Home away from home

Furniture manufacturers such as Steelcase are rolling out products that help improve creativity. The company has recently partnered with Microsoft in building zones that help stimulate ideas

Published: 20th March 2018 11:30 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st March 2018 02:53 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

HYDERABAD: You and your colleagues brainstorm on ways to market a new product. After the discussion finishes, you hit on ‘I’m done’. Poof! An in-built recorder captures the entire audio of your meet. All the notes, presentations, and other details are stored and emailed to you without manual intervention. And the room returns to its original ‘clean slate’ format, where another team can collaborate and work.

A chair that responds to the unique movements of your body, and figures out the best recline position automatically.

These are not some hypothetical concepts, but are implemented in reality by Steelcase, a manufacturer of office furniture.    

“I was the first employee of Steelcase India, 14 years ago. We opened a manufacturing plant in Chakan, Pune in 2014. And there has been no stopping us since. We have approximately 500 clients in India, across sectors,” says Steelcase India and Southeast Asia Managing Director Praveen Rawal, speaking on the sidelines of NASSCOM meet held recently at HICC in the city.

Steelcase India, whose clients comprise Google, Apple, UHG, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Accenture, Novartis among others, has a Work Life Centre at Jubilee Hills in the city. It is the fourth such centre across the country, with the other three in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

“The Work Life Centre is a showroom that displays products in a live setting. We have employees who show how the place works in a real environment. People can walk-in and see the different products on display, interact with staff, learn about the technology, etc.”, adds Praveen.

Along with Microsoft, Steelcase India has built five ‘Creative Spaces’, which help deliver key spatial attributes that address privacy, posture and proximity:
maker Commons: Designed to encourage quick switching between conversation, experimentation and concentration.
Focus Studio: A place to let ideas incubate before sharing them with the group.
Ideation Hub: A high-tech destination that encourages active participation and equal opportunity to contribute as people co-create, refine and share ideas with co-located or distributed teammates.
Duo Studio: This space supports a trust relationship in which two people can co-create side by side, while also supporting individual work. It includes a lounge area to invite others for a quick creative review.
Respite Room: For solitude and a ‘space’ to think.

Speaking on the design specifications of different kinds of clients, Praveen says, “For a legal firm, confidentiality is important, and we must have offices with soundproof walls and other elements to ensure complete privacy. A BPO places emphasis on audio and video inputs, which would necessitate a large area with open space. We develop products that satisfy all our customer requirements.”

Another player in the sector is GrabOnRent, which rents furniture for residential and commercial spaces. The firm provides ‘convertible’ furniture for rent, which includes a coffee table that can tranform into a six-seater dining table or a workstation, a storage unit that doubles up as a study table, and more. “We’ve been using the services from GrabOnRent for almost 4 months now.

They’re solving an important problem for companies such as ours by replacing high cap-ex with low op-ex. Plus, we don’t have to worry about post-sales service,” says Vidit Aatrey, CEO of Meesho, a social commerce startup.

Is the work-from-home option a threat to their business? No, says Praveen. “Employers look for collaboration and working with teams. The era of ‘creative genius’ is long gone. The engagement, culture, togetherness, etc. cannot be obtained sitting at home. The office model is here to stay, and will only get better in the future,” he adds.
Workplace automation is the talk of the town now. Will it impact their industry? Praveen quips,

“Automation is not a threat. Human beings are unique. They will always find ways of adapting and creating in tune with automated devices. The silver lining is our demographic dividend, which must be used to our advantage,” before signing off.

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