Megha Singh’s kitchen has become a conversation starter. She has spent more on it than most her countrymen have on their entire house: a cool Rs 1.65 Crore. Built by German firm Poggenpohl, the kitchen has two hobs, a Japanese Teppanyaki grill, a barbeque grill and a customized refrigerator to serve the six member family. And it is where the 33-year-old senior retail executive in Delhi entertains many of her friends.
It’s like upgrading from economy to business class,” says Megha who moved into her new house at Vasant Vihar last year. Kitchen is no longer the old utilitarian space for the new upper middle class Indian who routinely holidays overseas, buys homes at a young age and experiments with western food habits. Such people are warming up to the idea of spending a bomb on European-aesthetic kitchens, prompting luxury kitchen furniture and appliance makers such as Veneta Cucine, Poggenpohl, Miele and Siemens Home Appliances to expand their base in the country.
“Like an Audi and BMW helps fulfill sensory gratification, built-in luxury kitchens are doing the same at home,” says Miele India Managing Director Rana Pratap Singh.
German premium in-built kitchen appliances makers Miele and Siemens Home Appliances recently traded their distributor model to float wholly owned subsidiaries in India. Established home appliance makers such as LG and Whirlpool too are now betting on sales of hoods (chimney), hobs (cooktop ), built-in microwave ovens and dish washers in the country as Indian kitchens start to transform into a social area.
“The kitchen is becoming a sign of who you are today and reflects success,” says marketing expert and Future Brands CEO Santosh Desai. “These so-called ritual spaces of the home are becoming the new desire for consumers and becoming a social space for family and friends.” Desai says Indian bathrooms got a similar transformation a few years back when fancy bathtubs and accessories became a craze among homebuyers.
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Globally, nearly 40% of a consumer’s furniture spends are devoted to the kitchen. “This may be lower in India but the Indian market is set to grow as consumers shift to modular kitchens,” furniture fittings company Hettich India MD AK Goel says. Hettich works with the likes of German kitchen maker Nolte to offer fittings that increase ease of usage in the kitchen. Its intelligent fittings include drawers that move down for consumers to access unreachable spaces in top cabinets , drawers integrated with electric sockets for small kitchen appliances such as grinders and trays that fan out to let users store odds.
Custom-made luxury kitchen maker Poggenpohl India Managing Partner Rati Sharma says customers are increasingly demanding kitchens with backlit glass panels, a glass chopping board that slides in over the sink and aluminium skirting’s that make it easier to wash down Indian cooking. It’s not just pots and pans that find a place in the new kitchens.
There is demand for wine conditioner, which cools the bottle to the ideal temperature, for Rs 7.5 – 9.5 lacs, and warmer drawer, where cooked food and plates are kept to serve warm, carrying a price tag of Rs 1,50,000. Many people buy American barbeque grills and Japanese Teppanyaki grills as well.
“Barbeques are generally a male-dominated activity but the lady of the house has a huge influence on household purchases,” says barbeque grills and accessories company Weber India MD Manish Khandelwal.
WHO IS BUYING?
For € 2.9-billion Miele, the highest sales volumes come from customers who spend Rs 6 lakh to Rs 25 lakh on appliances. “These are typically people who buy flats priced upwards of Rs 2.5 crore and spend an additional Rs 15-20 lakh on kitchen furniture,” says Miele India’s Rana Pratap Singh. From industrialists, celebrities, politicians to bankers, NRIs and senior management professionals are now spending on covet lifestyle kitchens. The demand is driven mostly by younger people who travel a lot and have adopted global lifestyle and food habits. Khandelwal says some of Weber India customers are as young as 26. Siemens Home Appliances General Manager (Built-In Kitchen) Ajaz Vakil says people from small towns such as Dehradun, Coimbatore and Udaipur too are showing interest in luxury modular kitchen. Siemens, which currently imports appliances from Europe, is contemplating local production to keep pace with growing demand.
“The kitchen is becoming the new status symbol for the rich,” Vakil says. Also, many new-age men are as fascinated with their kitchen and cooking as women. Poggenpohl is targeting men with a Rs 1-crore kitchen made in design collaboration with sports car maker Porsche. In olive green and black, these kitchens are titanium-edged with handle-less cabinets that sense touch to slide open cabinets softly. LED televisions built into the frame add to the ambience. Regional preferences are a crucial cog in customizing kitchens. While North Indian consumers are keen on fittings that display luxury, people in Mumbai and the South focus on pure functionality, say marketers.
Riding on the growing interest, Poggenpohl sells eight high-end kitchens every month. Weber sells more than 10,000 grills every year, while Miele India eyes a turnover of Rs 100 crore by fiscal 2016. The kitchen furniture industry in the country is estimated at Rs 1, 500 crore, growing 40-50 % a year. And in-built kitchen appliances market is estimated at Rs 500 crore. While the market is much smaller than global market–the UK kitchen furniture market is more than five times bigger, valued at £1.16 billion, or about Rs 8,345 crore, in 2010 by market research firm Research & Markets–the growth rate and the huge potential offered by a rapidly growing middle class make India a key market for global kitchen furniture and appliances makers.
To cash in on the rush, LG and Whirlpool are exploring a new distribution channel for their kitchen appliances by working with interior designers and modular kitchen furniture makers. “We wanted to start early and be ready for the market when it starts expanding,” says Whirlpool of India Vice-President–Corporate Affairs and Strategy Shantanu Das Gupta. But entry into the in-built kitchen appliances segment entails high start up costs for new players.