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Home Centre has spent years understanding the Indian customer: Sitaram Kumar, CEO

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Shiv Joshi
Shiv Joshi
An editor with over 20 years of experience across industry verticals and content formats from tabloids to magazines, he is the Deputy Group Managing Editor at Images Group.

Sitaram Kumar, chief executive officer of Landmark Group’s home improvement chain Home Centre gives interesting insights into the evolution of the category and the brand

Sitaram Kumar joined Landmark Group’s furniture and home improvement chain Home Centre as a buyer in 2005 when the company forayed into India. And 17 years later, in 2022, he took over the reins of the business as its chief executive officer, rising through the ranks and learning the nuances of the business. Who better to lead the business than someone who has helped build it into what it is today since its inception?

Bengaluru-based Home Centre today has a footprint of 95 stores across the country with an average store size of 25,000 sq. ft. spread across malls and high streets. It contributes 10% -12% to Landmark Group’s overall turnover in India. And Kumar has a lot to do with it.

The CEO who has seen the category as well as the brand grow in front of his eyes, gives interesting insights into the category and the brand. Edited excerpts…

What has changed in the market since you launched?

One of the biggest changes in the Indian landscape has been the increase in the purchasing power and aspirations of Indian consumers due to their exposure to Western lifestyles and international home trends through travel and social media. Customers are looking to create homes that are an extension of the discerning taste and eclectic lifestyle, which has led to the shaping of the Indian Home Industry.

Interior design players have emerged who are translating this aspiration into real homes. More than ever before, the choices for consumers have increased with new players entering the market. The e-commerce boom too has added home-grown D2C brands to the mix. Customers can choose from a budget range to high-end home retailers that have ventured into the category.

What has been your focus over the years?

We have been doing business in the country for nearly two decades, and things have evolved for the better. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort in understanding the needs, wants and aspirations of the Indian customer. We did this with data analytics, customer research, frequent interactions and visits to customer homes. While learning about our consumers, we also focussed on our internal efficiency in creating strong people, processes and technology.

We ensured that we had the right talent with a mixed approach hiring specialists from the industry and also nurturing internal talent—to create a robust organisation structure enabling us to cater to the evolving needs of the consumer and the business.

In the process, we have streamlined processes across buying, planning and merchandising, visual merchandising, content, delivery management and customer service enabling us to better meet consumer requirements.

During this period, we also felt the need for automation in our business, especially where we have built robust process management. We then embarked on creating a mobile point of sale (POS) for billing in stores, automated the entire delivery management system, set up a state-of-the-art call centre and built robust algorithm systems for ordering and re-ordering.

In a nutshell, focusing on customers, our people, processes and technology has helped us offer a better experience and offerings to customers connecting with the brand.

What role do sales play in your category?

Sales have a similar impact as in any other category. They help in influencing fence users to transact when affordability increases. It has a higher favourable impact on furniture since it is a high-ticket purchase.

Can you shed some light on the unique challenges in furniture retailing in the country?

The market is still unorganised and fragmented—nearly 80% of the Indian furniture market is dominated by small unorganised players. Thus, the true potential of the market is not truly leveraged. On the manufacturing side, domestic manufacturing is limited and there is low-value addition in the sector. In terms of aesthetics, quality or trendiness, local manufacturers have quite some ground to cover before they can compete with or be at par with their international counterparts.

How do you overcome them?

By virtue of our extensive sourcing capabilities from across the globe and our years of experience across the Middle East and Indian markets, we offer our customers hand-picked collections that reflect the best global trends, blended with local aesthetic sensibilities in an international shopping environment.

How do you manage the supply chain, especially reverse logistics?

We have strategic partnerships with third-party logistics players in our business. It provides us with cost flexibility as well as scale and reach in the shortest time.

Where do you see the Indian furniture market in the next three years?

A high rate of growth in real estate was witnessed in 2023. Looking at the current supply in the sector, the same trend will continue in the years to come and will help the category to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12%-13% over the next three years.

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