Transforming the bland looking walls into something very classy and lively by using wallpapers is still not very prevalent, however it is slowly but steadily gaining popularity. Karan Sharma, Director, Marshalls, the first branded company into wallpapers, talks about the company’s future plans in an interview.
Abha Garyali (AG): Share with us the inception, growth and success of ‘Marshalls’.
Karan Sharma (KS): Marshalls was started in 1975 by the company’s founder and chairman, Baldev Krishan Sharma who worked initially as a one man army. At present the company has more than 250 people with 15 showrooms in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Surat and Vapi.
The company’s growth and success across 35 years lies in the strength of its customer service. Wallpapers as a product puts a smile on the customers face that gives immense satisfaction. You can completely transform the bland looking walls into something very classy and lively. Today spending on interiors has tremendously increased, with aspirations to have homes like in the west, all adding up to make this great product to sell and progress.
AG: What motivated you to start Marshalls - a company of wallpapers?
KS: Wallpapers is a product which can beautify any place, be it ones home or office. It is a product which defines fashion and adds grandeur to your walls. One can wallpaper a room in just eight hours with no hassles or smell or dust as associated with painting. The beauty and advantages of wallpaper just draws you towards selling it.
AG: When did the company initiate franchising? What led to this unique idea of franchising?
KS: The first franchise store opened in 2005 in Vile Parle, Mumbai and the company partners provided tremendous support to us who in turn gave us a boost and motivation to go further. Therefore, out of the 15 showrooms that we currently have today, eight are franchisee run. Having multiple retail points is an essential requirement for growth in the wallpaper industry. People have various misconceptions about the product and when they have the facility of seeing it installed beautifully in showrooms, it gives them confidence of installing it in their place as well.
AG: What is the USP of Marshalls?
KS: The core strength of the company is its expertise and knowledge of product, variety offered, value for money approach, skilled installation service and above all the intention to bring a smile on the clients’ face. In India the wallpaper market has suffered mainly due to bad installation work done by people. All the clients are given a 2 year installation guarantee for all the works.
AG: How many franchisees does the company has and in which all cities in India?
KS: Marshalls currently, has 15 showrooms spread in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Surat and Vapi. Of these eight are franchise showrooms.
AG: What are the essential qualifications to be a Marshalls’ franchisee?
KS: The pre-condition is that the franchisee has to be personally involved in running the business. The business model gives the franchisee a free hand in marketing with complete concentration on it, whereas the company provides the complete infrastructure in getting the work executed and customer serviced.
AG: What training and support do you provide to the franchisees?
KS: Training is provided to the franchisees for one week initially. We train franchisees and their sales staff on wallpapers and software. Thereafter, the company has quarterly visits by the management, to their showrooms to discuss strategies, local presentations etc. When new products are launched in the middle of the year a get together for all franchisees for training is undertaken.
AG: What are the company’s future plans in terms of expansion through franchising?
KS: The company has set a target of having 25 showrooms by the end of 2010-11 financial year and is growing steadily but surely. It picks up the right kind of partners, as the brand Marshalls is very important and no compromises can be done. The ultimate aim over a five year period is to have 100 Marshalls showroom across India.
AG: What is the break-even period for the franchisee?
KS: The business model makes franchisees earn profit from the first year itself. Also there are no limitations to what one can earn.
AG: What are the challenges that can be faced by a franchisee in this business? How can they overcome these challenges?
KS: The challenge for selling wallpapers is always the mind set of people which has to be overcome. There have been various negative experiences of people due to the unorganised sector which is prevalent in the wallpaper industry. Marshalls is the only branded company in India for wallpapers which gives the customer the confidence to buy products regularly.