Local tastes: A man checks a bed in an Ikea shop. Picture: REUTERS
Local tastes: A man checks a bed in an Ikea shop. Picture: REUTERS

Mumbai — Furniture giant Ikea is set to open its first store and restaurant in India after years of trying, but arguably its most famous item, Swedish meatballs, is off the menu.

Ikea, the world’s biggest furniture retailer, will cut the ribbon on an enormous 37,000m² outlet in the southern city of Hyderabad, complete with an 1,000-seater cafeteria.

The restaurant will be Ikea’s largest and will cater to local tastes, with religious sensitivities in India dictating that beef and pork, staples of Swedish meatballs, will not be served.

"There will be chicken meatballs and vegetarian balls," Patrik Antoni, Ikea’s deputy country manager for India, said.

"Fifty percent of the food will be Swedish inspired — salmon and shrimp dishes, and so on.

"We’ll also have quite a few Indian dishes such as dal makhani, biryani [and] samosas," Antoni added.

The Swedish multinational, which revolutionised household furnishings with its range of affordable ready-to-assemble products, is betting big on India as it seeks new revenues away from its key western markets.

Ikea plans to invest $1.5bn in Asia’s third-largest economy as it seeks to lure price-sensitive Indians away from satisfying their furniture needs at local, family-run shops.

Ikea has already spent almost $750m procuring sites for four stores, including the Hyderabad one that will open in July.

Outlets in Mumbai, Bangalore and the capital, New Delhi, would follow, Antoni said.

He added that Ikea will then look at Pune, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Surat and Kolkata.

"We are very bullish and excited about the Indian market. Normally, we would test a market by opening one store, but in India we are going all out and expanding," Antoni said.

The Hyderabad store will be comparable in size to an average Indian shopping mall. It will have 850 employees.

Alongside its popular Billy bookcases and Poang chairs, Ikea will also offer spice boxes and kitchen appliances to make traditional Indian staples such as idlis (rice cakes).

AFP