Modular Makeover

January, 2016


The concept of modularity is gaining ground in India in various living and work spaces, with a huge potential for future growth across the country.
Modular systems are revolutionising living and work spaces, and are gaining momentum world over, with every-thing from kitchens, sofas, beds, wardrobes and washroom units to workstations, cubicles, lighting, doors and windows donning the modular avatar. The basic idea underlying a modular design is to organise a complex system into smaller modules or standardised units that can be developed independently and then plugged together in different systems. They can also be dismantled and assembled in varied environments. In fact, transforming and growing according to users´ needs is a key feature of modular design.

´Modularity is a function of space management, stemming from the fact that one needs to use space efficiently for various activities. Modularity is also a function of changing needs in the life of users,´ explains Anil Mathur, Chief Operating Officer, Godrej Interio. ´For instance, modularity in kitchens is based on kitchen needs which include type of cooking, storage and cleanliness, as well as ergonomics. In furniture, modularity is a function of optimising spaces for various purposes. However, the largest impact has come in recent years with shrinking living spaces in homes. With modular sofas, storages units, and modular kitchens merging into living spaces, the user can utilise the spaces for entertainment, socialising, relaxing, gaming and other activities´ Mathur elaborates.

The modular trend is not surprising as the systems, apart from being aesthetic and functional, have myriad benefits like flexibility, scalability, augmentation, cost effectiveness, easy maintenance, hygiene and personalisation. However, the effectiveness of the modular concept depends critically on the manner in which the systems are divided into components and the mechanisms used to put them together.

In India too, the modular concept is gaining ground driven by changing lifestyles, increasing purchasing power, the need for convenient and efficient use of space and the desire to make a style statement. But as of now the modular concept is largely confined to kitchen units and furniture, with the unorganised sector dominating the scenario. The organised sector has a mix of national and international players like Godrej Interio, Sleek International, Hindware, Zuari Furniture, H&R Johnson, Nolte, Woodcraft, Centuryply, Dornbracht, Steelcase, Fisher & Paykel, Roche Bobois and Grandeur, among others.

Cool cooking
´The modular kitchen concept entered India in 1988 as per our estimate. Since then, the industry has been growing at 40 per cent, year after year. The modular kitchen concept started with designer basket accessories and membrane shutters for kitchen doors. But now there are accessories with which we have soft closing channels, soft closing hinges, different types of shutters, tall units, corner accessories and European drawer systems and appliances,´ states Rajesh Ahuja, Managing Director, Sleek International, which has 30 retail showrooms across India and over 200 kitchen dealer bases.

Today the Indian modular kitchen industry is largely dominated by the unorganised sector with the organised sector contributing to only around 15 per cent. But the organised segment is fast growing with several national and international players offering a wide range of brands.

´The market size of the modular kitchen in 2014-15 was ` 2,600 crore and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 25 per cent. There is a presence of both domestic and global brands, with around 225 companies spread across India. The retail sales dominate with a 73 per cent share, while the rest is project sales. Around 64 per cent of the market comes from the `1-4 lakh bracket modular kitchens. There is a growing trend in Tier I and Tier II cities,´ reveals Keshav Bhajanka, Director, Century Plyboards (India) which offers Nesta modular kitchens.

Seconds Sumita Somany, Director, Hindware Home Retail, ´The consumer profile is not just an urban phenomenon any more, it is exploding across Tier II and Tier III towns too. The industry is growing at a CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) of 30 per cent, driven by the modern Indian consumer who is aspirational, wants a better lifestyle and has the ability to spend.´

A modular kitchen is basically a range of fixtures and cabinets put together with appliances and accessories, from built-in wash basins and dishwashers to chimneys and cooking ranges. With technology playing a key role in innovation, several hi-tech advancements are also being introduced like soft-closing, motorised handle-free drawers, ceramic induction cooking units and various other software technologies.

The modular kitchens can be semi-modular or totally modular depending on various factors says Seema Khosla, Director and Designer, Ideas Kitchens n Interiors, ´The semi-modular kind where drawers and other fittings are added by a carpenter on site, is not dismantable. Here the partitions or cabinets are made of various materials like plywood, MFC, MDF, HDF and WPC. The fully modular kitchens are made of similar materials but are factory-made with only the installation done at site. Completely dismantable, they have modern fittings and provide optimum space utility. Fully modular plywood kitchens are widely used today as they are long-lasting, pest-free, suitable to extreme climatic conditions, cost effective and conditioned for the Indian way of cooking.´

In the modular kitchen segment, there are several types of kitchens based on the shapes and layouts. Sushil Matey, Chief Operating Officer, H&R Johnson (India), while listing some of them says, ´The L-shaped modular kitchen can be used in open-room and studio-styled apartments. With the non-existent typical dining room, the current favourites, L-shaped kitchens provide a continuous working platform. The other types include straight kitchens, a one-wall layout with counter space on both sides and a cabinet storage that can be hidden behind sliding doors, parallel kitchens, where two long parallel working areas can be divided into wet and dry areas and island kitchens which includes a countertop that is unattached from the main kitchen area, and is accessible from all sides.´

Furniture funda
Modular furniture is seeing a growing market in India, providing users the ability to change spaces to suit specific needs. With changing modern workplace environments the need for modular furniture has become critical aver industry pundits.

´Today the work has become mobile, collaborative, social and more connected to technology. Employees need support for multitasking, focused individual work, information sharing and collaboration,´ points out Uli Gwinner, President, Steelcase Asia Pacific, whose recent research reveals that attention has become a scarce resource in workplaces worldwide. ´As per the study, workers and students switch tasks every 3 minutes, get interrupted every 11 minutes and take 23 minutes to get back on task. To overcome this issue, Steelcase launched the Brody line that creates a micro-environment and makes it easier for employees to concentrate on work,´ reveals Gwinner.

Modular march
Internationally, the concept of modularity has permeated to other areas as well. Even washrooms are going the modular way says Sandeep Surana, Managing Director, Hansgrohe India, ´In today´s scenario, where bathrooms have emerged as a space of rejuvenation, modular washrooms are in demand. Two basic principles distinguish a traditional bathroom from a modular one: aesthetics and functionality. Customers are interested in bathroom designs that meet their taste and needs with ease of use. Several companies are offering single products that can be used for a variety of functions.´

Lighting systems are also piggybacking on the popularity of modularity, though marked more only in the industrial segment. For living spaces, there are lighting collections with linear arms that can be attached at varying angles to create different geometric designs and switches that come in parts and allow the end user to choose exactly what they need, all designed to simplify the process of installing, configuring and expanding without complex wiring.

Evidently, with the concept of modularity set to witness more dynamic and dramatic changes in the decades ahead, modular living stands to have many takers !

Colour Course
Sushil Matey, Chief Operating Officer, H&R Johnson (India) This time of the year is great for monochromatic-tone lovers, as gleaming white will rule the roost in Indian kitchen units. However, lively remarkable tinges are also expected to make a comeback. Colours such as sea blue and olive green are an eye-grabbing part of the Indian kitchen. Nature-inspired tones will only add to the sheen, in both matte and gloss.

Style Shift
Akshat Bhatt, Principal Architect, Architecture Discipline
Modular fit-outs are gaining popularity in India. It is only logical given the unpredictable outcome of bespoke builds. Everybody cannot afford a designer, so modular companies help put a simple layout together, which when designed or configured in the right manner can be space saving and contribute to the social structure of the family. On the other hand there are expensive systems that are lifestyle statements, where the finish quality is more important than the space utilisation. In the metropolis at least, the focus has thus far been on the latter. Hopefully now, with access to affordable products, the impetus will change.

Modular Movement
Anil Mathur, Chief Operating Officer, Godrej Interio Modularity
in kitchens have a longer history compared to furniture. This trend, started in the early 2000s in homes, was derived from commercial kitchens in restaurants since they helped in space optimisation and increased ease in cooking. Today, modular kitchens are a norm across India. In furniture, modularity is a function of either space optimisation or application of the same space for various activities. We are witnessing modularity in living, bedroom, dining, media and entertainment spaces.

Modular Mix
Uli Gwinner, President, Steelcase Asia Pacific

Modular structures, made from components that can be easily reconfigured and accommodate evolving business needs will be in demand. Work surface extensions and privacy screens that support changes in team size or shift the focus from individual to collaborative work, multipurpose spaces that can support more than one activity, and create work environments that will bring a diverse range of people, resources and tools into close proximity with each other, will all form a part of the modular furniture mix.

International Innovations
Rajesh Ahuja, Managing Director, Sleek International

Lighting in kitchens and ceramic and corian doors are major innovations that have taken place. New types of drawer systems and adjustable worktop heights were some of the key innovations showcased at the recently concluded Eurocucina and Living Kitchens Expo.

Washroom Wave
Sandeep Surana, Managing Director, Hansgrohe India

Today, users want to create their own bathroom scenario, where they can relax and feel good. This is why there has been an increase in demand for modular bathrooms where one can put together numerous products to create the desired solution. The market is full products that can be perfectly integrated to create different worlds. Small format and space-saving modules are currently trending.

Modular Midpoint
Rajesh Chawla, Director, VEKA India

The major advantages of modular doors and windows would be quality adherence, better designs, quick availability, faster installation and easier usage. The big drawback would be that these systems leave no room for customisation. However, modular doors and windows are not prevalent in India as of now.

Purchase Preference
Keshav Bhajanka, Director, CenturyPly

Materials used, aesthetics, design, storage space, hardware, accessories, inbuilt kitchen appliances, price with value added services like warranty and after sale services are the major factors customers look for while purchasing a modular kitchen

Furniture Fact
Samvit Tara, Managing Director, Roche Bobois India

The concept of modular furniture is very popular in India and overseas. Though it has many applications in the commercial, hospitality and institutional sectors, it is now seeing a growing market in the residential sector too. Here, the modular furniture is functional and versatile with playful, casual designs that provide options to entertain, converse and relax. The latest market trends lay emphasis on colours as well as comfort.

Trendy Take
Sumita Somany, Director, Hindware Home Retail

The latest demand trend in India is for European-style modular kitchens, due to its clutter-free concept, straight line patterns, delicate motifs and subtle look that infuses warmth. Cabinets with in-built lighting, soft closing doors or drawers, handle-less doors, water-proof cabinets and tech-smart accessories are some of the other trends that are gradually becoming a norm in India. Overall, the trend is towards convenience and aesthetics.

Top Trends
Seema Khosla, Director and Designer, Kitchens n Interiors

Designed in effervescent and inimitable patterns, soothing colours with clean designs and straight lines, smooth workstations, smart shelves and modular cabinets have taken modular kitchens to a whole new level. Built-in cooking hobs that sit flush with the countertop, extra pullout slides that double up as dining tables, provisions for music systems, mobile chargers and laptop supporters are the latest trends.

Architecture Discipline, New Delhi
Century Plyboards (India), Kolkata
Tel: 033-3940 3950
Godrej Interio, Mumbai
Tel: 098201 81817
Grandeur, Mumbai
Tel: 022-6747 6746
H&R Johnson, Mumbai
Tel: 022-3064 7300, 2654 7300
Hansgrohe India, Pune
Tel: 020-6625 9500
Ideas Kitchen n Interiors, New Delhi
Tel: 011-4706 2306/ 85888 62309
Hindware Home Retail, Gurgaon
Tel : 0124-477 9200
Philips India, Gurgaon
Roche Bobois, Mumbai
Tel: 022-6106 2233
Sleek International, Mumbai
Tel: 022-6107 5400
Steelcase Asia Pacific, Mumbai
Tel: 022-61213500
Veka India, Navi Mumbai
Tel: 022-2778 7400
Text: Janaki Krishnamoorthi