The furniture industry in India occupies the largest share in the home furnishing market. However, the furniture and fittings industry’s scope is not just limited to home furnishing and carpentry but goes beyond that.
The Government of India has also identified the furniture industry as a key to expanding the reach of ‘Make in India’ goods across the world. Over the decades, the furniture industry has been providing several employment and entrepreneurship opportunities to the people and has been a sustainable livelihood option for many across the country.
To learn more about the scope of the furniture and fittings industry in India, skill training for youth, the importance of RPL in the furniture industry, etc. we conversed with Mr. Rahul Mehta, CEO, of Furniture and Fittings Skill Council (FFSC).
Below are a few excerpts from our conversation. You can watch the full video on our YouTube channel.
Q: Please share your journey of six-plus years with FFSC. What is the scope of this sector?
A: The furniture sector comprises interiors, furniture and the enabling industries. We are concerned with creating a skill ecosystem that can create a sustainable workforce, sustainable manpower or sustainable skilled people for the job roles and occupations arising in this sector.
For example, job roles in interior designing include designing, styling, project management, supervision, on-site installations, value chain etc., from designing concept to manufacturing to the installation process to sales and then after-sales.
And when it comes to enabling sectors like timber, there are careers in the processing of timber. There is a lot of scope for jobs for the youth in this sector to build sustainable careers.
Q: Since this sector is highly informal and unorganized, how are you creating awareness and breaking the myths around this sector?
A: Furniture is not limited to carpentry. It is not just a holistic display of woodworking but is a bigger umbrella under which carpentry is one sector. If we take the example of IndiaSkills competition and WorldSkills competitions, the world recognizes the woodworking segment of carpentry as different from a cabinet maker. Each professional is specialized in a certain segment.
Only India would have known carpentry if the myth that carpentry is the craft that runs into a family is true. However, across the world, like in Germany, Europe, Japan, Australia and America, you would find a more organized segment to do with woodworking or furniture manufacturing. There are also degree programmes running up to five years. People who are choosing these professions are getting paid more than a doctor in that country.
In India, over a period of time, a lot of sectors have been unorganized. This was earlier restricted to only a set of people or a community in the society, however, this is not going to be the same when we go forward. Now that the youth is more aware of the opportunities available, they are not seeing the cultural or sociological background of the profession.
There are also colleges providing courses in product designing, furniture engineering and interior designing that are not limited to a specific set of people. However, we are doing awareness drives and programmes to create awareness amongst the youth and parents for them to understand that a job in this sector will not be limited to a particular segment of people.
India is having only less than one per cent share in global exports. So, we are missing out the opportunities because of our beliefs in these myths.
Q: Please tell us about industry participation in skilling at various levels in this sector – in terms of curriculum, QP-NOS, training of trainers and assessments?
A: As a council, we do not outsource the standard development path, it is done by a structure/format that is created within the council and is run by a board of standards team. We have a dedicated team of academicians, industry-led people, university experts and occupation-based NOS groups. We have a separate group for each subject like interior designing, furniture fitting installation etc.
We reach out to the industry partners (small, medium and large) with the job roles to take their approval, insights and feedback to improvise further. Hence, the programmes are ensured that they are as per the industry demand and job requirements along with the current and future trends.
There are many specialization courses in the furniture sector like interior designing for hospitals, residentials, machine jobs, etc., in which a person can get himself/herself aligned with an appropriate sub-sector.
Q: Do you also promote degree programmes like B.Voc courses in any of these specializations?
A: There are a lot of universities or colleges that have taken up the curriculum of the programmes we developed and utilized it to develop a Diploma course, Advance Diploma or B.Voc programmes. B.Voc programme in Design and Build is popular at Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology. They continuously work on promoting these opportunities among the students. A person can choose any role from interior designing/installing/building and pick up a job. The board of standards help in the creation of jobs and usage of job roles in the right manner.
Schools are also being embedded with the syllabus of the furniture sector. With NEP, we are bringing Level 2 and 3 programmes to the school as well. The student can continue and pursue a career in art and craft in terms of CAD drawing, and hand sketching and get towards the specialisations.
Q: Are there any initiatives being implemented in the rural clusters as well?
A: Wood clusters cannot be avoided as furniture is a part of all phases of life. We see furniture in houses, offices and restaurants. So, clusters like wood clusters are popular in India. There are wood shops across the country and hence, the scope is ever-expanding.
The aspirational value has to be there for those who have made a career in this industry over the years which is the existing workforce. The second one is for the youth. To create an aspirational value, recognition of people who have done something in this industry is important. A huge number of people have built a career in this sector. RPL is important to help in recognizing these people who have created the furniture we use. It also helps in mapping the unorganized sector.