In the Land of Contrasts, Colors, and...IKEA?
This morning we started our Indian holiday. Like India itself, today overwhelmed me with people, color, smells, beggars, traffic, and more people. I don't believe that one could look in any direction and not have at least one person in his or hers peripheral vision. In Old Delhi, near the Red Fort, people, vendors, bikers, motor bikers and cars cover every available centimeter of ground. And this on a Sunday, when the "normal" day-to-day market was closed. The used market operates on Sundays.
It took double or triple my brain operating power to maneuver, dodge, and walk as it does when I visit a crowded IKEA showroom. Speaking of IKEA, they are trying to open stores in India, but are running into trouble because India requires companies to source at least 20% of their product from India. With IKEA's uber lean supply chain, this presents an issue and IKEA is no pushover. After jumping that hurdle, IKEA has to figure out how to market their product - modern style particle board that requires people to build it themselves - to clients who hire out most household chores.
Even at IKEA's "bargain" prices, the wealthy are the people who could afford IKEA furniture. They have a cook, a driver, a launderer and sometimes someone who washes their hair. Why would they pay for something that they have to put together themselves when they could pay someone on the street $2 USD an hour to make it for them out of solid wood?
Middle class Americans are proud to do things themselves. America is built on independence. We would rather spend less and do the labor than pay a premium. In India, the goal is to attain enough status and wealth to hire servants. Where then is the attraction to "assembly required" furniture? If IKEA succeeds in changing peoples attitudes towards DIY, the effect will reach further than the furniture market. It would present a cultural shift.
Originally written on December 30, 2012