The Italian job: Technology fuels Interwood’s rise in furniture market

Published: April 13, 2015
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File photo of furniture. PHOTO: FILE

File photo of furniture. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Adopting latest technology and production methods sets one business apart from the rest.

One such example is of Interwood Mobel, one of the largest furniture brands in the country.

It has started localised production of Italian kitchen courtesy its fully-automated product line. A dominant player in the country’s furniture market, the Lahore-based furniture giant recently unveiled its line of new Signature Kitchens, which have been designed by Italian architect Alfredo Zengiaro. The partnership marks Alfredo’s first ever collaboration with a Pakistani brand, said the company.

“Zengiaro designed our kitchens in Italy and we manufactured them here using top quality material,” said Interwood Mobel Brand Manager Danial Shaikh in an interview with The Express Tribune at their Karachi office. The entity imports raw materials from South America and Canada.

The company uses a fully automated product line for every item it manufactures and this technological advantage has helped it become a leading player and the only company to manufacture Italian kitchens in Pakistan, according to Shaikh.

“Our entire manufacturing process is automated and this is our unique selling point,” he said. Explaining further, he added that when you cut and process wood manually, wood-core moisture remains behind, causing it to expand after a few months.

“Our process is completely automated. The wood is cut, heated and dried on machines not leaving any moisture in the core,” said Shaikh, claiming that Interwood Mobel is the only company using automated manufacturing method. “We have product line to remake any part or furniture we sold in the past, which is a competitive advantage.”

The foundations of growth

Set up in 1974 in Lahore, the company has expanded across Pakistan. Besides six company-owned showrooms, it is represented by dealers in Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana, Multan, Sahiwal, Sargodha, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar and Abbottabad.

In fact, the entire furniture industry has expanded by manifolds on the back of consumer boom in recent years. While no official data is available to measure its actual size, the furniture market, according to industry estimates, is over $2 billion – a big chunk of which remains undocumented.

Talking about the market size, Shaikh said 15,000 housing units have been approved for fiscal year 2016 in Karachi alone so the potential in the local market is huge. He added that their own market share could be around 20% to 30 % because a lot of scattered and disorganised businesses constitute the majority of the pie.

While it seems to be increasingly focused on the retail segment, corporate projects have traditionally been the main source of Interwood’s business. The company describes its top three categories as office furniture, home furniture and kitchens – Interwood doors are also a main product for the company.

“For any company, you need to evolve with the direction of the market. So we grew ourselves as well from a contractual business to a retail-oriented company offering the top-line wood and wood-based products,” said Shaikh, highlighting the rationale behind the shifting strategy.

“Since we have six different product categories, by consolidating a variety of merchandise in one central location, we have dramatically increased our sales potential,” said the brand manager, while refusing to disclose the company’s revenues and other financial details.

However, the fact that its business runs from the Multan airport to the Zardari House in Punjab, it can be said that it is huge.

In fact, the company plans to expand further not only in Pakistan but also in other markets – it is currently seeking dealers in Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Interwood has completed projects abroad but it is physically not present in any market, said Shaikh, adding that they went to India and the Middle East and figured out it required phenomenal investments.

“We are trying to strengthen our systems, processes and positioning. Hence, if we move globally, we should go with the best strategy.”

THE WRITER IS A STAFF CORRESPONDENT

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • Apr 13, 2015 - 4:04AM

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  • Ibby
    Apr 13, 2015 - 12:50PM

    It is great that this Pakistani company is adopting modern methods. Pakistanis should focus on not only import substitutes but also export of all possible commodities. Wood furniture offers a great potential for exports. The wood furniture like dining tables, chairs, coffee tables sold in many retail outlets here in US are mostly imported from Asian countries like China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam. They all follow same method of exporting CKD (Completely knocked down) kits for furniture. The buyer has to assemble those at home, sometimes you can have the department store representative come to your house or place of business to assemble that piece of furniture but mostly to keep cost low, buyers self assemble dining tables, chairs, etc. in US, themselves. So Pakistan can learn from international firms in Malaysia, China, etc. how to manufacture (CKD) furniture and earn huge exports for the country. Recommend

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