As urbanisation, evolving trends and an economic upsurge drive demand for bespoke furniture, the need for skilled artisans is rising.
The Indian furniture sector is largely unorganised, where handicrafts comprise about 85% of furniture production. But the introduction of GST, and measures to curb cash transactions and boost transparency, will lead to the transition of unorganised entities into the organised sector.
The Association of Furniture Manufacturers and Traders states the organised furniture segment has been growing 20% annually. It is slated to exceed $32 billion by 2019, as per a World Bank study. During 2014-19, the online home décor market is projected to expand at a CAGR of 50.42% in revenues. The luxury furniture market is expected to increase at a CAGR of 4.1% during 2015-20, to touch $27.01 billion by 2020. However, office furniture category leads the overall industry.
FDI in realty, Housing for All by 2022 and development of 100 Smart Cities will spark higher demand for furniture industry, as will reforms and incentives in retail, hospitality, tourism and hospitals. Other trends are rising disposable incomes and urbanisation, where the focus on aesthetics and urbane lifestyles are leading to higher usage of bespoke furniture.
In this context, an important development is the emergence of MDF (medium density fibreboard)—a new-age building product. Given the need to increase production of wood panel products to bridge the demand-supply gap, it is imperative the traditional inefficient wood panels be replaced with MDF panels, ensuring sustainable economic development with minimum burden on the environment.
MDF is the wood of the future; better substitute to local plywood and particle boards. Globally, it is used in 80% of furniture; India lags, at 20% usage. Artisans skilled at handling MDF have greater scope for employment. Companies should hold skills training projects—training carpenters on skills for new-age products like MDF, and on carpentry tools, techniques.
Skills and training
In the age of automation, skilling has acquired a wholly new dimension. With tastes evolving, people are no longer satisfied with traditional items. The trend is towards sleek, western-style furniture that is aesthetically appealing and has a high degree of workmanship.
As per NSSO 68th Round employment data, the furniture and furnishings sector employs 2.11 million workers, and a major proportion of furniture manufacturing employment is in Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP, Bihar and West Bengal. An NSDC report states the industry will require 11.3 million skilled workers by 2022. As the jobs scenario expands in furniture & furnishings, the importance of skills and skilling initiatives will become more evident.
Shobhan Mittal, The author is joint MD & CEO, Greenply Industries