People used to dream of growing up and acquiring a bunch of stuff. Now, it seems, dreams are different and millennials prize experience. For a globally connected generation whose only constant is change, permanence is burdensome—and that includes furniture.
That’s the thinking that got India’s Furlenco $30 million in venture capital to (as the name implies) lend furniture. Ajith Mohan Karimpana, founder and CEO, told Tech Crunch that Indian millennials, like their counterparts abroad, emphasize experience over inanimate objects. They travel a lot and change jobs, so ownership’s impractical. But they’re not into slumming it either; Furlenco markets to the young and monied.
The company has 15 in-house designers who, with changing ownership in mind, work on of-the-moment pieces that last but can be easily refurbished. The team is designing reclining chairs that have replaceable seats that can be swapped out in a snap, for example.
Karimpana says this meets the millennial need to have it all—style and quality—just temporarily. “You shouldn’t rent because you need to rent, you should rent because you want to rent,” he says. And people do seem to want it. Furlenco has shipped furniture to 15,000 homes since raising $6 million in financing in March 2015.
Still, there can be little doubt that economic factors have influenced how millennials approach the notion of ownership worldwide. In 2012, The Atlantic asked why young people in the US had stopped buying cars and homes, concluding a bad economy, the demise of marriage, and crushing student debt were all forces working with new technologies to create the aversion to permanence in young people. The magazine also published readers’ letters about the impracticality of home ownership under the title “We wish like hell we never bought.”
American market researchers call millennials “NOwners.” But the one thing they overwhelmingly purchase is smartphones. About 85% of 18-to-34-year-olds in the US own them, according to Nielsen research. Phones are a portal to the web, where romance, gigs, rides, and much more can be found. As the first generation to grow up online, it’s no wonder then that millennials are fueling a boom in the sharing economy and its expansion into new areas, like furniture.
Given the rate of change, it seems likely that attachment will be altogether unfashionable soon enough. The founder of Strengths Doctors consulting, Josh Allen Dykstra, wrote in Fast Company that changed attitudes about ownership reflect an evolving human consciousness, not just economics or tech. He believes this shift has occurred in people of all ages and that millennials are just the most obvious manifestation.
If that’s true, even the Buddha—who advised “live with no mine”—would approve of the times and Furlenco’s fancy plans for furniture.