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Saraf Furniture: An inspirational success story of a small business from Sardarshahar
After beginning as a small family business and having subsequently transformed itself into a very successful and modern furniture retail chain—Saraf Furniture is making a mark in the Indian furniture market. Third generation entrepreneur Raghunandan Saraf has changed the course of his family business by inculcating some relevant changes.
Numerous family businesses abound in every region, city, town, nook and cranny of India, contributing greatly to the Indian economy. The majority of them are small and medium-sized businesses. However, only a few family-owned brands make it to the top league, where they become a regional favourite or have it what it takes to be a true business success story.
One of these success stories is that of Saraf Furniture—a furniture brand known as a destination for Indian Rosewood (Sheesham) furniture and home décor furnishing solutions.
A destination for Rajasthani wood craft
Based out of Sardarshahar, a town 250 km away from Jaipur, Saraf Furniture is a 45-year-old traditional home-based furniture business. Which is in the league of the modern furniture suppliers of the Indian furniture market. Today it holds the distinction of being a leading furniture brand, nationally and globally.
In terms of variety, they have about 6,000 varieties of furniture made from Sheesham wood, which can transform any house into a beautiful and cozy home. Moreover, they also offer special services such as volume buying and customisation.
Currently, the brand has a presence in the top metro cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Surat, Ahmedabad and in various cities of Rajasthan as well. Simultaneously, their team has grown from just a few carpenters to around 2000+ individuals. For a family business to come this far, it took three generations of entrepreneurship and new ways of doing business.
“Saraf Furniture has been our family-owned business from the past four decades. Initially we were into trading of Sheesham wood with local traders and merchandisers. With time, we steadily evolved into furniture making, and have also expanded into various markets. Besides that, the brand is now available on both the online and offline platforms. We are also into exports. We have diversified our product portfolio by bringing in different verticals like- lightning, carpets and wall art,” says Raghunandan Saraf, the current CEO of Saraf Furniture.
However, things were very different when third generation Raghunandan Saraf was not a part of the company.
“Some twenty years ago we were just one manufacturing unit. Our presence was restricted to Sardarshahar, besides catering to a few offline stores. When I took over, the business was running smoothly but was very limited in its reach. There was limited knowledge about the differentiation between regular furniture and furniture made of Sheesham wood among the audience,”
Raghunandan, a Shri Ram College of Commerce MBA graduate, returned to his hometown in 2009 to work for his family’s business. Saraf Furniture was running smoothly at the time, but it was unable to make the strides it deserved with their Rajasthani art due to a lean market reach. That was the point at which he decided that it was time to rethink his family business and make some permanent changes.
A legacy business with start-up values
Turning into a new leaf was just like starting afresh with the mindset of a start-up for Raghunandan.
With a fresh perspective and a comprehensive knowledge of the modern market, Raghunandan leveraged the latest technologies to revamp his business. The transformation began with him expanding his business’s footprint in the form of physical stores. In addition, he adopted and developed more minimalistic and modern designs in their furniture range, which today’s consumers prefer.
“We first expanded our offline presence to major cities. Today we have a presence in Delhi NCR, Surat and Jaipur. We have likewise extended our business vertical to B2B. But I believe, we are still in a regular learning process to make the most of our time and efforts,” he says.
But the biggest gamechanger was their own in-house online e-commerce platform.
In 2014, Saraf Furniture ventured into the e-commerce space with their online D2C website www.insaraf.com. The brand bags an average of 5 million engaging online visitors per annum. “I explored both the online market and the international market. The main aim was to create awareness about our brand,” Raghunandan elaborates.
This step eventually aided Saraf Furniture in not only attaining a strong position in the Indian furniture market, but it also enabled them to reach out to consumers on a pan India level.
Surging ahead, surely and steadily
“At the time of the commencement of this business, we were a group of three. And our complete turnover was of over Rs 6 crores. Furthermore, our actual presence was simply restricted to Sardarshahar. A great deal has changed since then,” recalls Raghunandan.
At present, the company employs over 2,000 individuals. While their turnover has shot up to almost Rs 140 crores.
Raghunandan feels that their online channel has given them an infinite boost. However, while comparing both the online and offline sales channels, he confesses that both contribute equally.
“In a diversified country like ours, customers have varied interests and choices. While some prefer online markets, others find it necessary to explore the offline markets. We try and connect to our audience base through both mediums,” he opines.
Raghunandan’s strategies have worked well for the brand in revamping their production capacity, in streamlining their operations and in distinguishing their brand from the others. Over the years, the brand has become a preferred choice for décor and interior professionals, and it has also left a mark on the consumers with its wide-ranging collections.
Currently they are witnessing a growing demand for furniture, which has significantly spiked during this pandemic because the demand for study tables and work furniture has risen dramatically.
“The previous year witnessed many trends that drove the market demand. Trend patterns like ‘work from home’ and ‘use of multi-utilitarian’ furniture gained popularity. We expect the festive season to be great for our business with people enthusiastically making purchases and helping us grow,” he avers.
Their online presence is aiding the furniture markets
India’s furniture market was valued at US$ 17.77 billion in 2020 and market forecasts project that it will rise to US$ 37.72 billion by the end of 2026, growing at a double-digit CAGR of 13.37 per cent.
Since ancient times, India has been known for its intricate art and design work in furniture craft. As a result of its rich handicrafts and appealing traditional art and designs, Indian furniture is in high demand internationally. But as the Indian furniture market is evolving, it is also broadening its scope with new designs, materials, craft, and technological applications. This is resulting in more green shoots for this sector.
“India is the spot for novel and superb creative work in furniture. The Indian furniture industry is famous in the country and universally due to its rich handiwork and alluring conventional crafts, art and designs. Now the customers are well-informed and well- aware of market trends. They are clear about their choices. They understand the fineness and aesthetic inclination of our brand which has helped us to evolve with the times,” he opines.
These days an online presence acts like an added bonus for businesses, as consumers find it convenient and flexible to shop online. The e-commerce trend is actually aiding the furniture makers and other stakeholders in various ways. For starters, the online furniture platforms have provided a bigger arena for the businesses to gain more traction. Secondly, it’s formalising the whole furniture market which is largely unorganised.
Agreeing with this point, Raghunandan says, “With the advent of worldwide players, the furniture market in India is expected to get more organised and move towards omni channel plans of action, with the creative extension of classifications on the rise.”
Sustainability is in
How can the furniture industry be sustainable when the raw material used is wood? That’s probably the question you were wondering about. When asked the same, Raghunandan informs us that his firm values sustainability by taking care of the three aspects that are closely linked to them. “It is our employees, our customers and the environment,” he tells us.
“We are of the opinion that we must give back to nature and the environment. We are constantly organising plantation drives to bring life back into the city and in our manufacturing units, we ensure that there is zero carbon emission in the production process,” he further elaborates.
One way of achieving sustainability is by using the raw material fully and avoiding wastage. “We are constantly attempting to understand our client base. Our sustainability program is based on building trust and confidence in our customers. We will be expanding our existing portfolio for the same. We are also actively participating in CSR activities like infrastructure development in our city. We have constructed bus stations, city gates and temples in our Sardarshahar town,” Raghunandan informs us.
Expansion is the roadmap
Saraf Furniture has big plans for expanding its footprint not only in India but across the globe. Raghunandan tells us that due to demand rising exponentially, they are in the process of opening a new factory which will increase their production up to 200 per cent.
“Our aim is for a 200 per cent increase in our production. We are going to invest $3.4 million, approximately Rs 25 crores for our 20 acres production unit at Sardarshahar. Further, the brand is expecting great things in terms of manufacturing and selling. Along with that we are also working on the upgradation of our old technologies to new and advanced ones in order to deliver furniture to our customers without any delays. We are also looking forward to offering job opportunities to 1000+ individuals,” he says.
He further elaborates on the company’s roadmap, saying, “We are considering opening offline stores in more metropolitan locations. We are also gearing up to expand our offline presence by launching a number of stores in Mumbai and the NCR region and are in the process of new hiring to expand our supply chain and ramp up our production in the long-term.”
Besides their extensive expansion plans, the company is also working on adding more products under the ambit of their home décor category such as lights, figurines, paintings, clocks and a lot more.
Another focal point that Saraf Furniture is placing great emphasis on is on improving the company’s internal processes to bring them up to the next level. “With the help of high-tech solutions and by revamping our internal processes, we will achieve our objective of becoming an improved working site,” Raghunandan asserts.
However, Saraf Furniture wants to be recognised as a legacy business that is changing the face of the traditional furniture business based out of small-town India. “Right now, we believe ourselves to be in the right place at the right time. We’ll see how things move forward,” he concludes.