With the spike in coronavirus cases and offices being shut indefinitely for most of the year, working from home has become the new normal.
While the world still waits for a breakthrough on the clinical trials and the development of the new covid-19 vaccine, the country is doing its best to contain the spread through nationwide lockdowns, social distancing, and taking adequate safety measures such as staying and working from home.
Company meetings have now shifted to Zoom, large scale events are going online, and webinars and Facebook Lives are the new ways in which we are informing ourselves about the workings of the ecosystem.
Since we are spending long hours, and tirelessly trying to fulfil work requirements, taking into account our posture while working and having the right furniture to support us is essential.
WFH table is bridging this gap, through their online platform with carefully crafted furniture designs and ergonomic products, to make the working from home process more seamless.
“As a multidisciplinary designer and founder, I believe that product thinking and human-centred design make technologies more approachable for people” says Rahul Karankal, Founder of WFHtable.com.
In an exclusive interview with YS Weekender, Founder of WFHtable Rahul Karankal talks about the motivation behind founding the company, their thought process and their USP for creating ergonomic products, and some of their trending best-selling designs.
YSW: When was WFHtable.com founded and what was the main aim/goal behind it?
RK: I founded Asana (furniture) two years back as an ergonomics furniture solution. I used to provide design and development for cafes, restaurants and corporate spaces. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone started working from home, and we started getting a lot of enquiries for a Work from Home (WFH) setup.
Thanks to this opportunity, I decided to use my past furniture experience for WFH setup. So, I have rebranded and started building products with the WFH concept
We just launched last month and we are already delivering products to our customers.
We are an online platform to buy furniture online and we provide quality products to your doorstep.
YSW: How many members do you have in your core team, and where are you based?
RK: Our core team consists of:
Founder: That’s me, Rahul Karankal, and I take care of Business, Design, Research and Marketing. I graduated from JJ School of Art, and National Institute of Design – the best design institute in India.
Co-founder: Devendra Karankal (BE) has immense experience in the Marine and Offshore Industry for 10 years. He takes care of Business, Finance and Logistics.
Other than that, we hired two freelance engineers Amit and Praveen (both IIT Madras) and Khushboo Shree Graphic designer (Symbiosis Institute). Also, we are onboarding Soumya Mandi (M-Tech, IIT Kanpur) to head our IT core team.
We are based out of Bengaluru.
YSW: What is your design process like at WFHtable.com?
RK: There is no set design process, but we follow a design methodology to make sure we have explored each aspect while building the product, and that ensures tangible results for the end customer.
Our process has six phases:
Analysis Phase: The Analysis phase determines the result of our creative process. During this phase, the design team gets to know the customers, their profession, their behaviour and how they plan to use the product. We also get to know the problems they are facing. We then research online to understand current market trends.
Ideation Phase: We do a lot of concept sketches on paper or iPad (using Sketch Pro). Then we finalise a few concepts and translate ideas into objects.
The relationship with the end-user defines the products. After the conceptualisation phase, we start modelling the ideas through parametric 3D for achieving standard dimensions and meeting precise customer requirements.
Detail and Prototype Phase: Once the designs are conceptually and dimensionally defined, the detail phase begins. During the development process, the WFH design team collaborates with manufacturers who then create a prototype. They examine the prototype together and look for ways to optimise the manufacturing process and cost.
Based on the above, the WFH design team creates the documentation and guidelines for manufacturers.
Manufacturing: Once our team validates the design, we build a functional prototype to evaluate the viability of industrial production.
Furthermore, being able to touch the product gets us a real vision of the proportions and finishing; this gives us a first-hand understanding of how customers will relate to the product.
Delivery: After manufacturing, we do quality checks before dispatching the package to our customer. Our design team is very much involved with product packaging and branding.
Post-delivery, they also take feedback from customers. If they are facing issues, we resolve the same and implement the findings to improve product quality and services further.
YSW: What is your USP?
RK: If your furniture does not have an excellent finish, do you expect to finish your work well? We are the first platform providing end to end Work-From-Home Furniture Solutions.
Most of our furniture characterises ergonomics and design.
WFHtable.com is the online platform where we promote Local Indian Manufacturers and Small Studios selling WFH related products.
We have an in-house design and development team promoting ‘Make in India’. They work in tandem with physiotherapists and orthopedics to solve work-desk related health issues.
YSW: What is the thought process that goes into creating your unique furniture, lighting, artwork and ergonomic products?
RK: I can tell you about the process that went into the building of “The Twist”.
I bought a lovely sofa for my living room. However, the cushion was too soft, and height not ideal for working on a laptop. I started searching for the perfect furniture online but to no avail.
After a few days, I had mid-back pain. I got to know from a physiotherapist that most people get mid-back pain while working on a laptop while sitting on a sofa. That is because they try to reach the device and strain their back in the process.
So, while designing the product, I always check out the ideal posture with relevant domain experts. Generally, I get new ideas early in the morning. I think a lot about the possible solutions for a problem. I make concept design sketches and even small paper/wood prototypes to test the physicality with multiple options.
We also check its portability for ease of delivery.
The best design is chosen for producing a real scale model. We check it for quality and send it to our manufacturers. Before dispatching it, our team does a final design, quality and packaging check.
Our job does not end there – we call each customer and check if they are happy with the product or facing any issues.
YSW: Tell us about some of your best-selling products and why these work well with your customers.
Outside of family and friends, I am sure your laptop gets a share of your companionship during your free time. Whether you choose to watch Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, it is entirely up to you. However, you will need a stand or a centre table to keep the laptop screen at viewing height. Why so? Why not keep it on your lap?
Well, I am sure most of you know that putting a laptop on your lap exposes vital organs to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and affects reproductive capabilities. The only solution seems to be the centre table.
I have observed people trying to adjust their gaze to the laptop placed on this centre table by arching their back – trying to find their right level.
What is the solution?
This twist laptop table was conceptualised, keeping in mind all the above points. We constructed it using a single plank; it can be given different forms – limited only by the user’s imagination. It can be made into a 20-30-inch high table ideal for your laptop.
It can also transform into an 18-inch center table. We have also used solid rubberwood with teak wood finish polish; the table can be customised to any position you choose.
The Grasshopper table features an expandable and collapsible design (by 4 – 6 inches) for space modulation. While designing this work desk, we considered “Wire Management” and a cup holder. The Grasshopper table also serves as an ideal dining table for smaller spaces.
We make sure that all the wires and cables of your laptop or desktop are hidden, thus keeping everything neat, apart from revealing your aesthetic taste buds.
After all, who loves to work in a cluttered office with cables and wires? The table is also portable and easy to dismantle. It is rectangular, has a radius finish at the corner edges, giving it a touch of elegance. We used 100% rubberwood with a perfect treatment to give it – a polished, semi-gloss teak wood finish.
YSW: What is your business model/revenue model like, and who is your target audience?
RK: We are an online market platform onboarding local manufacturers and studios to promote their WHF related products.
For B2C we are targeting millennials aged 22 – 39 who work from home. For B2B, we are targeting corporate, small business, architecture and Interior design firms who can buy our products for their employees working from home.
YSW: Where can your products be bought and do you home deliver?
RK: Currently, we source from Indian local manufacturers and have a small studio with an in-house Design/R&D team working on furniture/ products. And yes, we deliver to your doorstep.
YSW: What does being environmentally friendly mean to you at WFHtable.com, and how do you go about incorporating a sustainable approach with regards to your products?
RK: We use local raw materials and thus reduce the need for transportation. This, in turn, reduces our carbon footprint. We use CAD software for design and thereby avoid wastage in the manufacturing process. That’s our modest, sustainable solution.
YSW: Where do you source your material from when designing and building the WFHtable products?
RK: Currently, we are sourcing all material from the local market and what is available right now. However, we are also collaborating with a wood research institute to help find alternative solutions.
YSW: How much can a client participate when it comes to designing a particular furniture item for their office/home/workspace? Do you take into account client suggestions?
RK: Yes, we involve them in the design process and take suggestions while building their product.
YSW: Clients or companies you are currently servicing?
RK: AgroTIE, TagHash, and Tella Tales.
YSW: With WFH becoming the new norm and given your focus on WFH furniture, tell us about the impact that COVID-19 has had on your business, and what are your latest products?
RK: Earlier, we were supplying furniture to cafes, restaurants, and small corporate businesses. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19, all these spaces had to shut down for an extended period of time.
Everyone else started working from home. These times have impacted our business too. However, we found this situation as an opportunity and created an online platform to help manufacturers, small companies, and their customers.
My last ten years of design experience have been dedicated to creating user-friendly products.
We produce not only customised office chairs, but also products like stationery, lamps and storage spaces.
YSW: What do you think the future of the furniture and interior industry will be like owing to the pandemic?
RK: Getting skilled labour is very difficult in developing countries.
However, I believe that AI, CNC, and 3D printing will make our job easy.
Also, our honourable Prime Minister is focusing on Skill India/Foreign Investment/Export Facilities to give us more opportunities to build international quality products and brands.
YSW: Are you coming up with any new exciting designs at WFHtable.com amidst lockdown. Can you tell us a bit about it?
RK: Yes, we are now into making a Noise-Free WFH setup, so that people can make/attend online calls without distraction. We are also working on an Indian-made height-adjustable ergonomics table.
We are working on different furniture categories like the Family Desk, Kids Study Table, and Sewing Table. We are also trying to provide custom office chairs for people who have hip alignment problems.
YSW: What are your future plans? Are you planning to expand?
RK: Yes, we are currently delivering products within Bengaluru. However, we are looking to expand to other metro cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. We are in talks with a few investors and working on franchise models.
YSW: What do you enjoy doing most in your free time during the weekends? Any other hobbies and interests?
RK: I like to do architecture sketches. I also visit nearby cafes and have chai and pakoda in my free time. I love listening to country music. Bob Dylan, Freddie Mercury and John Denver are my favourites.
Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.