The Biggest Challenge Today Besides The Problems Related To The Pandemic Is To Be Competitive And Aspirational: Deepika Goyal, Popcorn Furniture And Lifestyle
In an exclusive chat with BW Education, Deepika Goyal, Founder and Director of Popcorn Furniture and Lifestyle, spoke about the firm and more.
What was thought to create an entity to work on school furniture? How did you start your journey with Popcorn Furniture?
We realized there was no company in India dedicatedly catering to educational furniture.
The schools were using carpenter made options or buying standard material locally and fulfilling their school furniture requirements.
Unlike schools internationally which were using bright, colourful, ergonomic and safe furniture the Indian schools had plain non-ergonomic furniture in brown colour tones.
This gap made us start the school furniture business. The “One size and shape fits all areas of a school” approach was not the way forward for schools that were beginning to follow progressive curriculums which required collaborative furniture.
There was no 'one-stop-shop' for all the school furniture requirements.
Traditional Furniture was on the way out and innovative colourful wooden ergonomic designed furniture was the run.
Schools wanted a modern, innovative and colourful look which was kid-friendly, environment friendly and safe for kids and such furniture was available internationally but not in India.
There was a need which was not fulfilled by the traditional classroom desk and chair. Progressive schools were on the rise which needed flexible, smart, colourful, ergonomic furniture.
Since Popcorn Furniture's inception, what do you count as the company's major achievements?
Popcorn started by importing nontoxic safe furniture and role-play items like kitchens and doll houses for kindergartens. This furniture was colourful, vibrant with safe rounded edges but was not very sturdy for schools.
With feedback from schools we realized that quality, safety, functionality and ergonomics were the 3 most important factors in school furniture.
We started designing our own furniture since 2010 as we had understood the need of the schools. Maintenance-free furniture could only be offered if you figured out where it could give problems in a classroom.
We use Product designers from top institutes in India and abroad to design a range which is international yet adapted to Indian school curriculums and teaching practices.
Our range grew from the basic classroom seating and roleplay to furniture for libraries, laboratories, Art rooms, Cafeterias, gymnasiums, Dormitories and Hostels.
We did a chain of schools in Singapore in 2016 and the quality was appreciated greatly.
We started participating in International exhibitions and opened our first showroom outside India in Dubai.
We have now opened a showroom in Cape town and done schools in Dubai, Oman, Accra, Saudi Arabia and Nepal.
Our biggest achievement has been the goodwill the brand enjoys in the fraternity of school promoters and principals as a brand with good quality and safety for kids. The fact that Popcorn is the first school furniture brand which has been sold to over 8000 schools is a major achievement for us.
What challenges is the company facing?
The biggest challenge today besides the problems related to the pandemic is to be competitive and aspirational. Understanding the educational system which is constantly changing and designing the right furniture to keeping abreast of the competition.
Whom do you consider your competitors in this field? What are the unique propositions of your company?
There are few brands of school furniture which are available nationally. Our competition is actually the small manufacturers who are servicing the schools locally. We are a one-stop-shop for all the educational furniture required by a kindergarten, school or college.
How are you going about working amid COVID-19 and ensuring sanitization? What are your new policies and what precautions are you taking?
Popcorn is a brand associated with the safety of kids. Our brand ambassadors are the 5 million happy students across the 8000 schools we have sold furniture to. In the time of the pandemic, we wanted to ensure the well-being and safety of our little customers. Since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic we have organised 2 webinars which have been a great success. The first webinar focussing on how to combat stress and anxiety in parents and children post the pandemic.
The second webinar was done to bring to a platform all the problems schools were facing post the pandemic. The panellists were top school promoters and leading education consultants.
We are now doing a webinar on Reopening schools safely and we have panellists from the education, health and sanitisation sectors. The panellists include Dr Shayama Chona (Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan Awardee), Nupur Goenka (Director G.D.Goenka group), Dr Vidya Gupta Senior paediatrician and neonatologist at Apollo hospital, Dr Monika Arora, Director of Health Promotion Division, Public Health Foundation of India and Sumit Nadgir CEO of HiCare and Managing Director at TrueNorth.
Since the onset of COVID-19, our team of designers has been trying to brainstorm on the changing face of classrooms.
We have designed simple see-through acrylic partitions which can be placed between two students. These can be cleaned easily and allow students to see each other yet keep a distance.
Rigid, bulky furniture will replace flexi classrooms which can be rearranged in minutes to enable different permutations and combinations of seating. We are already doing flexible furniture which are collaborative and are on wheels. These classrooms use mobile screens which are whiteboard surfaces as partitions.
We are planning to give the customer the option of using anti-bacterial tabletops. These tops are homogeneous, non-porous and inhibit the growth of bacteria.
Being one of India’s largest school furniture provider we stock large quantities of classroom desks and chairs at all times. Most schools are now demanding single-seater desks for classrooms keeping the Covid19 situation in mind. Hence all our new stock production will be in single desks.
Some of our customers include The Doon School, Shiv Nadir Schools, British School, Amity schools, Ryan schools, Delhi Public Schools and HDFC schools to name a few.
What are your goals for 2020? How much do you expect to grow during this period of time?
Post the COVID-19 pandemic we feel that the schools will be concentrating a lot on price. We have developed a range which can be afforded by almost all schools in India. The campaign is a part of our “Popcorn Sab ke liye “initiative.
What drives you to continually advance your business?
Our mission is to make school furniture synonymous with Popcorn. We want every school in India to be able to afford our furniture as we believe that every child has a right to ergonomic seating. This mission is what drives us to excel in our business.
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