Photography: Dhananjay Shekar Poojari
How is Baker placed in the Middle East region?
I am very happy with the response Baker is getting from this region. We have a mono brand branch at Dubai Design District (d3) and we have another showroom in the emirates as well. Recently, we have opened a large mono branch in Bahrain. In this part of the world what I have realised is that mono branches work really well. One of the challenges of my job is that the US is a very different model from Asia and the Middle East. In the US, people are reluctant to do the mono brand stores as they want more variety and the market is differently competitive. A good retail store is the US typically carries as many as 30-40 brands, but I guess that’s the nature of that landscape. But I do wonder how these stores focus on such a wide number of brands.
Is this your maiden trip to UAE and what do you feel about the luxury home segment here?
It’s my first trip to Dubai and I can clearly say that’s it a wonderful place to do business. I think our mono branch at d3 is one of the prettiest and well-put-together showrooms that I have come across. I am happy to be working with our team at Iconic Home in Dubai who are responsible for managing this store so amazingly well.
What is the USP of this American brand?
This is our 129th year in the industry and our focus has always been quality, design, and craftsmanship. For us, attention to detail and getting the proportions right is a significant part of what we do. We collaborate with a lot of international designers such as Jacques Garcia, Laura Kirar, Jean-Louis Deniot, and Barbara Barry and this gives us a competitive edge over other brands too.
What is the way to succeed in this competitive market full of e-commerce websites and start-ups?
There is always a need and want to buy original products, people who want classy and long-lasting things; they will choose a reliable brand. A lot of start-ups try to copy a classy piece and sell it at a cheaper price, but that cannot go on forever. Many start-ups are narrowly focussed; they just deal with sofas, lights, or just beds. But we offer complete range of products for living room, bedroom, dining, offices and accessories too. We want to lead and not follow. What I think about e-commerce websites is that it’s a great medium to buy a lot of stuff but not luxury furniture. If I am spending a part of my savings on a piece of furniture, I would like to touch, feel, check the finishing, and sit on it before shelling out the hard-earned money. On the internet, it’s fine to put the images and tell your story but we still need tangible showrooms. That’s why we give a lot of significance to the brick and mortar stores.
What are the challenges you often come across in this business?
One of the single biggest challenges is the delivery of our products and to transport them from one end to another. Most of our history included getting the goods from North Carolina to Texas, or to New York but not to Dubai or any other faraway destination, it’s a task. You need special care to handle and assemble the products.
Is there anything new you want to bring to the table?
Because we belong to the design industry, things do change like fashion here with a new collection every year, it creates a buzz and excites people about the brand. But with iconic brands, there’s a key element in their design, which runs across all the collections year after year. I want to bring that aspect of trademark to Baker as well. Be it the traditional reproduction or any other designer’s collection piece at our showroom, there should be a common thread that is visible in each design and becomes a part of our characteristics so that people can instantly recognise that it’s a Baker product.
What are the plans for the future?
I guess in the future, our focus should be more on colours apart from the neutrals we do. People enjoy and get inspired by bright pieces. I also think that a mid-range brand, which caters to a lot more people, would be a good idea. The Milling Road brand, which comes under Baker, is little less expensive and we will work more on it so that it can bridge a gap between the designer and retail market. In order to achieve this in future, we have to focus on simple designs with the same Baker quality. Also, we might participate in more trade shows, the idea is to reach out to more people and make them understand what we do and how we do.