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US home furnishing buyers hint at amplifying sourcing from India

Image Couresy: sedaozalit.com

With regard to US-based buyers, the good thing is that new companies are now exploring India and many of them were happy with the overall offerings that they found at the fair. Established importers too are adding new product categories. Some of the product categories are coming back to Indian market and few others are doing well. For example, medium and high-end market segment is coming back to India for more luxury items, organic-based products. Buyers are very optimistic about India, and specially in comparison to China. Few buyers also say that Indian exporters’ ways of approaching customers is definitely much better than that of the Chinese, and this is a positive way to get more business.

It has been widely reported in recent times that Chinese companies have increased their focus on product development, designs which is another issue for Indians. However, many buyers do not agree to the same, though experts feel that in some product categories like table tops, China has grabbed a big share of India.

Dealing with a large variety of different kinds of soft and hard goods, Boston International, Massachusetts, a distribution company started sourcing home furnishing product, from India just a year and half ago. The company also explored China for the same as it has strong know-how of China and has been sourcing from there. But a top official (names have not been shared on buyers’ request) of the company found India more interesting in few aspects. “Our customers expect a lot of variety from us which is a challenge. Chinese are not good in Americanised art, so in China we were not getting variety of artwork and detailing that could keep our customers interested, so we explored India for textiles and right from the start, Indian designs did very well for us. Printing and overall quality in Indian products is very good and consistent,” she informed, adding that in shade variation also, India is better than China, as they do not find this problem in India. For a year, her team keenly observed customers’ response to Indian products and finally they decided to visit India and work more deeply with Indian companies.

Senior team of Boston International

Currently the company is sourcing kitchen and table linen from India and in a year, it has sourced more than US $ 1,00,000 worth of products and is expecting 40 to 50 per cent growth in the same. She is of the view that delivery timing is the only issue where Indian exporters need to improve a little.

There are some other buyers who are still banking on India’s differential strength, yet are spreading their sourcing into other countries to add more value in their offering. However, their first priority is still India and they too are looking at increasing their sourcing from India. India’s Heritage, New Jersey working for almost 20 years in India, is properly utilizing the strengths of most Indian hubs and is trying to expose these strengths to various international clients of the US market. “We do products that are traditional, transitional, contemporary, and of mid-century… For that we source from Jaipur, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Kashmir,” shared a senior-most official of the company. India’s Heritage will continue to grow sourcing from India as it consistently works to add new categories to expand its product lines and is also witnessing an increase in demand for the existing product categories. “We focus a lot on how we can offer different kinds of looks in our product lines. A year ago, we started sourcing throws from India, which proved a good business for the company,” says the official. To serve its client better, he offered a package (box of products) to the retailers which are difficult for them to source individually. This strategy has been very successful for the company.

Growth: Boston International, Massachusetts which grew by 12 per cent last year, is expecting similar growth (10 to 12 per cent) this year too. India’s Heritage is also doing well and the current year also looks good for them. The company’s business has grown consistently year-on-year.

Two years ago, India’s Heritage started sourcing bedding from Europe as it had too much mix of India and wanted to break the monotony. “Sourcing from Europe helped us to be trendier rather than being very traditional. We got a good mix of fabric from there,” he added. Dedicated purely to home furnishing products, the company is having warehouse at New Jersey from where it caters to various chain stores, furniture stores of North America and South America. As far as overall working of Indian exporters is concerned, these buyers are relatively happy as he feels that there has been a lot of improvement over the years as exporters are now more professional and are travelling more which is helping them to understand international markets, trends etc. With regard to further areas of improvement, he feels that communication and shade difference are the issues where Indian companies can improve further.

There are some other buyers still banking on India’s differential strength yet spreading their sourcing into other countries to add more value in their offering. However, their first priority is still India and they too are looking at increasing their sourcing from India.

On similar lines, international experts also insist that Indian exporters need to study their perspective clients or customers more deeply. Working with India from last 25 years, Head of Retail Strategy, Israel, says, “It is very important for the supplier to minutely understand culture, lifestyle and overall study of the customers. And I am helping them in the same.” she is supporting the industry by her expert consultancy service on product development and sourcing, to the Indian companies. “Not everyone is open to new ideas, and more research is a problem with many Indian exporters, but sooner or later they have to change this mindset as even within a city, buyers of similar products are quite different,” she reasoned.

It has been widely reported in recent times that Chinese companies have increased their focus on product development, designs which is another issue for Indians. However, many buyers do not agree to the same, though experts feel that in some product categories like table tops, China has grabbed a big share of India.

Regarding market opportunities, she is of the opinion that apart from US, there is ample opportunity for Indian companies in Israel, especially in product categories like bedding and towels. It is a good market as people frequently change their home décor and per capita income is also high compared to many other countries. But being a small market, competition is very high, so one has to be very careful about pricing.

Deven Saxena (L) MD, Charu Merchandising with Lokesh Parashar of Buying Agents Association

With positivity in the US, some Indian buying agencies are also gearing up to get more orders of home furnishing products, especially as in recent years they missed this segment. They are even adding new strategies to achieve this goal. For example, Delhi-based Charu Merchandising is now expecting that home furnishing business should come back as focus is more in that direction, currently. The company is trying to push regular items like bath towels, bath mates, sheeting, pillow covers in textile business as these are big volume business.

“China is ‘killing’ us, as people are going for cheaper kinds of stuff like micro fibres; so we are trying to work more on our product line. Our major market is the US and we are exploring new clients in the market. We are trying to add more accounts as it is time to work with more importers as importer’s business gives bigger horizon of getting into stores. We are still working with one to one stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, but through importers we get access to lot of other stores,” says Deven Saxena, MD, Charu Merchandising, who is working with lot of discounters in US.

As product development is the key, many exporters have increased their thrust on the same, but they are moving ahead with balanced approach. Vijay Thukral, Director, (third generation of family business), Ramesh Impex, Ghaziabad shared: “In last three years, Europe has been consistent. To cope up with this condition, we are focusing more on design development. But the idea is to keep balance and not to try too much, as we should have enough time to concentrate on the business which we are doing right now. No matter how creative and advanced one is, China is very good at copying.” The company, working mainly with European market and offering good range of home furnishing products, has hired designers, is involved more in research and is applying more and more value addition techniques as a growth strategy.