Ikea’s blue-and-yellow stores are instantly recognizable: iconic, monolithic and now, as India’s first store throws open its doors to the masses, operating in more than 400 stores in some 50 countries.
In many countries, the Ikea business model has been subtly tweaked to fit local preferences and customs. Opening hours are altered, menu options are adjusted and very occasionally, women are airbrushed out of catalogs.
But while every branch of the world’s largest furniture retailer has that most unmistakable whiff of flat-pack conformity, regional differences do exist – not least where their famed Swedish meatballs are concerned.
The cafeteria in Ikea’s new Hyderabad store will have 1,000 seats; what it won’t have is Swedish meatballs. Out of respect for Hindu beliefs, the pork-and-beef dish will be dropped from the menu in favor of chicken meatballs, biryani, samosas and vegetarian hotdogs.
It’s not the first time the retail giant’s best-known meal has got mixed up in religion. In 2013, traces of horsemeat were discovered in batches from a Swedish supplier, forcing Ikea to release statements in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates reassuring customers that the pork-free “Swedish” meatballs in those countries were halal certified.
Unsurprisingly, the product lines in the catalog vary somewhat from country to country: the kitchenware section in India will feature spice boxes and idli (rice cake) makers, according to the AFP, while its Chinese cousin goes heavy on works, cleavers, and steamers. Limited space is an issue for the company itself in crowded European capitals like London, Stockholm, and Madrid, where it’s opened small-scale stores of less than 1,000 square meters.
The catalog itself has been more controversial. A woman-free catalog was produced last year for Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community by the company’s local franchisee, featuring photographs of men and boys only. Ikea later apologized, but the furor can’t have come as a surprise.
Home Sweet Home
The local touches aren’t just in-store – they follow you home. Hong Kong deliveries are priced depending on the number of steps up to your apartment (perhaps not unreasonable in such a high-rise city).
The Floor Space
The soft-furnishing section is often crowded with locals taking an air-conditioned break from the city, lounging around on the sofas. Meanwhile, in mainland China, shoppers make themselves even more comfortable. In densely-populated Hong Kong, where flats are typically small and the streets are crowded, Ikea is a place to relax as well as shop. it’s common to find people sleeping in the display beds and armchairs, a habit that isn’t tolerated so readily in other parts of the world. In a part of the world where many people’s day starts and ends late, Ikea’s newest branch will be open to 11 pm – a full three hours later than branches in the chain’s home country.
Image Credit- Indian Express