At Lightbox, we spend a lot of time thinking about the changing nature of ownership. It’s amazing how much “stuff” most of us collect over time. And how little we actually use in everyday life. It makes you start questioning consuming and purchasing habits in general.
In the US, the idea of access versus ownership has been evolving for a while – with technology companies have been pushing the “access” envelope - whether it’s using cars through Lyft, renting plus size clothes through Gwynnie Bee or designer dresses through Rent A Runway.
Developing economies like India and Brazil are likely to adopt this new reality even faster as consumers realize that this might be the only way they can have access to newer, better products. To own something will become less and less important, while product experience and community driven aspiration will move us from “outright buying” to short-term renting. Just look at the number of people renting iPhones over the weekend in Brazil.
And this is one big reason we partnered with Furlenco. Furlenco makes furniture more accessible by offering consumers a monthly subscription service rather than forcing them to purchase it. And it’s targeted to this generation of Indians who we believe are re-defining their relationship with their possessions.
Furniture is a very interesting industry. For one, furniture in India is very expensive. In fact, for many of us, it’s amongst the top 3 most expensive purchases we will make in our lives. Other things we buy either consistently fall in price (think phones, electronic goods, appliances) or provide consumers access to financial support through long-term loans (homes, cars). In furniture, prices have remained consistent through the years and there are few financing options.
As a result, it’s one of the few times that a purchase isn’t a reflection of the consumer’s personality. You’re forced to either buy a few pieces of furniture at a time, or buy lower quality furniture than they want to, or then just don’t buy at all. Very few other purchases force this decision on their customers. Can you imagine buying a car one tire at a time?
And even when you can afford it, it’s tough to choose what you should buy. It’s tough to mix and match. It takes forever to get made and delivered. And once you’ve bought it – you’re stuck with it for a very long time! When’s the last time any of us changed all the furniture in our homes?
This last point is more relevant in India today than it has ever been in the past. Thanks to the rise in urbanization and the increase of jobs in the services industry, we’re more uncertain today of where we will settle down, or how many times we’ll move.
This didn’t use to be the case. Five or ten years ago, most Indians moved very few times in their lives. Home was where your parents lived. That’s where you grew up, went to school, worked and finally retired. Today, the average employee at an IT firm or any other services job will move homes 8-10 times between college and turning 50! It’ll happen for different reasons –work-related relocation, earning more money, getting married, starting a family and so on. Each home will have different feel, different spaces, and different needs. Yet – most of the time, the furniture will remain constant. Not because it’s what you want, but because changing it is expensive, time consuming and very inconvenient (what do you do with the old furniture?).
This is where Furlenco comes in. Furlenco allows you to “access” the furniture you want, when you want it, and for as long as you want it. And it’s so simple! You decide the rooms you want to furnish, the monthly price point you’re ready to pay, and for the number of months you want it. Based on this information, Furlenco helps you choose the relevant furniture and furnishings for your home (or for just a room), delivers it to your doorstep and sets it up for you – all within a couple of days. It’s that easy and that amazing!
You get bored, you move, or just decide that you don’t want it anymore – let them know and viola – they take it all back. No cost to you. You decide you want something different, a new price point, no problem – it’s yours. How can you go wrong?
The best part –they design some of the trendiest, coolest most chic furniture I have ever seen. In fact, CII recently awarded them one of their highest honors for design.
I don’t know what the future of consumption is going to look like, but I do know that what Furlenco is doing isn’t a fad. We’re probably not going to transform our old habits completely, but we should see new ones come up right beside them.