Store launch delayed over construction issues, faulty fire alarms: IKEA

Photo: Wikipedia
"All we need is love. And, a little more time," read the front-page advertisements issued by Swedish home furnishing chain IKEA, after it had decided to push the launch date of its first Indian store in Hyderabad city by 20 days to August 9 from the originally announced July 19, which is today.

The statement by IKEA Retail India CEO Peter Betzel on the postponement of the event just a week before the launch date evoked curiosity in the media to look beyond the stated reasons, while in a tweet posted in response to the tag line of this advertisement, a citizen wondered.. "Looks like it has copied the angst of the exam-bound engineering boys."

Without being specific about the reasons for postponement of the date, perhaps partly out of a sense of embarrassment, Peter Betzel stated that the company needed some more time to ensure a perfect, safe and inspiring experience to customers and employees when the store is opened. 

An IKEA spokesperson, however, was candid enough to admit that they were too eager to announce the opening date, unmindful of the pace of completion of the work at the store:  "Some construction and installation work inside the store was still going on, while we also needed little more time to make sure that our co-workers have got enough hands-on training to properly interact with the customers and guide them," the spokesperson said, citing the mock shopping that was currently going on at the store.

According to the observers, this seemingly small goof-up points to the failure of its leadership in anticipating issues that would arise at the time of implementing a project of this size for the first time in a country like India. 

For instance, the security fire alarm system went off as many as eight times in one day earlier this month, triggering a repeated evacuation of people when the smoke sensors located somewhere in the building were mistaking dust particles, which are quite prevalent in the city's air, for smoke. The project teams were struggling to contain the entry of dust into the building after finding the actual reason behind the false alarm. 

It would have created a big scare and nuisance had it happened after the store was opened.

The eagerness of the IKEA India team in announcing the launch date without an idea on how much more time was required to put every thing in place while dealing with such a big project has also got something to do with the delay in project implementation. In the past, the company had indicated that the Hyderabad store would open in early 2017, and then revised the indicative time to the later part of the same year before officially announcing the launch date on July 19, 2018 and again postpone the date by 20 more days.

But this has apparently not diminished the interest or excitement of people over the upcoming IKEA store in the city. Over 100,000 future customers have already enrolled themselves as IKEA Family, a loyalty programme designed by the company with offers like special access to a certain store events among other things. "We were originally anticipating to have about 70,000 people in IKEA Family but ended up with 100,000 members," an IKEA spokesperson tells Business Standard. 

The company has invested Rs 10 billion on Hyderabad store, which is built in a 13 acre piece of land in the most happening western part of the city where the new commercial and residential development is taking place at a feverish pace owing to IT sector growth. The company is constructing its second Indian store in Mumbai in a 26 acre land and this facility is going to be slightly bigger than the Hyderabad store.

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