Business models

A new way to furnish your home: on subscription

Sandeep Murthy
24th March 2015

In this investment we are doing our small part in affecting the consumption patterns of our society. Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson claims the earth can support 10 billion people – a number others predict may be hit by 2100.

Moving along Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we are excited to be partnering with Furlenco to redefine how millions of consumers will interact with Furniture. Furniture is an essential component of that most basic need – shelter. Furlenco is approaching the opportunity of shelter by making furniture more accessible through subscription. Furniture is the third most expensive purchase that anyone makes (preceded by a house and a car – both of which have financing options). How your home is furnished is taken as an indicator of the type of person you are. It is a reflection of a personality and self worth.

To better understand this opportunity, let’s take one small segment of consumers – the IT professional, who we have gotten to know well over the past 10 years. There are 80,000 people who graduate from 90 universities in over 50 cities and then relocate to one of 5 cities for a job at a Wipro, Infosys, TCS and other IT services companies. The old model, of grow up in a town, go to school there, go to college there, get married there, live in your parent’s house and never leave is over. These 80,000 professionals are moving into a world of extreme uncertainty. They are leaving their homes and going to a new city for an undefined period of time. They no longer have the creature comforts that their parents toiled away for years to give them. Yet they are still the same people who want to be able to have a beautiful, comfortable home where they can feel safe, happy and successful. They want a place that they can call home… Furlenco makes this possible.

This average IT professional makes Rs. 6 lacs per year. Furnishing an average 1 bedroom apartment with the high quality of furniture (we use only pure wood of the highest quality) will cost this IT professional an average of Rs. 3 lacs. The lower cost options tend to look flimsy and break easily from simple wear and tear. Is it any wonder that they are living an “under-furnished” life? Furlenco makes furnishing this apartment and more importantly instilling a sense of pride for the IT professional, possible at Rs. 2500 per month. There are no long-term commitments and when their manager asks them to move from Mysore to Hyderabad to join the team there, Furlenco makes returning the furniture (or getting the room replicated in Hyderabad) as easy as a click.

Time to get furnished is another challenge for this up and coming star. The IT professional doesn’t have time to go custom order furniture and find the right carpenter to build the furniture for him. The furniture market is currently made up of 10,000 small furniture manufacturers distributed all over the country. While any of these carpenters can build a sofa or bed, it typically will take them 3-4 weeks to deliver something once you have clearly specified what you want. After waiting for a month (spent sleeping in a sleeping bag) our coder often gets something very different from what she ordered, but the demands of the job don’t afford the luxury of getting it fixed and so she “makes do”. Furlenco changes this equation, by building modular furniture in a state of the art facility with robots and precision tools, the company ensures consistent delivery of furniture that has been designed by award winning designers – earlier this year Furlenco beat out major companies to win the design of the year award at the CII design event.

So with Furlenco’s intuitive web and mobile apps a time stretched, money constrained and environmentally conscious professional can now live a life that is truly reflective of her stature in this up and coming country. Further as she succeeds in life and moves from a studio to a 3-bedroom apartment, Furlenco can move with her with packages that meet her needs at that stage.

On a final note, through this investment we are doing our small part in affecting the consumption patterns of our society. Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, claims that the earth can support 10 billion people – a number that others predict may be hit by 2100. There are many offsets to this timing as a decline in fertility rates may mean that we do not reach the replacement levels needed to continue to drive growth. The parameter that there seems to be agreement on is that growth in per capita income takes place in regions where population is growing the fastest (as we are seeing in India today and will likely see in Africa in the decades ahead) consumption will increase and likely impact the number of people the earth can sustain. The only way to offset this is to create a mindset change. Focusing on access over ownership is one small step in enabling that mindset change.