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IKEA’s got a plan to help Indians assemble its DIY furniture

By Suneera Tandon

Months ahead of opening its first India store, the world’s largest furniture retailer, IKEA, is trying to find a way around a tricky issue: getting Indians to assemble its signature do-it-yourself (DIY) furniture.

In India, where IKEA’s concepts and aesthetics are relatively lesser-known, the retailer has tied up with local startup UrbanClap to help shoppers put together its furniture. It will also hire 150 in-house assemblers to help ease customers’ experience, the two companies said in a statement on May 24. UrbanClap is a four-year-old startup based in Gurugram that offers a range of on-demand services such as home care, fitness, and grooming and records over 300,000 bookings a month.

Sweden-based IKEA is one of the world’s most popular proponents of DIY, where all the required components and a detailed manual for assembly are provided to customers. But while DIY furniture helps the retailer save on display and storage space and is relatively easy to transport, assembling such furniture can be tedious, especially for those unaccustomed to the concept.

“DIY is still a new concept in India and we will invest heavily to provide affordable and quality services,” Patrik Antoni, IKEA’s deputy country manager said in the statement.

Indians are not only used to buying a full range of pre-assembled furniture, they also typically outsource other household services such as plumbing, electric connections, and cleaning to the abundant cheap labour available in the country. All this could render their response to IKEA’s primary concept uncertain.

“And we know that services will be a very important part of the IKEA offer. In India, too, we will offer assembly, delivery, and kitchen installation services to create an easy buying experience,” Antoni said in a post on LinkedIn. “What differs in India is that we expect a much bigger demand for services.”

In any case, this is not the first time IKEA has used other firms to provide assembly services. Last year it bought American online marketplace TaskRabbit, which connects freelance workers with customers, to help with assembly services in the US and UK. In China, too, the retailer offers assembly services.

IKEA first announced plans to enter India back in 2012, making the country one of the last major markets where it will now have a presence. The retailer has spent the last six years negotiating with the government to ease foreign investment rules for retail and acquiring huge land parcels for its stores and supply chain centres.

IKEA is now making sure that all the nuts and bolts are in place before it opens its doors to shoppers in Asia’s third-largest economy.