Japan’s Kamarq wants to disrupt ‘fast interior’ industry by ‘smart’ ideas



See the original story in Japanese.

Ken Machino, the originator of the Antenna curated news app, and Shuwa Tei, notable designer and architect known for the renovation project Claska and designs for home electronics brand Amadana, are joining forces to launch a high quality furniture brand which links into the Internet The aforementioned duo is being joined by CyberAgent Ventures‘ leading light Hirofumi Kondo.

In addition to these three, there’s another person who’s joining up, Naoki Wada at PT. Matsuzawa Perita Furniture Indonesia which holds an overwhelming share in the furniture component industry. So now the stage is set for the new furniture brand Kamarq, meaning ‘my room’ in Bahasa Indonesia, to be launched. Their target is not just simply to sell furniture over the Internet, but just as planning is needed to make a room, they will provide new valued ideas.

Why furniture?

From the left: Ken Machino, Shuwa Tei, Hirofumi Kondo

Machino, who is at the center of business operations for Kamarq, outlined the reason why the attention has been turned to furniture:

I turned 40 and when I thought about what I should be doing next, I came up with the idea of making a brand that would be accepted around the world. However, this could be difficult using a single IT function. But, like GoPro, a new tangible creation together with IT would probably work and the possibilities would grow.

When I met Wada – who has lived in Indonesia for over seven years and works in furniture manufacturing – I thought I should focus on furniture; after that, I thought I should create a business with furniture and more.

Thanks to the widespread of 3D printers and design crowdsourcing, the clothing and the accessories fields have become highly flexible. However, in the furniture world, flexibility is not really there yet. Well-designed furniture is expensive and even if you find such a piece of furniture, you often can’t get the color you want. The sizes are limited as well. It’s not untrue that people even move homes because the furniture they want doesn’t fit in their old place.

The Kamarq team thinks the first step is to look for furniture designs publicly on the Internet, by using the voting platform. It will be a crowdfunding site where customers would want to choose furniture based on its design. Any furniture that gets a certain number of votes is accepted for sale on the Kamarq platform and the company will share the revenue with the designers. The Kamarq team will first provide a function where purchasers can choose the colors and sizes, then set up a system where customers can eventually order completely tailormade furniture. They aim to be priced similarly with stores that provide ‘fast interior’ items.

The second step is to blend furniture and IT. They want to develop furniture products that make sounds by incorporating speakers made of thin vibrators inside. Switching on the sound or connecting and adjusting sound volume can be processed through the Kamarq mobile app that can be connected with furniture via BLE (Bluetooth low energy). The range of applications will be infinite, including beds and chests as well as tables. The team is looking to gain popularity with the app through this IoT (Internet of Things) furniture, there are other business plans envisaged for the future, but I can’t give out details at this time.

Furthermore, as the third step, they are developing a ‘smart door’ that has a variety of sensors connected to the Internet. PT.Matsuzawa, owned by Wada as I mentioned before, has the largest share in the door component industry in Indonesia, so he could potentially uncover huge possibilities for smart door sales in Southeast Asia.

From furniture making to space making

Tei explained:

Japanese creativity has a global reputation as being very good. I myself have been working in fixtures, wall furniture and infrastructure home electronics, so by mixing all the ‘components’ both material (like the aforementioned fixtures and electronic parts) and not (such as setting and ambiance), we can offer a new user experience.

Our furniture will let you choose sizes, so it is suitable for the home renovation market from the standpoint of creating new towns in both Jakarta and Tokyo. It’s not about pursuing technology, what we’d like to provide is great experiences.

The Kamarq team is now developing a website that blends their own media with an e-commerce storefront, with which they aim to repeatedly attract people and brand the product. For that, Machino’s experience will be utilized as a professional of curated media. Meanwhile the manufacturing will take place at an Indonesian self-owned factory without any big marketing costs for selling directly via own site. Low pricing of high-quality furniture products can be realized, thanks to Wada.

Machino explained:

Turning the furniture industry into smart furniture will actually promote cost compression.

The technology geeks aside, I’m not sure how much of a smart furniture market there is for general consumers, but if good design and high-quality furniture cheaper can be provided, there’s no inconvenience for consumers who find out that they’ve ordered smart furniture by chance.

Machino continued:

It will start with easy orders that allow you to select only colors and sizes, but eventually we will be able to take orders for completely tailored furniture with no minimum lot restrictions. It’s basically BTO (build-to-order) for furniture. We’ll build a system where you can check the status from ordering to delivering, like Dell’s ordering system. It will take a bit of time to receive the products, but consumers won’t mind waiting a month for their complete selected products.

Also, the participation of Tei who has produced a lot of popular architecture and products in the world will be very interesting to observe and to see how he can influence Kamarq.

Tei concluded:

Furniture is something that originally differed greatly between brands. What one wants to aim for is pricing that people like, for items one wants to present and show people.”

For each property where Kamarq’s furniture is placed in, an infinite number of different patterns and tastes for each space can be created. There’s much meaning to developing the brand for supporting Japanese designers in expanding globally.

We were told that Kamarq will start its sales operations very shortly. Can they be a player disrupting the ‘fast interior’ industry dominated by IKEA?

Translated by Chieko Frost via Mother First
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Masaru Ikeda