(This is my India Trip blog – you might also like to read my main blog.)

Bangalore Furniture Fair

Bangalore Furniture Fair

I am a trade fair jet-setter. I treat myself every two years by going to the Salone, the designers’ mecca, in chic and sophisticated Italy. I canvas the city and the fair ground to read about the latest design opportunities, as new and shiny products are celebrated with fizz. This event is probably one of my favourites. I sample my own country through a stranger’s eyes at Maison et Objet where I endeavour to build bridges between creativity and commercial brands. At the Spring Fair, I meet again with contacts from London, Frankfurt, Paris and Milan. This year, before doing it all again (and although it is not exactly on the way), I’m visiting India.

India comes with a series of myths and distorted perceptions. There is a distinct difference between going to an Indian restaurant on Brick Lane and ordering a massala dosa for breakfast in the sweltering heat. So what else is there besides the IT power house, friendly call centres, autorickshaws and packed trains? What opportunities exist for crafts to meet design? How about an Indian take on Droog? Since mass production is associated with China, what can Indian companies offer in terms of manufacturing and crafts?

Well, I’m On a Mission to get to the bottom of these questions and more. Local trade fairs seem to be a logical place to start, offering a first point of contact and local knowledge. From there, more trips to local centres for crafts and manufacturing. And all this is to be influenced by designers outside of India who need to find companies able to produce to a high standard the products they are designing.

If you are a designer and would like to know more about Marion’s service On a Mission, please contact me to receive detailed information.

Based in Bangalore from January 2010 until June 2010, I visit trade fairs on behalf of designers based mainly, but not exclusively, in the UK. This blog is about how I do this, what happens in the process and my exploits as I settle and experience India.

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View the original post here.

From responses collected 10th May – 10th June 2010:
Although so far no one has identified with it, a small number confessed to wishing to be more like the “carpet type”. The rest of the answers swayed between those who are, or aspire to be, the “fabric type” and those admitting to be very much anti – and, therefore, not comfortable with selling.

Street seller

I’d really like to know how you go about increasing sales of your products and services. Feel free to add your comments or email me: info@mariongillet.com.

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I have attended too many trade fairs without a clear purpose. I would speak to designers as an advisor, work with them as a design management consultant, and give the best advice I could, still…

I once went with a client to a trade fair in the UK and almost had to drag him to meet people at their stands. So clearly there are creatives out there who just don’t enjoy speaking to people at trade fairs and perhaps don’t think it’s their place. Others might enjoy speaking to strangers but may fail to get some crucial points or questions across:

What I do at stands:

  • ask exhibitors about how their company works in terms of production, expertise, commissioning, sales, etc
  • be as clear as possible about how I work (this is the difficult bit!)
  • keep the conversation to the right length
  • make simple promises.

I found that companies were very happy to speak to an intermediary as it means fewer, more informed enquiries.

When I first tested On A Mission with a designer in Milan last year, I asked a lot of questions including how companies want to be approached by designers, how they select designers they work with and when is the best time in the year to contact them.

In India I now have a sense of how people work, alongside an historical overview of the companies I’ve met and their specialities. I have met people face to face – an important aspect of my time here as business in India, much like most other places, is based on human interaction. In Delhi I stopped at a stand and, as the conversation developed, got to hear how the company interacted with large businesses. They often found their relationship with bigger companies was too one-sided. They therefore tend to work with medium sized companies, with whom they are more on a par, or smaller ones that they can help grow.

Such information is crucial to my work. It adds a new flavour to the nature of the information I collect and makes the exchange more personal. Don’t you think that there is a paradox here?  You either play to the big confident guys, speaking like robots or you share failures and learning and engage successfully on a human level?

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Walking is the most natural way to travel. Accessible to anyone with the ability to use their leg; one could argue that you only need one fully working leg to walk.

Summer walking in Bangalore

I am certainly used to discovering a city by walking, using public transport or cycling. Driving would always be my very last transport of choice, so I never thought I would ever have my own private driver. Surely my time here would have been quite different without one!

I’ve enjoyed walking whilst visiting smaller places like Mysore or Cochin and if there is a ‘walking class’, I don’t think I’m part of it. The upper and middle classes practice brisk-walking as a way to exercise. I sometimes see a couple of neighbours brisk-walking around my building in full running gear. Such activity is possible on the clean, private and even pavement surrounding the building where I live. My partner has given up on running as it would involve being driven to the nearest park. I even found an advertisement for a walking machine that you use whilst lying down, a testament to the ability of business to capitalise on an everyday activity, repackage it and sell it back to the rich.

The walking machine

The poorest walk or defiantly drive their bullock-drawn carriage on the motorway; in cities I see coconut merchants carrying kilos of coconuts on bicycles, entire families on motorbikes or in rickshaws – very middle class, I’ve read. Cars are always packed to more than their full capacity… except for those for the expats and the very rich who view all of this from the comfort of their A/C Innova.

Street seller in Mysore

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All the steel you need for your home

Stainless steel and other alloys for your home

A pressure cooker is the one essential item to have in all kitchens in India (besides a tawa and a coconut grater).

The neighbourhood’s kitchen and tableware store is old fashioned; you tell the assistant what you need and items are picked from shelves and brought to the customer . As a pressure cooker is not a rare item that people buy, when asking for one, you expect to be given a wide range of  options in shape, size, quality, functions and corresponding gadgets. As a westerner you come to expect to be shown the most fancy and expensive items.

In this case, we stared and pointed at different pots on the shelves – steel, anodised or aluminium. We even asked for “another brand” but this question got lost in translation.  Thinking that we had to choose from what we were presented with, we went for the steel one. As our guarantee was being stamped to seal our purchase,  we noticed two different pressure cookers from other brands on another, higher shelf. When asked, the sales assistant indeed confirm that those, too, were pressure cookers.

So it seems that we experienced an easy sale rather than an expensive sale. Were we too difficult to deal with because of language differences?

Our simple need for a pressure cooker is met, though, so there’s no point in expecting more. And it works just great…

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I am increasingly more confident that high quality products can be manufactured throughout India and not just in Rajasthan.  The day after I visited the Furniture Fair in Bangalore, I went to Kynkyny Gallery, initially to see paintings, but found myself pleasantly intrigued by the furniture also on display. I was told that all pieces were made in Bangalore.

I decided to go back and meet the owners Vivek and Namrata Radhakrishnan. While Namrata oversees the artistic exhibitions, Vivek is in charge of the design and production of the furniture. Vivek and Namrata set up their company in Bangalore after leaving New York 7 years ago.

Bangalore was then the city of all things happening in India; a perfect opportunity for a new brand of furniture to exist in an art gallery.

Vivek explained that there are several challenges in providing products of quality to a market; first in finding people able to produce them and then identifying people who appreciate and buy them.

Rather than setting up a workshop around a design, Vivek’s furniture is designed to best exploit the capacity of his production unit. The pieces are plain, simple and practical, detailed and finished to the highest standards.

There is a big divide between Indian manufacturers who cater for the western market and those who target the Indian market. Kynkyny’s ambition is to bridge that gap and bring Indian-made quality design to the Indian market. India is shifting from a culture of buying as cheap as possible to one which purchases the most expensive brands. This is somewhat  ironic as local brands that propose new products need to earn their seal of quality from overseas markets.  Vivek admits that the majority of his clientele comes from Bangalore’s large expat community. When his clients move on or back home they take their purchases with them.

Still, Vivek would not be here today if he did not firmly believe that his home country can produce anything to the highest standard.

In Vivek’s opinion most things, if not everything, can be manufactured in India. For him, it is a matter of requesting the highest quality and not fledging – I would add that you need to be very clear about what you expect. You can find a manufacturing outlet in India without an agent, but finding good intermediaries along the way is crucial.

The great news for European designers is that Vivek is a key person when it comes to prototype and scaling up production.

If you want to find out more about Kynkyny you can contact them through their website.
If you have questions about your product feasibility or about this post, please contact Marion.

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It looks mouth watering and sounds absolutely delicious but it’s not available today.


Whether it’s a cafe, large or small restaurant, there is always something missing.

As part of a well-known branding exercise, menus are printed on thick and coated card, carefully designed and marketed. Much effort has gone into the printed material but seasons, changes and supply issues were not considered, which rather defeats the point of all marketing and design efforts.

In Kolkatta, at Bhojohari Manna (this chain is named after a famous Bengali song rendered by the legendary Manna Dey, for a film made in the 70’s), the entire menu is displayed on the wall and what’s available on that day is highlighted. Disappointment is, therefore, avoided and you know to expect a different taste experience on each visit. Just don’t try to plan what you’ll have!

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11. May 2010 · Categories: Marion on a Mission, Market · Tags:

Bangalore’s Furniture Fair happened last weekend. As this year is one without the Salone, I was terribly curious to find out what this event was about. And this, it turned out, was about half of the work…

As I arrive, I see people squeezing big sofas in their small cars and carrying folding aluminium picnic tables under their arms.

After paying the entrance ticket (Rs 40) and refusing to leave my details in the lucky draw box, I made my way into the cool stadium hall… and entered the very special world of Indian furniture.

It is the perfect place if you want to find:

  • large wooden-framed, sculpted sofas with glittering upholstery – note that a swing version of this item is available, but you’d probably need an elephant to carry the frame
  • glass topped coffee tables which allow you to peer through their surface and admire a dancing elephant or a muscular male wearing only a turban and not much else
  • water features
  • fish tanks that glow in the dark
  • decorative plastic swords
  • plastic Diwali lights

and many many more things that you didn’t know existed… it is all very overwhelming.

The furniture on display is mostly imported from Asian countries like Malaysia or Hong Kong. Finding outdoor furniture is difficult in Bangalore and I was surprised to see several modern ranges.

The best slogan on show was “Italian style, Chinese price, proudly Indian”.

And no Indian show would be complete without the vegetable-chopping-widget-demo-stand. There were certainly many of them hidden behind mounds of vegetable peelings – my final memorable sight as I left.

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Besides being a trade fair jet setter, I am also an art junkie. I need regular arty fixes to make sure my emotions, brain and senses connect and function together.

Wherever I travel, I search not only for the big museums but also the small art galleries and events. In Bangalore,  as this is where I reside, I am allowed the luxury of a continued search, looking for and occasionally finding art in this high-tech and fast-moving city. My access point is Time Out Bangalore; I’m yet to find something more edgy. Bangalore is an intensely shiny city but, with determination, art can be found here and there.

Gallery Blue Spade programmed a painting exhibition in January/February featuring a local painter. It’s not far from the small Galleryske, which is more adventurous in its choice of artists compared to the others I’ve seen so far.

On a more classical yet institutionalised front, I think the National Gallery of Modern Art, which  opened recently, is worth a visit. It’s a nice summary of its sister gallery in Delhi and perhaps, if they have more visitors, they might open their cafe on Sundays. Not far away is the Veda Art Gallery, which I’m yet to explore.

Last week I caught the last days of ulm: method and design/ulm: school of design exhibition, held at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath School. Very refreshing! The exhibition traced the history of the Ulm School, presented as more than just a chronology. The structure of the teaching was clearly explained, there were several models and prototypes on show and a few video interviews of former tutors and students. I felt transported back to my student years in Paris and London; Ulm bears a broad influence in design teaching today. Interestingly this was organised by the Institute for Cultural Relations and the Goethe Institute Bangalore (and I’ve just discovered their wonderful rooftop cafe and good bread!).

At the Gandhi Smriti Memorial in Delhi, I felt like a little girl looking at the life of Gandhi recounted in miniature scenes displayed in delightfully vintage-looking TV-type cabinets. This place has recently opened a number of beautifully made interactive displays. However, I found all the interaction overwhelming. Maybe I’m too old… I don’t know if it was the number of things to play with, a lack of explanations or the keen staff that were very quick to demonstrate how to interact, which killed the discovery factor for me.

Entering the larger museums is like beginning a large, rich meal. I start with enthusiasm but slowly wane and become overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of things to see, read, learn, understand, take in and digest.

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A sea of carpets

When I visited the International Carpet Expo in Delhi and the Furniture Fair in Bangalore the atmosphere was similar to that of any busy commercial street in India. Sellers call passers by from their stand and, as soon as their wares are shown the slightest interest, the stall holder erupts into frenzied animation to convince you to look at everything on offer.

The selling techniques at TexStyle India are quite different. If you show a prolonged interest, someone comes to talk to you softly so as to easily engage a conversation, their aim to evaluate what kind of prospect they are talking to.

The carpet-type will try to sell you something by the time you leave. The textile-type will have collected enough information and attached it to your business card to know what information to send you after the event.

At any event where selling is involved, whether exhibitors are young design entrepreneurs or hardcore business men, they will try their best to provide you with as much information as they can and make sure you leave with their business card at least. If you are not particularly interested, they will talk to you anyway.

Based on this, I distinguish 3 sales profiles, knowing that the 3rd one is rare in India:

  • the carpet-type: anyone is a potential buyer from the moment they come into (long distance) sight, aggressive style, talk a lot, listen a bit. Good to shift high volumes of things that are appealing (carpet) or easy to sell (soap).
  • the textile-type: how much, what, and why would this potential customer buy? Tend to be inquisitive, communicative and will offer you what you want. Good to build long term relationships with customers.
  • the anti-type: not happy to be here. Won’t talk unless being talked to, not intrusive or irritating, will pick up business cards to add to the mailing list. Will keep the conversation going with the most interesting people.

Personally, I’m a mix of the textile and anti-types, depending on how I feel and if I’m promoting myself (anti-type) or someone else (textile-type).

What are you? Take the quiz

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If you are travelling to India’s large cities for work or leisure… I’d recommend you pack or pick up the following:

  • earplugs
  • sun cream with a high spf (best to bring your own)
  • something warm to wear in restaurants, shops, theatres, galleries, cars, trains and other places with air conditioning for example a pashmina shawl or a cardi, depending on your style and gender
  • mosquito repellent –  the local brands are effective
  • a local sim card, convenient to call taxis and hotels.

Besides the emergency numbers, save a few reliable taxi numbers. In Delhi I used Easy Cabs quite a lot, they are good value for money, offer a reliable service and they have meters!

leaving for India

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