Mathan Subramaniam

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Who Dared Big & Transformed India's Furniture Retail Forever

Mathan Subramaniam

Managing Director,

Royaloak Incorporation

India’s furniture market is volatile, and the tastes of its customers have predominantly become global. It is only recently that the furniture retail market has started addressing this need. For Mathan Subramanian, the young boy not only dreamed of transforming the furniture retail industry in India but made it a reality with Royaloak Incorporation and revolutionised the way India perceived furniture shopping.
In 2010, Founder Vijai Subramaniam founded Royaloak & was thereafter joined by his younger brother & MD Mathan Subramaniam. Their experience organising government exhibitions in South India set the stage for success. In 2012, they introduced international-style furniture, boosting Royaloak’s popularity. The company achieved significant milestones, becoming No. 1 in Bangalore in 2017 and expanding across South India. In 2020, despite the challenges that the pandemic threw, Mathan & Vijai pivoted Royaloak online and crossed 100 stores across the country. When most companies were firing people, Royaloak aggressively expanded by hiring more people, leading to nationwide growth. By 2021, they were India’s No. 1 furniture company, with 150 stores and 3 million customers. In 2022, they went international with 5 million customers. In 2023, a new logo and global expansion marked a fresh chapter of success and a legacy of 200+ stores.
Mathan shares his remarkable journey, challenges, milestones, and more in an exclusive interview with TradeFlock. 

How do you handle the pressure and responsibilities of being a prominent figure in a competitive sector?

As the managing director, I recognise the pressure and responsibilities that come with my position. To effectively handle these challenges, I rely on a strong support network, including the chairman and my older brother, Vijai. Collaborating with a capable team allows us to share responsibilities and make informed decisions. Open communication with stakeholders keeps me connected to their needs and concerns. I prioritise self-care and continuous personal growth to maintain a balanced approach. Embracing a solution-oriented mindset, I view challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation. I also maintain a long-term perspective, remaining committed to our vision and strategic goals to drive the company towards sustained success in the dynamic retail landscape.

How is the furniture retail industry rapidly changing, and how do you align your vision and goals with this transformation?

The retail industry, especially in the furniture space, is undergoing a significant transformation fuelled by the surge in e-Commerce and digital advancements. Consumers are increasingly drawn to the convenience of online shopping and demand seamless Omni-channel experiences, with prompt issue resolution whenever required. In response to these rapid changes, our company is proactively aligning its vision and goals. Our overarching vision is to emerge as global leaders in the furniture industry by elevating customers’ lifestyles through innovative, high-quality products, and extraordinary shopping experiences. We are committed to investing in technology integration to ensure a seamless and immersive customer journey from start to finish. Additionally, we prioritise the development and growth of our staff and partners, equipping them with the necessary tools to adapt successfully to the ever-changing retail landscape. By wholeheartedly embracing these transformative trends, we aim to thrive in the dynamic retail sector and fulfil our mission of providing extensive growth opportunities to our valued partners, dedicated staff, and cherished customers alike.

How do traditional brick-and-mortar stores adapt to thrive amidst e-commerce and digital innovations? How does your company leverage AI technology to enhance services and the customer experience?

As e-Commerce and digital innovations rise, traditional brick-and-mortar stores must adapt and thrive through technology integration. Embracing digital advancements will create experiential hubs with interactive displays, augmented reality experiences, and personalised recommendations. Social media and mobile technologies will bridge the online and offline realms, positioning brick-and-mortar stores as vital components of a holistic retail ecosystem capable of thriving in the future. To provide better services, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants cater to customer inquiries with personalised recommendations and support. Leveraging AI-driven customer data analytics, retailers gain insights into preferences and behaviour, enabling targeted marketing campaigns and optimised inventory management. AI-driven smart systems streamline the checkout process, reducing wait times and enhancing customer satisfaction. By integrating AI seamlessly, traditional brick-and-mortar stores can adapt, provide exceptional services, and flourish in the ever-changing retail landscape.

What excites you the most about the future of retail?

The future of retail excites me for several reasons. Firstly, Enhanced Customer Experience through augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) advancements will enable customers to envision furniture in their homes before purchasing, boosting confidence. Personalised product recommendations will foster deeper connections and make customers feel valued. The seamless integration of physical stores, online platforms, and mobile apps will create a unified shopping journey. Materials science and design technologies will empower us to create furniture that combines aesthetics, functionality, and durability, setting our company apart as a hub for innovative creations. Quick and efficient fulfilment methods, like sameday delivery and in-store pickup options, will satisfy customers’ needs promptly and build lasting loyalty. By embracing these transformative elements, we pave the way for remarkable growth and unparalleled success in the ever-changing retail landscape.

How do you balance short-term results and long-term strategic planning to achieve sustainable growth in the retail business?

To achieve sustainable growth in the retail business, it is crucial to balance short-term results with long-term strategic planning. In the short term, the focus should be on immediate revenue generation and operational efficiency, optimising inventory management, enhancing marketing efforts, and refining customer experiences to boost sales and profitability. Simultaneously, long-term objectives must be considered, including investing in strategic planning to lay the foundation for lasting success. To maintain this delicate equilibrium, fostering a culture of innovation and adaptability is vital. Encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset allows room for experimentation and calculated risktaking, exploring new opportunities while staying aligned with the long-term vision. Regularly reviewing both short-term performance metrics and long-term strategic plans enables datadriven decisions and the optimisation of current operations. By marrying short-term actions with a well-crafted long-term vision, the retail business can thrive sustainably in a competitive and ever-changing landscape.