakeholders.
The success of any business depends to a large extent on the workforce it employs. The government has come up with various measures so that there is no dearth of skilled manpower, shared Gurpal Singh, CEO of Furniture & Furnishings Sector Council, which has been set up by NSDC. He shared in detail what the government is doing in terms of skill development. In the last panel discussion, aptly centred on skill development, Vikram Singh of Hettich announced that his company will be inaugurating a state-of-the-art training centre in Faridabad by June this year, with the aim of imparting skills to 1,000 carpenters each year. Atul Borkar of Ion Exchange spoke about the ways one should go about capability building, and that training should not be a one-time initiative. Ar Rajendra Kumar, associate professor, Sushant School of Art & Architecture, cited real-life examples of how construction workers are trained. Shaifali Holani, founder and CEO of EasyFix, shared insights on training people for jobs in plumbing, carpentry et al and how this service is gradually getting organised. Amit Kumar, co-founder of Zimmber, spoke on the behavioural aspects of training and how his company is helping handymen become ‘champs’.
Rajat Khawas, Manipal City & Guilds presented a business case for training and skill development. Given the focus of the government on skill development, he said that there is a great business opportunity in providing soft skill and technical training in the context of the furniture industry.
Srikanth Iyer in his concluding remarks stressed on the importance of focusing on a few competencies and excelling in them as opposed to trying to be master of all trades. He shared his belief that no company can be great at everything it does. Companies that try to be best at everything end up being below average at everything, which is the real problem. “A company that wants to scale up its business needs to pick one thing at which it is best,” he said. He cited the example of Indigo and explained that it’s great at being punctual but the onboard food is not what the customers would like to remember the airline for. “In the furniture industry, predictability is the major issue, so that can be extended to the customers by limiting the range of offerings,” he said.
The conference came to an end with a vote of thanks to the sponsors, exhibitors, delegates and experts.