What will the Indian furniture rental industry look like post-COVID-19?
The lockdown period had a detrimental impact on the lives of people in many ways. It made several industries go through tough times. The business was either dull or just negligible. In terms of livelihood, it brought uncertainty in people’s jobs due to salary cuts, layoffs, unpaid leaves, etc.
Before the pandemic, the shared economy was expected to see exponential growth in the Indian market. The assumption made was based on the changing buying behaviour of the consumer when it came to purchasing furniture or other essentials.
The demand for rental furniture was on the hike. People would rather choose to rent the furniture than buy it. But, with the entire country facing the fear of the pandemic, the industry was also impacted by the curfew.
While rental furniture does not form a part of the essentials, the silver lining lies in the fact that if one needs a bed or a chair, the purchasing of these items can be postponed but not eliminated from the cycle of needs.
According to market research firm Capgemini Research, about 50 percent of clienteles are anticipating a decrease in their furniture spending, whereas around 23 percent are expecting an increase in such purchases, owing to the changing lifestyle patterns, specifically with ‘Work From Home’ becoming the new normal.
The current scenario
Since the Indian government is slowly introducing relief in most of the sectors, different industries are trying to get back on track, either through innovations or adaptations. The furniture rental industry, which was shelved as it did not add on to the essentials category, is trying to make the best of the prevailing circumstances.
We have always recognised the impact of the rapid growth of digitisation, and the current scenario has proved that it will continue to be a part of our lives in all aspects. With the changing environment, we can speculate online selling and digital marketing to be the key for any industry’s success, hence giving doors of opportunities to the furniture rental startups.
The need of the hour for the furniture brands is to develop an active supply chain response plan to alleviate risk and mitigate the disruptions that the coronavirus outbreak has caused.
To do the same, the furniture industry will have to look at various aspects like creating new demands through social media, creating campaigns that focus on the industry as a support product rather than an asset or extravagant liability, supplier engagement response with risk transparency, analysing production-capacity need and optimisation, logistics-capacity prior-booking, and route optimisation.
Innovations in the furniture rental industry: multifunctional and customised furniture
Almost 90 percent of the Indian companies have asked their employees to work from home. This situation is expected to go on the entire year, and maybe a few months of 2021 as well.
Some companies are going to adapt to this as a way forward, saving the expenses or reducing them in terms of running a full temperature-controlled office with amenities.
The furniture rental industry is trying to innovate ways to best utilise the current scenario by introducing the segment for office furniture, but at home.
The ‘work from home’ situation has created a new demand in the market for office furniture or ‘work from home’ furniture, helping the furniture rental industry to regain its sustainability. The furniture in this category includes desks, chairs, bookshelves, comfortable seating, and multipurpose furniture.
The industry sees a spike in demand for multifunctional furniture as one of the prime reasons driving the work from home furniture market growth. People are habituated to work on a proper workstation with desks and chairs. The new environment has a high probability to make people lethargic and easily get distracted.
As the employees start to get used to this new working situation, they also miss their work set up. However, purchasing a proper set up at this period seems an impractical option as most of the people are worried about their job security or probably the cities they are going to be living in if there would be a job change.
The fear of pay cuts and furloughs are other dreads that have made them closefisted, making them careful in purchasing choices. This brings the furniture rental brands to the forefront.
Demand for comfort, coffee tables, and recliners on a peak
The ‘work from home’ furniture is one aspect of innovation that has been a saviour for the rental industry. The market is also seeing the future of this industry as people are becoming more aware of their home aesthetics, being able to spend maximum time at home.
Earlier, people were satisfied with just a little bit of furnishing as most of the day was spent at work, but now, they are spending time on comfortable beds, sofa sets, and dining tables too.
Besides, with people becoming more conscious about their expenditure and investments, the furniture rental industry, which is considered to be comparatively more affordable, is only expected to grow in the coming times.
Additionally to the rise in demand for desks and chairs, the industry also sees rapid growth in the demand for furniture like coffee tables and recliners.
Some people are also considering the replacement of single-use furniture with the multi-purpose piece like a sofa-cum-bed or a three-four seater dining table, which doubles as a workspace and dining space. This is helping them save space, as well as money, at the same time.
Prospects for the industry
Furniture has an optimistic future because of its eco-friendly, easy buy for customers, effortless to handle, and of course, multifunctional characteristics.
By boosting exports of modular furniture, the government will not only permit the industry to grow during the recession, but it will also lay the foundation for future deals that can be made with international brands, thereby allowing the commencement of a bilateral channel of opportunities and communication between the Indian and the foreign brands.
This could provide the right impetus that our industry has been expecting for these past couples of months.
Innovation and creative thinking is the need of the hour for the industries that are in an uncertain and difficult situation to safeguard their survival post the lockdown.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)