Mumbai: Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings retailer, opened its second outlet in India today at Navi Mumbai. Reportedly, the store is the size of 10 football fields put together (5.3 lakh sq. ft) and is situated on the Thane-Belapur Road, very close to Turbhe station. Two years ago, when IKEA opened its first store in Hyderabad, more than 40,000 people visited it on the first day. The lanes leading up to the outlet at HITEC City in Cyberabad was packed with cars, and extra traffic police had to be deployed to control the situation.
The Navi Mumbai store launch, however, is different due to the COVID-19 pandemic although the frenzy around IKEA seems to be no less in Mumbai too. The leadership team of IKEA has capped the total number of customers who can visit the Navi Mumbai outlet every day to ensure social distancing measures. Customers are required to register on the brand's website and receive an allotted time slot during which they can visit the store. Unfortunately though, currently all slots have been booked for the next two weeks, and if you are one of those who have not made the booking yet, you won't be able to visit the store for Christmas or New Year's shopping.
The pandemic, however, has also made IKEA re-evaluate its affordability and offer 'new lower prices' which give their customers 'cost-saving benefits'. During the launch of the IKEA store on Thursday, Kavitha Rao, Country Commercial Manager of IKEA India said, "This is the time when we want to side with many people when it comes to affordability... We have therefore introduced something called the new lower prices which is actually about passing on the cost-saving benefits to our consumers."
"We have endeavoured in the last several years, to create a range of almost a thousand products which are below Rs 200. We have challenged ourselves in saying, 'Can we create a little room in less than Rs 50,000? Can we create a kitchen which is less than Rs 1,50,000?' and this is what you will see all across the store when you visit us. Particularly, in the context of the pandemic, affordability has become even more important. All of us are more conscious when it comes to our spending. So, we have challenged ourselves more than before, to lower our prices and provide solutions that are much easier on the wallet. " she added.
Delicious treats, safety measures
Apart from affordable pricing, IKEA, which always has an in-house restaurant is all their stores, is stepping up its food game to keep customers coming even during the pandemic. Reportedly, the in-house restaurant in IKEA Navi Mumbai is the biggest restaurant in any IKEA outlet and can accommodate 1,000 people.
"Of course, when you are at the store, how can we forget about the food offer? We have a range of food products, both Swedish as well as Indian. So, you can choose between a samosa and a cinnamon roll. We also have Swedish meatballs and the veggie balls," pointed out Rao.
Alan Buckle, the store manager of Navi Mumbai outlet, said that although the restaurant would offer Swedish cuisine, all the food materials used are locally sourced.
"We are looking forward to the reaction of the customers to the product range, to the store experience, to the food experience and to everything we can offer in the store, " said Buckle, before adding that for him the safety of the customers and his co-workers are of utmost importance.
"In the current times, we want our customers to have a 'safe shopping experience'. So, lots of extra measures have been put in place, to help people enjoy the store, and the products but also to feel safe while doing so. The same goes for our co-workers, too." added Buckle. Apart from limited walk-ins, the IKEA Navi Mumbai has incorporated mandatory masks and temperature checks, and added contactless sanitizers and is practicing social distancing measures.
However, Buckle pointed out that since IKEA has a strong online presence too, those who want can also choose to shop online. “We are omnichannel retailers, and we offer various options to our customers. You can click and collect, and you can have a look at the store and decide to buy those things from home. So, however the customers like to shop, we are happy to facilitate that," he added.
Sustainable designs, diverse staff
The team at IKEA has reportedly visited more than 2000 homes to understand how Mumbaikars live before developing their product solutions, and display designs. The Navi Mumbai store has about 50 room sets and six full-size homes on display, and also boasts of the largest children's area 'Småland' in IKEA globally.
However, the most exciting feature of the new IKEA store is that it not only offers sustainable home furnishing solutions but the store itself which recycles waste and uses solar energy has a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) gold rating for sustainability.
"The water we discharge is recycled and used in toilets. We also have a new feature in Navi Mumbai store which is called a circular hub, where we learn and discuss ideas of sustainable living with our customers." pointed out Preeti Budhraja, deputy store manager, IKEA Navi Mumbai.
The staff members of the store, who would help the customers in their shopping experience, also represent a healthy gender ratio. Priyanka Sangharsh, People and Culture Manager at IKEA, pointed out, "diversity, inclusion, and equality are our three biggest priorities at IKEA. We have recruited 600 co-workers for our Navi Mumbai store, and we have 50 percent men and 50 percent women staffs at various levels of the organization. Forty percent of our co-workers come from our nearby areas of Navi Mumbai Mumbai... We also have safety security and housekeeping staffs who are helping us keep our operations safe and healthy."
With a planned investment of Rs 7000 crores by 2030, IKEA wants to meet 25 million people in Maharashtra.