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Thursday, Sep 19, 2002

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Crafting a biz out of furniture

Anjali Prayag

A view of Quetzel furniture for children


A JuJu worktable, a butterfly shelf, a Dommasandra stool or a Pepo table — whacky, unrestrained, yet functional.

"Freedom and comfort dwells deep in everything we do,'' says Sarita Fernandes, Director, Quetzel. She along with her partner, Sandeep Mukherjee, who is the Managing Director of this Bangalore-based furniture design and manufacturing venture were inspired by Quetzel, a brilliant South American bird that is so passionate about its freedom, that "in captivity it starves itself to death.''

For several years now, this designer duo has been working on interior design projects for many Bangalore-based firms, including HCL Technologies, Wipro, Velankani Information Systems, Digital India, Aditi Technologies, MindTree Consulting and Reliance Industries among others.

In the retail sector, they have done up Planet Kids, Tata Internet Services and Thunderbird. They have also made a mark in the leisure area with Coffee Day, Manipal County and Civet. And more recently, they have designed and manufactured pavement benches for the Bangalore Agenda Task Force. Now Quetzel has a studio, a modern manufacturing facility and a retail outlet at Sarjapur, Bangalore. The Rs 3.5 crore-facility has over 35 employees and an equal number of contract workers.

The Rs 6,000-crore furniture industry in India still mainly revolves around the neighbourhood carpenter who buys timber and borrows designs from `foreign magazines' and dishes up reasonably good furniture. Says Sarita, "but this trend is changing and we find that busy people would rather come to us and get their entire range done rather than depend on the carpenter.'' The reason she says is many. One is the time-factor, the second is availability of better quality furniture.

What about the influx of MNCs in the sector? Sarita says it is mainly Malaysian companies that have made an entry in India. "When it comes to design, I feel Indians have an edge over Malaysia.''

Talking of Quetzel, Sarita says most players in this field take up either design or manufacturing and outsource the other activity. But Quetzel decided to take up both as the `fit' is what makes the difference in this industry, she feels.

Quetzel's domestic range includes sofas, beds, tables, divans and dressing mirrors. "And our pricing spans the `reasonable to expensive' depending on the material used, but the design effort is the same for all ranges,'' says she.

Quetzel has now ventured into children's furniture. Safety, ergonomics and comfort are vital factors in this category. "Also people would like furniture that can be used for a long time, so our furniture for a two-year-old can be used for a 10-year-old too,'' says Sarita, who says thinking long-term is essential in any business.

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