In an interview with Restaurant India at the FICCI Annual Summit ‘MASSMERIZE’, Patrik Antoni, Deputy Country Manager, IKEA India shares the inevitable journey of IKEA in India and how has been the response so far.
Tell us about the brand IKEA.
Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer which has been sourcing from India for more than 30 years, has opened its first store in Hyderabad in July. The Ikea store houses a 1,000-seater restaurant—one of Ikea’s largest globally, as the company believes food will be the first contact point between Indians and Ikea.
IKEA is globally well spread out to 50 countries. We have around 420 stores catering to almost 1 billion visitors. We have now come to India which dates back to our long history in this country. IKEA has been present in India for the last 30 years, sourcing for its stores around the world. In India, IKEA currently has 48 suppliers with about 45,000 direct employees and about 400,000 people in the extended supply chain.
What was the idea behind the 1000 seater Restaurant that is gaining popularity since its inception?
We are betting it big on tempting the average Indian's taste buds by launching the biggest-ever restaurant inside an IKEA store and "possibly India's largest. The massive 1,000-seater restaurant serves customers a wide range of food items consisting of staples from Swedish and Indian cuisine, from meatballs and salmon to biryani, samosas and dal makhni. Fifty percent of the food will be Swedish inspired, salmon and shrimp dishes and so on. We'll also have quite a few Indian dishes like dal makhani, biryani, samosas.
We are trying to understand the needs, dreams and aspirations of the Indian customers. And during all our visits, we have understood that for Indians, food is everything that matters and is utterly important.
After the massive launch in Hyderabad, how has been the customer response so far?
From the food perspective, there is a queue almost every day to get in. The food offerings are Swedish & Indians so we call ourselves Swedish feel with an Indian appeal. The response so far has been satisfying and people are really happy with the kind of food they are served here at IKEA.
Is IKEA planning to expand in the food segment?
Food is the first contact point for Ikea in India. The 1,000-seater restaurant in the Hyderabad store is one of largest for Ikea globally, which has a lot of vegetarian options. We have the meat balls, including the vegetarian options and fish dishes, but we’ll not sell beef and pork in India. About 50% of food is Indian cuisine and the rest are Swedish dishes.
We might see developments when the food segment is concerned. We may look into possibly extending our food experience to outside of the store. We believe it has a great scope for our brand value and great value for money. At the end of it, at some places you can touch more people with food and each out to the massive audience.
As we see big opportunities in India, we believe that we will increase our investments as we continue our expansion in the food segment.
Are you looking forward to smaller models in the future?
We have been in the retail format for the last 20 years. As the retail market is changing, people are demanding more access to brands whenever, wherever and however they want. We are looking forward to centrally located stores, with 15,000 sq ft and all we want is to get closer to people and make them indulge in the traditional IKEA experience. We are opening soon in Mumbai.
How many stores do you plan to open in the next 2 years?
In 2019, our focus will be Mumbai, followed by Bangalore & Delhi. We are keeping our targets fixed in these three cities including Hyderabad.
Why did you choose India as a destination for IKEA expansion?
We have always looked for markets where we can make a difference to not the rich because they already have an access but for those who can actually make the IKEA experience count. India as a market has a strong economic potential where people are looking for comfort in their everyday life. Also, ‘home’ is a big factor for the Indians when there are festivals and celebrations, which indeed make them slightly different from other countries.
We would like about 30-40% of the people living in the city visiting our store in the first year.
Your opinion on the F&B space in India and what are you looking forward to?
It’s not about taking a piece of the pie but making a big cake out of it. We are here in India to stimulate the interest the life at home and it will be beneficial to the industry and make it happen for food.