Mumbai: Hundreds of masked shoppers defied pandemic fears to visit Ikea’s second Indian store, which opened Friday, as the Swedish giant tries to lure the country’s burgeoning middle class with minimalist design and a dash of local masala.

The company is betting big on the vast but complex market of 1.3 billion people, mixing Swedish functionality with locally sourced Indian wares.

Its latest store, on the outskirts of Mumbai, comes two years after its first outlet opened in the southern city of Hyderabad, but amid vastly changed circumstances with social distancing norms requiring customers to register in advance before visiting.

It houses a 1,000-seater restaurant as well as the largest children’s section of any Ikea store worldwide and can accommodate up to 10,000 people. For the foreseeable future however, only about 2,500 customers will be allowed to visit daily.

“It has been beyond our expectations,” deputy store manager Preeti Budhraja told AFP, saying customer slots for the next two weeks were already filled.

Spread across 5.30 lakh square feet, the store will permit only pre-registered customers up to 2,500 daily in view of the Covid-19 restrictions and following all the protocols. IKEA India CEO Peter Betzel said that people can now not only visit the store, but also shop online, or buy their favourite and affordable products through its ‘click & collect’ services.

IKEA India Market and Expansion Manager and Maharashtra MD Per Hornell said that the company has made more than 2,000 home visits in Mumbai to create solutions that reflect people’s life in the city, adding that IKEA would help create jobs and opportunities for a growing eco-system for the entire industry.

The company plans to make an investment of Rs 6,000 crore by 2030, cater to 25 million people in the state, provide over 6,000 jobs, including half for women, with at least 40 per cent drawn locally, besides 70 per cent support staff comprising locals.

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