16 July 2024, 20:28
By Gloria D Gamat Sept 01, 2015

Malaysia's furniture show – a global view

Gloria D Gamat, the editor of MIFF's promotional title, Furnish Now, urges the global industry community to take another look at Malaysia's key furniture exhibition …

The 21st edition of the Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) re-affirmed the show's place as South-east Asia's import-export hub for the international furniture market. Occupying 80,000 sqm of exhibition space, MIFF 2015 hosted 508 exhibitors from 15 countries including Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, the US, India, Spain, Bulgaria, Italy, Japan, Finland and France – and in 2016, MIFF's organiser plans to further expand the fair to accommodate even more international exhibitors.

Philippe Mechin, a French journalist who has been working within the international furniture industry for many years, is confident of MIFF's plan for international expansion in years ahead. "MIFF is now definitely one of the most important furniture fairs in Asia, and buyers cannot ignore this platform," he says.

According to Philippe, MIFF's advantage lies in its ability to showcase a wide range of furniture, therefore showing the Malaysian furniture industry's capability of producing any type of products—a reflection of the industry's versatility in manufacturing. "The quality level, the design, and of course the price, are attractive reasons to visit MIFF and to be interested in Malaysian furniture," he adds.

Imre Zilahi, publisher and editor-in-chief of Mobila and MagMob – Romania's premiere furniture publications – and currently the vice-president of the International Alliance of Furnishing Publications (IAFP), believes in what MIFF stands for, and has high regard for what it has achieved through the years. "MIFF is one of the must-stop events for furniture buyers coming to South-east Asia while searching for good new design and better price/value balanced products," he says.

"This event became truly international as a result of a stubborn strategy – continuous investments in promotion campaigns, help given to young furniture designers, and a consistent service offered to exhibitors and visitors – the recipe for success."

Aware of MIFF's plan for international expansion in the coming years, Imre believes that more foreign exhibitors will beam a much brighter light on the fair itself, making MIFF an even more attractive show for industry visitors. "Accommodating more foreign players in your home market is a brave move," he says. "It will demonstrate the fact that the furniture industry in Malaysia is a mature one, ready to compete in the world's marketplace."

Another important route for MIFF is making the transition to design and branding. Co-founder of Italian Consulting, Franz Rivoira has been working in the furniture industry for many years and has seen the worldwide trend shifting from established models to a new model that is different and improved. "Malaysia (and MIFF) is in this exact situation," he says. "It is a country which has been growing fast on all accounts, but now finds itself at a strategic crossing – and MIFF can follow a new road, if it chooses to."

Speaking at one of the industry seminars at MIFF 2015 with his business partner Roberta Mutti, Franz emphasised the necessity for furniture trade shows such as MIFF to tread a new route, and demonstrated how the industry could benefit from it. He said: "So, if you ask me, there is only one path – evolving and transforming itself from an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to an OBM (original brand manufacturer) and ODM (original design manufacturer). But this is a process that takes time and effort."

According to Franz, this shift means that furniture companies have to develop a new way of thinking. "Because with design and branding, you are not manufacturing an object, but rather, creating dreams and experiences for the final client," he explained.

First, furniture manufacturers need to make this transition, he noted, then the change will be projected not only in the manufacturers' business image, but in the industry as a whole – and in MIFF, most of all. "MIFF is going to benefit enormously from this change, and the companies are going to as well, because their products are bound to become more rich in inner qualities – and so, more costly," he said.

For many years, MIFF has concentrated on exporting Malaysian furniture to the world. In the coming years, as it expands its exhibition space for more international exhibitors, MIFF is truly becoming South-east Asia's import-export hub for the global furniture market.

While this expansion is unstoppable, Philippe Mechin thinks that MIFF's platform for the export market can still continue to grow, especially for western buyers. "Many western buyers, especially from Europe, have yet to discover the quality of Malaysian furniture products and the dynamism of the industry in this part of the globe," he says. On top of this, international buyers are bumping into hurdles in getting their furniture requirements in other parts of Asia. "International buyers meet more and more difficulties to find affordable products in China," Philippe says. "This way, the position of Malaysia, which proposes a mix of quality and good price, is a very good opportunity for MIFF, especially with the efforts made by companies in design."

Also, this move will increase the number of foreign visitors to MIFF. "This definitely will bring new business opportunities for the producers based in Malaysia," added Zilahi Imre. The world is getting more global each day, and with advances in today's technology, getting to new markets and new customers has become easier and more straightforward. "This means that we cannot hide anymore, and there is no more secure, sheltered market like we were used to in the past," explains Franz Rivoira.

The bottom line is, change is the only thing constant in the world, and MIFF too is changing for a better and bigger future.

"Of course, you will have to face new obstacles in your way, and need to learn new tricks – but to do that, you need to embrace the new world," says Franz Rivoira. The distinguishing features of the new world, according to Franz, is to always keep yourself new, with an open mind, and strive towards excellence and service. MIFF has evolved steadily, actively embracing this innovative way of thinking to drive the market towards these new goals.

"Through this effort, MIFF is setting a higher standard for the companies to follow, and I am quite certain that this is what they should be doing in the next few years," adds Franz.

Brave and bold in expanding its global presence, MIFF is indeed becoming South-east Asia's import-export hub for international furniture. Industry experts are confident that this move will propel the Malaysian furniture industry into a bigger new phase.

MIFF 2016 will take place from 1st-5th March in Kuala Lumpur.

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