For Mimi Jumabhoy, Managing Director of Bengaluru-based MIMI Homes, studying at Oxford and subsequently pursuing a career in investment banking were only stepping stones in her entrepreneurial journey. Her heart, as she tells us, was always in home interiors.
It was a passion she had acquired from her mother while the duo travelled across the world, discovering new places, and developing a keen eye for detail and an appreciation for everything unique.
“My mother always said one thing for everything she bought for her home — it must have a sense of belonging and it must evoke a feeling, and must not simply be a possession,” the 66-year-old tells MAKERS India.
With time, this simple mantra would grow on Mimi. And it would guide her decisions and choices as she jumped jobs, dealt with a career hiatus, and eventually, kicked off the entrepreneurial chapter of her life in 1992.
In April that year, Mimi – with her expertise in home furnishing and interior décor – sowed the seeds for her dream project WTP (Window to the Past), a contemporary lifestyle, antique, and furniture store based out of Singapore.
Now, 28 years later, Mimi is all set to expand her footprints. Her Singapore brand WTP already has a rich and fascinating history furnishing the country’s finest homes, including that of the former President. With MIMI Homes – a brand of WTP – the entrepreneur now is foraying into the Indian market.
“We are a one-stop solution for interior and space design, focussing on loose furniture and furnishings. We offer interior design services for customers that require assistance,” says the brain behind the brand.
The inception of MIMI Homes
The idea of MIMI Homes was born from the successful execution of a villa project in Bangalore. Upon its completion, Mimi and her firm, who were commissioned for this project, received remarkable feedback for their work and appreciation for their space design and furniture solutions.
“We even had many customers fly to Singapore to ask us to do their homes in India,” quips the entrepreneur.
Interestingly, this success cemented the company’s presence in the minds of Indian customers. And Mimi, who understood the market potential in the country, decided to bring her experience in this industry into India, with MIMI homes. The company was incorporated in December 2017 and operations commenced from September 2018 onwards.
At present, MIMI Homes has a flagship store at the heart of Bengaluru, in Indiranagar. From this 5,500 sq ft store — housing an eclectic mix of home décor products sourced from around the world — the brand caters to all furniture and furnishing needs of its customers. The B2B2C company also works with a number of channel partners.
Together, the team offers a 360-degree solution for a wide-ranging furniture and furnishing needs, starting right from small homes to corporate offices and hospitality sectors.
Mimi says, “Our target customers are global citizens and discerning buyers, who recognise quality and demand modern styles and an eclectic mix of furniture. Our price range ensures that we appeal from young newlywed couples or bachelors all the way to established multi-generational family homes.”
Growth over the years
India’s furniture and furnishing industry represents a market opportunity ripe with potential. Divided between unorganised players and bigger, more established names like Godrej, Durian, Nilkamal, Featherlite, etc., this industry is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 12.91 percent between 2016 and 2023, according to Research and Markets.
Further, the market – driven by a multitude of factors like urbanisation, growing demand for state-of-the-art furniture, and modular designs – is also being steered by various online players like PepperFry, UrbanLadder, FabFurnish, and LivSpace. These new-age startups have not only upped the game but also introduced new rules into this market in the form of rental options.
In this dynamic and competitive market, MIMI Homes is relying on adaptability and its customer obsession to consistently integrate new learnings and ensure that its offerings are fresh.
“The market in India is huge. Both local and pan-India players are present here, and as we are a fairly new company, learning and adapting to doing business every day,” says Mimi, who oversees the business along with her children.
The entrepreneur has, with time, roped in her daughter Naazli to help run WTP, her Singapore store, and her son Hussain to take care of the operations of MIMI Homes.
“We are fortunate to have great support from our Singapore office – they force us to widen our view of the market in India, as well as, the world,” she adds.
Pivoting in times of crisis
Like most businesses – small and big – MIMI Homes too had to revisit its strategy and business model in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. In these difficult times, especially logistically, the two-year-old brand has had to pivot and adapt to newer ways of engaging with customers and doing business.
“Most of our challenges,” says Mimi, “arose from the logistics of delivering furniture to customers. And this was not just locally but pan-India with state-wide measures restricting the flow of our products.”
The nine-member team also had to cut down overhead costs, a concern which Mimi says was addressed but not at the expense of the team. But a bigger challenge perhaps that’s facing the business in this climate of lockdown is the stark decrease in footfalls at the store. The brick-and-mortar outlet, after all, is the brand’s prime revenue channel.
“To deal with this, our sales team has been very active online,” she says.
Mimi adds, “Our plan for the future is to expand our product offering and services for our customers, like taking on more customised orders. But at the same time, we will strive to be a completely technologically driven and integrated company. And, we are looking at opening a few more retail showrooms across India.”
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)