Foam to wood or back – We have the edge of synergy

Interview with Mr Subodh Mehta

Senior VP, Sales & Marketing, Godrej Interio

Q How has your journey been like as a player that entered the industry just a few years back?

We entered the category with a specific objective – to leverage the category as a complementary force for the home and furniture segment where we are a leading brand. The extension from furniture to mattresses is a local one. Even otherwise, mattresses are, often, sold through furniture outlets. It makes a lot of sense to expand in this domain. The idea was not merely to spike up volumes, but to build a truly one-stop experience for the customer so that she does not have to go anywhere else for needs related to home. We also aimed at a clear positioning with a differentiator.

We focus on ‘sleep experts’. That makes sense in today’s environment and it is supported in a huge way by the kind of R&D efforts we undertake. We want to make mattresses as per the unique needs of the Indian customer and are coming out with new designs in that direction. ‘Sleep Expertise’ drives a lot of our strategy, market focus and innovation muscle in a strong sense.

Q What are the synergies that come from the furniture business?

As you can see, there are a lot of front-end synergies between both businesses. There is a natural alignment between the two categories. But we also have some salient back-end synergies. We want to improve the quality of products like sofa sets. That’s where we use our knowledge of foam or upholstery and that expertise is growing in a seamless and easy way now. Our experience and insights from that side of customer behaviour and preferences can be used very well to anticipate and serve the customer needs of this category of products. We have design and manufacturing strengths in upholstery and the two areas of the mattress and this product align very well.

Q Do you foresee strong competition from hybrid players (Pepper Fry, Urban Ladder) or DIY players (Ikea, Babloo by Wakefit) as we move into the next year? What is the space like between ‘foam to wood’ or ‘vice-versa’?

Normally, a lot of furniture players sell mattresses because it is a logical branch to follow. The players you mentioned- Like Wakefit – are trying the reverse route and extending from mattress to furniture. I feel that manufacturing is a specialized job, especially for this industry. Even retail needs a specific kind of scale and expertise. What will ultimately win is the ability to offer the complete solution to a customer and that’s what our core strength is. Players like Ikea source their material. Not many rivals have the kind of scale, economies and efficiencies in manufacturing that we have. We make our own furniture. Godrej has the big advantage of market insight, quick design and manufacturing capabilities here.

There is a different level of strength and capabilities that emerge when one is confident of manufacturing at scale – for a market like this. At the same time, we understand the customer from a strong and deep angle and in a holistic way.

Q What changes (like WFH furniture) have you injected into your portfolio and approach during the pandemic? What lessons will you take forward?

We were making such products earlier too. Definitely, this opportunity is opening up in an explosive way. The pandemic has created a new market for WFH solutions across various categories and furniture is a top one in that new wave. We are the first ones in the block to offer WFH furniture because we have been supplying to B2B segments. We already make chairs and desks. Now a plethora of needs is expanding the market – especially chairs and employee desks for houses and not offices. We are ahead of the curve here also because of our strength in ergonomics. These offerings need the right channel and display-related avenues.

We are also witnessing a surge in interest from corporates who are discussing many models to furnish their employees with good WFH furniture – like ease-to-avail company-specific coupons for e-commerce sites, which save a company the distribution hassle. We are also modifying some of our products to go well with WFH needs – like a couch with a movable desk, a foldable table that can take care of space constraints, or a sofa with an armrest.

We are discussing, and learning from, our customers in this space and are looking to place ourselves in the market as a differentiator to create a one-stop solution.

Q How do you see the industry shaping up in the next two to five years? Do you have any innovations-in-progress to capture new opportunities? Do you think mattresses will play an important role in health as a proposition?

We are focusing a lot on innovation and are not limited to the numbers- game. We want to bring high value to customers. Innovations help us a lot in accomplishing that aim. Like most mattresses have the same unified head-to-toe cross-section in terms of construction. But we started working on a five-zone or seven-zone mattress that understands that the human body is not the same in weight and pressure points from head to toe. We are also emulating foreign pioneers in bringing the power of IoT and digital strength for better sleep- pattern-analysis and – hence- better sleep experience for the user. We plan to introduce a smart mattress very soon.

Incidentally, our refrigeration expertise from other domains helps us in offering something for the regulation of temperature. A mattress that gets warm in winter and cools down in the summer season – these are possible because of our learnings in technology from other segments.

The market is very huge and this is a good time to grow and innovate & People are understanding the importance of a mattress.

ISPF is an industry body which promotes importance of sleep and role of mattress for a Indian consumers. ISPF plays very important role in connecting Indian bedding industry ecosystem. ISPF also acts as bridge between India and international players.