Home – The Art and the Smart
Necessity is the mother of invention and shelter, along with food and clothing, is a basic need for mankind. We need to protect ourselves from the elements and this need has manifested itself in the dwellings we built for ourselves, right from the early days of civilization. The buildings we construct make us feel safe and are always there for us when we need them. Architecture in its most basic of forms is therefore, a very old field of knowledge. Over the years, as mankind made progress with time, architecture also kept on evolving continuously. Different parts of the world had different architectural styles and represented the cultures that were prevalent in their respective geographies at different points in time.
Today, in the second decade of the 21st century, we are in a world that is more connected than ever before. We travel a lot more to different countries and get exposed to the ways of life there; as a result what we have today is a situation where we see around us changes that are all coming out of global trends, in terms of living habits, where the common factors in the elements of different regions come together and represent a direction in which we are moving towards, as a race.
Fair to say, today the pace of life in urban India is quite high. In this materialistic world we are all in pursuit of our dreams, to attain success, which could mean different things to different people, whether it is expressed in terms of financial net worth, or corporate positions, or even your span of control. The common thing for everyone is the place where you come back to after your daily grind- where you recharge the batteries, yours as well as those of all the electronic gadgets you carry with yourself, and reflect on the proceedings of your day, and catch up with your family and spend quality time with them. Your home is such an integral part of your daily life.
Let me ruminate over the early days of my corporate career. I started my career with an MNC in the food space. We used to deal with indulgence products and had a few household names with us, about which I am not getting into specifics at this point of time. These products were bought by customers from regular retailers and just consumed, without being flaunted. The consumer is, to a certain extent, not meant to be seen using them- these products do not define the user’s personality. After a few years, I joined the apparel industry, again in a company that had a few well-known brands. While business processes differ from industry to industry, there was one word, that as a marketing manager I started hearing lot more frequently in my new job– Lifestyle. Over the years the concept of marketing your brand as a lifestyle brand became so ingrained in my way of thinking that it became second nature. From apparel to fashion to lifestyle, is a laddering that brands in different stages of evolution would go through.
Well, it is clearly established nowadays that apparel is a lifestyle-oriented category. As a consumer, you are seen using those products and they define the kind of person you are, your likes and dislikes, the places you go to and the kind of people you hang out with. Increasingly, I have been noticing more and more product categories adopting the lifestyle route to advertise their products. Real estate, for instance, is one space where aspiration value is used in a big way to sell the property.
That real estate should be seen as and treated like a lifestyle category is quite logical too, for your home is the place where you lead your real life. Doesn’t your home tell a whole lot of things about yourself? Talking of home and about product categories that describe it, is it possible to restrict our discussion to just the house and its construction? Our home is made of lot more right? Otherwise the interiors of all the flats in a certain apartment complex will look the same, or at least have the same character; which is certainly not the case. Of course, a home is about the people who live in it, but right now we are talking about aspects which create the look and feel of the home, like furniture, soft furnishing material, wall decorations, the choice of white goods and other electronic appliances- all those elements that count very significantly in converting your vision for your own home into a reality. Hence, isn’t it fair to say that home décor is also a lifestyle category? The fact, however, is that it is not quite at the same stage of evolution as a business category as apparel is in our country.
In the business of fashion, in India, brands started mushrooming a few decades ago. Over time more and more of them started coming up and way back in the 1980’s there were at least couple of aspirational labels in India, in menswear. The 90’s saw the emergence of quite a few brands that clearly came up as leaders in their segments, Women-wear, in the meanwhile, also started seeing the participation of branded players. We know how in recent years foreign brands have raised the bar in the market by catering to the needs of the Indian consumers with rising disposable incomes. Brand play, in soft furnishing, has been to a lower extent in the same period of time. Yes, even in this space there has been household names which set the standards in the category; the point being made here is that the level of clutter is far lower. The brands that are established in this space have also not been able to scale up their businesses like some groups in ready made business have been able to. It is a fact that the volume of purchases per consumer or per household is much higher in the case of apparel.
Given that your home is what gives the strongest impression of yourself, it is important that you curate it with choices that define you and the things you appreciate. The well-aware customer of today wants to have products that are up to speed in terms of latest trends. For instance, one trend that is coming up in forecasts for 2016 is about the well-travelled person’s collection cabinet that represents an appreciation for crafts and culture in different parts of the world through an eclectic mix of furnishing and home decor items. The modern home is also a place where classic looks are recreated with a more contemporary treatment. In this busy world where there is no time to pause and look back at times gone by; these inspirations evoke a strong sense of nostalgia.
Color trends keep changing from time to time and find ramifications in different product categories that form important parts of your home. In the market for home décor products, bold and high saturation colors, which were once reserved for accent purposes, will find their way into regular household products. Black and White will also continue to make strong presence with unique interplays giving simple as well as complex patterns. Metallic accents on them will provide the necessary bling and fashion quotient.
When we talk of trends, the role of technology cannot be emphasized enough. With improved connectivity and increasing comfort levels with technology products, we will soon find ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) products reaching more and more Indian households. Security and convenience are two major needs in the urban Indian societies and there are eco-systems coming up around fulfillment of these needs. These smart devices are products that help you keep an eye on your own house while you are away, they use the power of the internet and work in sync with your mobile phone and, well, make you even more dependent on your phone! Because of the strong benefits they come with, they are here to stay for the long run. Smart Homes, as such IoT connected homes are called, are high on automation, and certainly are a thing for the future. We are, in fact, in the early stages of IoT consumer goods revolution as far as home automation is concerned.
There is no place like home. It is the place you come back to after your battles for the day, where you spend time with the people you are closest to. Your home is the place where relationships are built, where dreams are woven, where you look forward to the future as a family. Your home says more about you than your clothes do or your resume does; it therefore correlates highly with your aspirations and lifestyle.
Home is where the heart is, so is the art that defines the look of it, and so are the devices that make it Smart.