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With hybrid work-culture both WFH and office furniture to be in demand: Sidhant Lamba, Fabrento

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wfh, worh from home, rental furniture, wfh furniture, covid-19 pandemic, corona second wave, lockdownwfh, worh from home, rental furniture, wfh furniture, covid-19 pandemic, corona second wave, lockdownThe furniture rental industry in India will grow substantially from hereon, as more and more people want to live well and be comfortable.

With the ‘second wave’ of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting us, Indians are again moving back to their homes and prioritizing ‘stay-at-home’ and ‘work-from-home’ to stay safe and avoid catching the dreaded virus. Ever since the pandemic-induced lockdown was announced last year and the concept of ‘remote working’ became a part of our daily reality, the demand for Work-From-Home (WFH) Furniture also shot up massively. In an exclusive conversation with Financial express Online, Sidhant Lamba, Founder, Fabrento says that while there was over 200% jump in their WFH furniture segment in the months after the lockdown of 2020, the trajectory went downwards to some extent after the Unlock phase; however, WFH furniture continued to popular with at least a 50% increase in demand as compared to pre-Covid. Excerpts:

How has been the business growth in the ‘WFH furniture’ segment since the start of the pandemic? Please share some relevant numbers in this regard taking your firm’s example.

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Before the pandemic happened, we had a small section for desks and home study furniture. However, the pandemic-induced large-scale WFH pivot has helped us to convert this category into a big and booming one. So much so, we decided to put up a dedicated WFH section on our website and mobile app, and ever since, we have witnessed reasonably good customer footfalls and orders from this segment.

Talking about numbers, it’s hard to give an exact number since it’s a new category but the demand in this has been exponential.  In the months following the Unlock phase, the demand in this category had slowed down to some extent, however we were still seeing an increase in demand for WFH furniture and home accessories, as compared to pre-Covid times!

During the second wave of Covid, has the demand for WFH furniture shot up again and by what percentage

It’s too soon to comment on whether or not demand for WFH furniture will shoot up once again (in a manner similar to last year). We will have to wait and watch how the scenario develops in the upcoming weeks and months. With lockdowns being started again in some parts of the country, we are currently facing some logistical problems and are therefore unable to deliver efficiently at this time. Also, for the safety of our employees, we have had to implement practical measures to safeguard them against the virus.

Apart from the WFH furniture, which other rental furniture segments/categories are most in-demand currently?

Bedroom furniture has always been Fabrento’s highest rented category among our customers. In the recent months, apart from desks, living room furniture such as sofas and recliners have been in high demand.

Are you (and other players/stakeholders in India’s furniture rental industry) better prepared to handle the socio-economic adversities arising from the pandemic this time (second wave)? In case another set of nationwide lockdowns or curfews happen (has already started happening in some parts of the country), what strategies will you be implementing to cope with the situation?

To be honest, it was quite difficult for us to be 100% prepared for this sudden resurgence of the virus outbreak (the second wave). However, as a responsible Indian brand, we are following all the Government guidelines and adhering strictly to the lockdowns happening at the moment. As of now, we have shifted our focus on the specific regions which are fully operational (and devoid of lockdowns or restrictions). That’s what seems to be the best we can do at this point in time! Furthermore, we have re-planned and rescheduled Fabrento’s expansion plans into the new zones/locations, which will be implemented later in due course of time, after the countrywide outbreak is mitigated or controlled.  I believe that for businesses, the key to coping with the situation in these trying times is to develop empathy, ensure sustainability and to keep the business operations going as smoothly as possible.

Do you believe that Covid isolation and “stay-at-home” and “work-from-home” mantras have enabled people to prioritize more on home furniture and home décor? And to what extent?

Yes, for sure they have – and upto a huge extent. Once the 2020 lockdown eased and deliveries started, we noticed a surge in orders, as people decided they want to live better and use their spaces more efficiently and be ‘comfortable’ during their time at home. Also, I think people value their life and personal relationships more after the pandemic, which makes them want to live and work with ease and comfort.

Sidhant Lamba, Founder, FabrentoSidhant Lamba, Founder, FabrentoSidhant Lamba, Founder, FabrentoSidhant Lamba, Founder, Fabrento

Since physical offices/workspaces are closed again and WFH is the norm, will office furniture demand fizzle out and be replaced by WFH furniture?

Yes, from what we have noticed over the past several months, the demand for office furniture has fizzled out a bit and/or been adversely impacted to a certain extent, as it seems Covid is here to stay for a while. We are all constantly learning and evolving to live around this harsh reality. However, as and when the wave passes, people will attempt to return to their ‘new normal’ lives, as it is indeed hard to permanently sit home. Also, physical office-based interaction is necessary for team building, client focussing and planning, among others.

So, in my opinion, most businesses are going to have to find a viable balance between WFH and physical office-based working in the future; and therefore, both WFH furniture and office furniture will be holding their own respective grounds in the times to come (it will not be ‘either’ this ‘or’ that kind of scenario!).

In your view, what should be the way forward for India’s furniture rental industry from hereon? Will it barely sustain or thrive during and after the second wave?

The furniture rental industry in India will grow substantially from hereon, as more and more people want to live well and be comfortable, yet don’t want to burn a hole in their pockets by buying things (any kind of physical products like furniture etc.) in these unstable/uncertain times. Hence, people are going to continue to rent, as more and more Indians (especially millennials) are constantly moving between cities and jobs, and will continue to do so when the pandemic subsides.

A huge plus point about furniture renting (as opposed to EMI or other buying options) is that here you can return the furniture hassle-free, rather than having to be attached to the furniture pieces and moving them around with you and also bearing the burden of payment, even if you might not need these furniture items anymore.

In view of the above facts, it can be said with confidence that the future prospects look bright for India’s furniture rental sector; and that it shall continue to sustain and survive in a ‘stronger-than-ever-before’ manner, and may even begin to ‘thrive’ if innovations and time-relevant strategies are prioritized by the key players in the industry.

Can you share some offbeat productivity tips for those who are working from home at the moment.

Here are my two cents of productivity tips for WFH workers:

• Set specific time slots for yourself during WFH, like you would when you head out to office. This helps in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

• It’s very tempting to chill and watch the newest show and procrastinate, but always know that the work will have to be done- now or later.

• WFH period is a great opportunity to spend time with family too, so make sure to eat your meals together with the family members (no matter how busy you are!). Bonding is essential for having steady mental health during these tough times.

• Even if virtually, be there for your teammates and subordinates on calls and video chats. You never know who might be having a tough time mentally. Boost their morale. Encourage team spirit.

What are some of the key steps Fabrento has taken in recent months to for remote workers or the home-based workforce and to make their lives easier?

Last year, when Covid first wave started easing out, we had adopted a policy of ‘hybrid’ work, i.e. a combination of WFH/remote work and office-based working. We assigned meetings only when absolutely necessary in our office, and implemented seamless processes vis-vis WFH for most of our employees, wherein they could follow-up and communicate through their desired channels with the team members, and also take all the meetings with clients over phone rather than having physical meetings (unless it was radically important).

What steps have you taken/are taking to prioritize the safety of your employees during the second wave?

Since Fabrento is headquartered in Delhi-NCR, we are currently in a lockdown (as per directives of Delhi Government) and everyone at Fabrento is working from home. We are also offering financial and other types of aid/help that our employees may need for medical assistance or emergencies.

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