This spring, the first IKEA store will open in India. As well as a fresh experience for customers, IKEA will also offer a way of working with a focus on gender equality.
‘There is a lot of energy here. A lot of capable, ambitious people who want to create a better everyday life for themselves,’ says Anna-Carin Månsson, retail country human resources manager for IKEA India. ‘IKEA is a global company that wants to embrace local culture, but we still want to be IKEA. Our strongest tool is recruiting by values, to connect with people who feel the IKEA values are their own. We set up the India organisation around three strong pillars, one of which is diversity and inclusion – 50/50 men and women in all company functions was the goal set four years ago. Today we are 53 percent women! The exciting thing is that we’ve shown it is possible – and if this is possible in India, it’s possible in other markets. So we carry the work on and ensure all our people understand that we are truly saying equal is equal.’
IKEA India’s service office is on the 10th floor of a glass high-rise in Bengaluru. ‘It’s a very vibrant environment,’ says chief finance officer Preet Dhupar. ‘One I’d recommend as a great place for a woman to work. I have asked myself why – it’s not 9-5 and you travel a lot – but IKEA shows respect to you as an individual. That’s something the company can propagate in India. Our society is hierarchical. IKEA is not. It has a no-fuss attitude that brings a great sense of freedom. With female empowerment happening and education levels increasing, I think India is more than ready for a company like IKEA.’
Neha Jindal and Åsa Kajrup are setting up the IKEA FAMILY loyalty scheme. ‘It will be fresh, digital and give members value,’ says IKEA FAMILY manager Neha. ‘It will close the gap and establish an emotional connection between the people and IKEA,’ says deputy marketing manager Åsa. So what will be success for IKEA in India? ‘When IKEA came to India, we decided to build on the strengths and merging points India and IKEA share,’ says Åsa. ‘We share a love for the home. We share a common-sense value of money. India is a young country driven by youth, IKEA is young at heart, but as my colleague Neha says, she hadn’t heard of IKEA before. Awareness was literally zero! Success, for me, will be helping position IKEA in the hearts and minds of Indian people. And for our team in India to contribute to the wider development of IKEA.’
‘All of us are on an adventure,’ says Mia Lundström who, like her co-worker Mia Olssen Tunér, moved more than 6,000km to join the IKEA India start-up team as creative director of Life at Home. ‘We are starting with a blank canvas in different ways,’ says Lundström. ‘Why tie yourself to working in traditional ways?’ Nirmala Singh is project leader on Life at Home and has lived in India for 14 years. ‘There’s a saying I often share: In India, everything and its opposite is true… It’s difficult to find a country with as many extremes. You have the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. You see everything in one day and it humbles you. I feel fortunate to be here. It’s an amazing country!’ Lundström is keen to work with the differences. ‘India is the only market with a Life at Home creative director. We want to make sure we set an agenda that matches how people actually live in India and how IKEA can contribute. For me, that’s a powerful motivator – to wake up and think: “I’m going to work to help make people’s everyday lives better”.’