Finding the right fit: Why this entrepreneur decided to quit his job to explore cane furniture
According to Statista, as of 2021, the Indian furniture market has generated $216,293 million in revenue. In fact, between 2021 and 2025, the industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.71 percent annually.
While wood, metal, and plastic are the most widely-used materials for making furniture, cane’s popularity is also rising. According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, cane outdoor furniture is preferred due to its features being lightweight and easy to maintain. Cane furniture also offers comfortable seating, is easy to move as per the consumer's need, and can beautifully enhance the outdoor spaces as well.
While there are enough players in the unorganised space, the same cannot be said for the organised space. FabIndia, Jaypore, Bareeki, Assam Cane Furniture, and Cane India are some of the brands operating in this segment.
Ahmedabad-based brandis banking on the exclusivity of manufacturing and selling cane furniture.
Started in 2017 by Vaibhav Gupta, the company manufactures and sells cane furniture only through its website, ecommerce platforms (such as Amazon and Flipkart), and outlets in Bengaluru. Vaibhav, in an interaction with SMBStory, also adds that the company has tied up with 26 independent architects as well for selling furniture.
Vaibhav was working in a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) in 2016, immediately after completing his Master’s. However, everything changed when he failed to find a good seller of cane furniture for his house.
Vaibhav, who was passionate about buying a quality product, felt unsatisfied with the offerings in the market. He realised the sector presented an immense business opportunity, so he decided to take the matter into his own hands.
Pooling an investment of Rs 3 lakh from his own savings and raising from family members, Vaibhav launched the business in 2017 while working full-time.
In 2018, when he realised that the business was scaling up, he quit his job to completely focus on IRA Furniture.
While one thing led to another, he did face a lot of challenges in setting up the company and putting together the operations.
He shares that the most difficult part was finding artisans who possessed the skills required for making cane furniture. When he did find them, they were unwilling to leave their villages and come to Ahmedabad.
“All the artisans were involved in agriculture and were happy with what they were earning. I somehow convinced them and even promised them a good compensation,” explains Vaibhav.
From 20 artisans in the initial years, the number has grown to 40 today. These artisans come from several parts of the country, including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and more. The main raw materials are imported from Malaysia and Vietnam, and the products are manufactured in the company’s facility in Ahmedabad.
From D2C to omnichannel
Initially, IRA Furniture was only launched on Amazon and Flipkart. Gradually, it expanded to other channels such as retail, launching its own website and partnerships with architects.
Vaibhav also adds that marketing and advertising on Facebook and Instagram also helped in grabbing eyeballs. Through marketing, the company was able to bag an order from the recently concluded Big Boss OTT, to make a piece of furniture for the house.
The founder claims that today, the maximum demand comes from the website and partnerships, followed by other routes.
The company clocked a turnover of more than Rs 2 crore in FY21.
Finding a place in the Indian market
Vaibhav also claims that his chairs and sofas can be found in several resorts in Goa and Udaipur. He also supplied to places like the Willingdon Sports Club in Mumbai and one of Reliance’s guest house in Jamnagar.
However, he points out that the maximum demand for the furniture comes from the southern markets, especially Kerala.
“Cane furniture requires space. So, they are bought by people who have big houses. In our case, we have seen huge demand coming more from Kerala, rather than markets like Mumbai or Delhi where space is an issue,” he explains.
He also adds that the number of orders has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as earlier, countries like the US and Canada (where the demand is high) were solely dependent on China but now the focus has shifted to other countries, especially India.
Vaibhav says that he is very determined to penetrate the export market in this fiscal year. He sees immense opportunity in scaling up the business via exports, adding, “Exports will help in increasing our profit margins significantly.”
For the export market, he wants to double the current capacity by hiring more artisans and get listed on Amazon US.
Additionally, he plans to open another manufacturing facility in southern India to reduce the delivery time for orders coming from there.
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