Sit up and take notice of higher demand in Asia for furniture

Mr S. Iswaran sampling the latest innovations at the VR Zone at the International Furniture Fair Singapore yesterday. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) said adopting new technologies, such as VR and e-marketplaces, is key to the furnitur
Mr S. Iswaran sampling the latest innovations at the VR Zone at the International Furniture Fair Singapore yesterday. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) said adopting new technologies, such as VR and e-marketplaces, is key to the furniture industry’s future even as Industry Transformation Maps are rolled out to strengthen the sectors. PHOTO: INTERNATIONAL FURNITURE FAIR SINGAPORE 2017

Iswaran says growing middle class spells growth opportunity

Technology has finally found its way into the decidedly old-economy furniture industry.

Commune, a subsidiary of Singapore-listed furniture maker Koda, recently introduced a 3D floor planner and virtual reality (VR) to enhance its in-store experience.

This allows customers to create digital mock-ups of their rooms to select furniture from a wider range of designs.

Commune's innovative use of VR was cited by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran yesterday as an example of furniture retailers using technology to tap on larger growth opportunities.

Speaking at the opening of the International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS), he said Asia's rapidly growing middle class is generating significant demand for furniture aimed at the Asian urban consumer, and presents growth opportunities for companies wishing to expand in the region.

Given the pace of technological change and advent of disruptive business models, a focus on building deep capabilities is necessary for Singapore to seize rising opportunities in Asia, said Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry).

Given the pace of technological change and advent of disruptive business models, a focus on building deep capabilities is necessary for Singapore to seize rising opportunities in Asia, he added.

Besides adopting new technologies such as e-marketplaces and VR, the minister also cited two principles key to the industry's future.

Singapore needs to remain open to global talent, ideas, trade and investment.

As a small economy, the country has always made the most of tie-ups with foreign partners to pursue new avenues of growth - and the furniture industry is no exception, said Mr Iswaran.

Industry players agree that design in this sector has been increasingly drawing inspiration from diverse sources.

The furniture fair epitomises this commitment to openness and connectivity, said Mr Iswaran, as it provides a platform for 428 exhibitors to build networks and seek collaborative opportunities.

The event is also showcasing around 40 companies from 15 European Union countries which will be presenting for the first time at IFFS.

Mr Iswaran's second key principle is that Singapore's industry sectors will continue to be strengthened through the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs).

The Retail ITM was launched last year. It plans to create shared industry platforms, digital channels to help companies access the global market and digital products to promote service innovation that will help companies develop capabilities, innovate and tap on new opportunities.

With platforms like IFFS bringing together industry players from 100 countries, the local furniture industry appears well-positioned to pursue new opportunities as it expands into the region, Mr Iswaran said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2017, with the headline 'Sit up and take notice of higher demand in Asia for furniture'. Print Edition | Subscribe