IKEA Hyderabad: A walk-through IKEA's first store in India

When design meets decor

In Hyderabad’s gleaming HITEC City, adjoining the busy HITEC City Main Road, hardly 7 km from the iconic Jubilee Hills, is the IKEA Hyderabad store that paints a picture of calm. Inside is a furniture utopia. While at one end of the store is a kid dragging her mom towards a colourful bunk bed, in another end is a group of elderly men checking out rocking chairs. Further ahead, a young man is taking his wheelchair-bound mom around the store, showing her different kinds of bathroom fittings.

IKEA Hyderabad is the renowned furniture brand’s first store in India. Spread across 4,00,000 sq ft, it has everything from sofas, chairs, dining tables and beds to mattresses, curtains and bedsheets to organisers, lights, mirrors, cutlery and gardening accessories… It is a one-stop-shop for all furnishing needs.

All the way from Sweden

IKEA, a Swedish home-furnishing chain, is the world’s largest furniture retailer that sells ready-to-assemble furniture, home furnishings, and kitchen accessories. Founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad, it was initially a mail-order sales business. The first store was established in Almhult, Sweden. In fact, each letter of IKEA stands for the initials of the founder, Ingvar Kamprad, the farm where he grew up in, Elmtaryd, and his hometown, Agunnaryd. IKEA is known for its self-assembly and flat-packing philosophy, a concept that’s new to us, Indians, who are otherwise used to buying readymade furniture from our trusted carpenters.

This 13-acre store has two massive floors and three sections: Showroom, Market Hall, and Self-Serve Furniture Area. The Showroom, located on the first floor, houses all the big furniture items such as sofas, beds, dining tables, wardrobes and chairs. They are displayed both individually, and as arrangements, meaning, people can literally walk around in a simulation of different living spaces. Market Hall, and the Self-Serve Furniture Area, both on the ground floor, house smaller furnishing accessories and flat-packed furniture items respectively. There’s also a restaurant on the first floor that offers both Swedish and Indian delights.

Patrik Antoni, deputy country manager, IKEA India, says, “The tagline of IKEA is ‘Make everyday brighter!’, so it’s all about those little changes that make your everyday life better, at affordable prices. It could be something as simple as a soft carpet right next to your bed on which your feet land right after you wake up. It’s not about outlandish designs and ideas at all. ”

The store offers over 7,500 products whose price starts from as low as Rs 15. Keeping the price-sensitive Indian market in mind, about 1,000 items are priced below Rs 200. While 95% of the products come from the global range of IKEA, 5% is Indian-market-specific. In effect, we find iconic IKEA products such as the BILLY bookcase and KLIPPAN sofa alongside pressure cookers and tawas here.

Furniture on display in IKEA Hyderabad

To customise the 5% range, IKEA visited 1000+ homes in Hyderabad to sample Indian life. Bernard Gribbin, country interior design leader, IKEA India, shares their major findings from this research - “Family is very important in India; living with children is a prominent scenario, and so is small-space living. People spend 4-6 hours a day in the kitchen, and love textiles. So, our offerings are customised for the same. For instance, for small spaces, we have solutions like stackable stools, and foldable chairs and beds.”

According to Amitabh Pande, strategic planner, IKEA India, there’s a lot in common between India and IKEA that will attract Indian customers to this foreign brand. “Family is super-important to Indians and IKEA is all about ‘life at home’. Indians love paisa-vasool, and IKEA is all about affordability. Indians love to recycle, and IKEA is all about sustainability,” he states.

Affordability is one of IKEA’s major selling points. So, there’s a two-seat sofa for Rs 6,490, a sleek side table for Rs 1,190, a TV display unit for Rs 7,990, a desk organiser for Rs 399, a bed for Rs 28,000, and more. But what allows the brand to offer such low prices is the fact that customers are expected to do all their shopping on their own, right from picking up items to billing to transport to assembly, a concept not many are familiar with yet.

An armchair for sale in IKEA Hyderabad
A side-table for sale in IKEA Hyderabad

John Achillea, store manager, IKEA Hyderabad, explains, “India is all about service. When an Indian goes to a store, there are 3-4 people waiting on them, but that isn’t the case here. But if you want the lowest prices possible, you must do some of the work, and we will do some.”

IKEA Hyderabad opened its doors on August 9, 2018, and received an overwhelming response; remember the (in)famous traffic jams on the roads leading to the store? John elaborates, “I have been a part of store openings in North America, too, but the response here has been absolutely amazing. If 15,000 people walked into the North American IKEA store on the opening day, we had 50,000 people here!”

What Indians love

He reveals that people here are curious about the concept itself, and are blown away by the fact that they can walk into simulations of living spaces and then make their furniture decisions. “The highest selling product in IKEA Hyderabad is ‘Kalas’, a pack of four sturdy plastic spoons priced at Rs 15. On an average, we sell 6,000 pieces of it every day! Also, there’s a lot of interest in extra-firm mattresses. It’s the No.1 selling item in furniture here,” John elaborates.

While Indians are taking time to familiarise themselves with the concept, they are not hesitating to experiment with it. Across the store, one can find shoppers, both young and old, fiddling with tables, touching and feeling sofas and beds, sitting on chairs, all on their own. You won’t find store helpers hovering around shoppers here. In fact, there are very few of them. What guides shoppers, instead, are detailed signboards and holographic arrows on the floor, throughout the store.

Ashley, a 21-year-old student of architecture, has come to the store with her parents. They are no strangers to the brand, having been regulars in IKEA’s Kuwait branch. “We have always had a great experience with IKEA. I have been visiting the store since I was a kid. When compared to the Kuwait store, this store is better in terms of both the price and range. I particularly love IKEA’s organisers and smaller artefacts,” she says. Her dad, on the other hand, believes that the quality of furniture in the Kuwait store is much better.

Every product for sale in IKEA Hyderabad comes with a detailed tag that tells a shopper all he/she wants to know about the product; there’s also another important detail that every shopper should know: red and yellow tags. A red tag tells you where you can pick the item from (Self-Service Furniture Area or Market Hall), while a yellow tag means you must contact the staff and tell them the products you want to buy.

No matter what the category, all IKEA products stand out for their simple and clean designs. There are no convoluted motifs on the tables, no hidden nooks in the beds, no extra fittings on the sofas, and no confusing attachments. Many shoppers seemed mesmerised by the international look and feel of the products in the store. Affordable prices nudge many to buy things that they didn’t even know they wanted.

Malgosia Czech, deputy sales manager, IKEA India, says, “Scandinavian designs are all about form and functionality. Our designs are democratic, which means they work for you, the customer. It’s a perfect mix of beauty, functionality, sustainability, affordability and durability. While all our lights are 100% LED, all the textiles are made from 100% cotton.”

A side-table for sale in IKEA
A sidetable for sale in IKEA Hyderabad

Vicky & Sangeeta Kapoor own an ad production house in Mumbai and are setting up a new office for which they have flown down to Hyderabad to check out IKEA; they have ended up buying Rs 4 lakh worth of items. Talking about their experience, Sangeeta says, “We checked out many furniture options online, but didn’t like anything. So we decided to come here. We have already found 80% of the stuff that we wanted.” Vicky adds, “We kept wondering if it’s worth flying down to Hyderabad for a few things, but it definitely is. Everything is cheaper in IKEA. Stuff that sells for Rs 60,000 outside sells for Rs 40,000 here. What is probably missing from IKEA Hyderabad is the high-end designer stuff.”

While the couple is a big fan of the range, they aren’t convinced about its DIY aspect. Sangeeta says, “We weren’t sure if IKEA would ship furniture outside Hyderabad, and I couldn’t get hold of anyone on their toll-free number. But when someone online confirmed that IKEA offers third-party shipping services, we came down. We’ll get our carpenters to do all the assembling.”

Vicky recommends IKEA offer a dedicated shopping assistant, at least for big spenders. “It gets cumbersome when I have to buy bigger items. For instance, I needed 24 plates and assumed that if I picked up one plate, they will add the remaining numbers later. But I had to pick all the 24 plates myself.”

A perfect day out

When shoppers tire of all the walking around, they head to the 1,000-seater IKEA Restaurant, the biggest IKEA restaurant till date. Guillermo, food manager, IKEA Hyderabad, says, “Every IKEA restaurant will offer 50% Swedish delights and 50% local ones. So, here we offer our iconic meatballs in chicken and veggie avatars keeping the cultural sensibilities in mind, and samosas, salmon fillet, biryani, dal makhni, soups, pastries and beverages.”

However, there are mixed reactions to the food. While many gave a thumbs-up to the budget prices of the meals, they weren’t too happy with the taste. Some thought the food was too foreign while others thought the taste just didn’t appeal to the Indian palate.

Checking out the entire store easily demands an entire day. In fact, many who come to IKEA Hyderabad plan it as a day trip rather than a furniture shopping sojourn. Sure, the concept of IKEA is brand new on the shores of the Indian furnishing market, but going by the initial response, it looks like Indians are willing to give it a fair chance, and are also willing to take the bold step of looking beyond their trusted carpenters for their home furniture.

IKEA Hyderabad is almost like a safe bet for anyone who loves ‘life at home’. International-quality products at Indian prices: the perfect excuse to head to IKEA Hyderabad!

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