Wander The Great Indoors November 24 2013

PROFILE

Please tell us more about your company. When was it established? 

The Great Indoors was established in 2011. But the spirit of building a nation, which is the rally cause for our business, is anchored to the year of Malaysia’s Independence in 1957.

Who founded the company? What is the educational background of the person?

The Great Indoors was founded by Kevin Lunsong but is well managed by Juwita Jalil. The duo balance each other out with different array of skillsets.

Kevin Lunsong always had a knack for local heritage items and unique well-crafted goods since he was a young teen, but never got to realize the potential of his interest. This is perhaps he was going through adolescent years and discovering his personality traits. During his discovery years, Kevin practiced and earned his experience in mechanical engineering and designing/advertising.

Juwita Jalil’s early environment was enveloped in antiques, as her family is fond of them. Unfortunately the appreciation for it came only as she got older and started treasuring the heirloom furniture. Juwita has always been a fan of technology and was a web programmer who explored technopreneurship since 2008. She later moved onto advertising where she sharpened her appreciation for market nuances.

What inspired you to start ‘The Great Indoors’? What does it do and what inspired its name?

The Great Indoors is rooted to sustain local heritage by salvaging old furniture and sourcing them out for commercial usage or for personal collection.

When we started out, the supply and demand weren’t there. The craftsmen cottages were in drought and the consumers didn’t know how to value our commodity. So at the demand end, we created a very rich retail environment that educated retail owners the benefits of renting furniture to combat retail trends. We pushed further by renovating commercial outlets to create ambiance conducive for their patrons to spend more; thus giving the commercial business owners higher ROI. As the market appreciation for these commodities mature, at the supply end, we identified and worked closely with craftsmen to create well-crafted goods. As a result, we help keep our local heritage items and small businesses alive by making both supply and demand consumers understand their significance by using antique commodities.

This year, we entered the construction market to help tie both furniture craftsmen with architects and interior designers on how to balance the need for progress with the understanding of old building significance to our cities. By doing so, we will help save old buildings from being demolished by our local governments for high skyscrapers.

The name came from Kevin, who ironically is a person who loves the great outdoors.

Do you have a dedicated team or outsource jobs based on projects or both? Please tell us more about the company structure and/or responsibilities.

Juwita manages the production for most of the items coming out of our warehouse, while Kevin concentrates on the brand equity through design. And now that we’ve taken up a more arduous role in construction services, we work closely with top architects and designers to share experience and skills. We also have secured a network of pickers to source original antiques so we can learn to reproduce.

WORKING

Where do you acquire vintage articles/ furniture from? What are the characteristics you are looking for?

We look for vintage items from all over the city and even in small towns across Peninsular Malaysia. We look for primarily two things: the craftsmanship and the potential of commercialization. The craftsmanship is important to identify and appreciate the art of making well-crafted goods, whereas the commercialization is to understand how to reproduce the goods in a modern retail environment.

Where is the value addition/restoration process done? What is the team structure and skill set? 

The restoration is done through a network of workshops. We have a team of carpenters, metalworks and tailors. We rely and support each other throughout the process.

The construction calvary is made up of architects, interior designers, and construction crew. We help identify the architectural need and significance.

What are the treatments done on these articles?

At best, we retain the original condition with very light touchups. Most items are converted from its original purpose. For example, an old salvaged door is now converted into a dining table, old window shutters are turned into wall decors, shipping pallets are turned into shelving units.

What is the percentage increase in cost? (general or one example)

Mainly due to labor because restoration process is labor intensive. So, a table may require 10 hours of fixing stability, sanding, and painting. And this translates to labor hourly wages.

How do you reach your clients and how do you advertise?

We rely on our retail outlets to showcase our workmanship. Hence, we don’t have a store and operate mainly online.

What are the services you offer? Please tell us more about your rental schemes and how successful these have been?

Our rental merchant scheme, in theory, is more successful than what the market perceives it to be. Most business owners often confuse their personal interests with their business investments. Antique furniture should only be purchased if it’s the main asset in business ventures. Otherwise, renting would be a better approach to combat fast changing trends because you can always rent and rotate our furniture to suit the current market. Once business stabilizes, business owners can opt to buy off the furniture or extend the rental duration.

We also developed Hardware Supplies and Construction Calvary as our product and service range to help enrich the rental environment. Hardware supplies mean that the items are reproduced or sourced in bulk by local craftsmen. Construction Calvary means the talent pool of architects and designers who renovate and construct buildings in which houses our hardware and salvaged items.

CONSTRUCTION SERVICE

Please tell us more about any project under construction service. How are you managing the expertise, manpower and government permissions?

Normally, because of our work at the retail outlets, most investors would approach us online to start on a renovation project. From there we work closely with the right architects and construction crew to facilitate the construction process. Most of the architectural firm would know how to apply and submit plans to the local city council.

More importantly, throughout the process, we look at the historical significance of the property to the surroundings. Then we identify which design items need to be preserved while we bring in creative concepts to make the property relevant to our current times. Some heritage buildings are now turned into f&b outlets or hotels. But most often are demolished because of poor city planning and greedy parties who make quick profit from demolishing and erecting buildings without realizing the implications.