Thursday, 25 March 2010

Why is there no IKEA in Azerbaijan?

My husband hates IKEA. To him, it represents something he is terrified of becoming-"a castrated suburban husband".

So, when my daughter needed a bedside table,I thought it would be lovely to go to IKEA ourselves. Because we, girls, love IKEA. For us, it is a day out.

Our nearest shop is in a very awkward area. First of all, I had to arrive there without getting confused at the North Circular.

I then had to find what I needed in an enormous store, right down the item code, aisle and location, load the boxes on a trolley and take them all the way home without breaking anything. All that might sound simple to normal humans; however, to me, that is an awful lot of tasks, each of which has a potential to go terribly wrong.

But I managed to get there beautifully. I got a good parking spot, right in front of a pushy Indian man, who gave me a dirty look. I then managed to find a perfect bedside table, cheap and cute, get the right box and bring it home without chipping the edges.

Proud of my achievements and supported by my daughter’s excitement, I decided to go all the way, and actually assemble the piece. Why not? It had instructions after all, and they provide you with everything you need. I can be technical, you know? I studied how to build buildings, I can surely put together a small, light piece of furniture.

Husband would never believe it, I thought smugly, as I evenly spaced 24 little nails along the back panel.

So, imagine my horror, when, having assembled the whole thing, I realized that I had placed the shelves back to front.

IKEA makes cheap stuff. This means, the back edges do not have to be finished. And now, not one, but two of my shelves were facing me with their exposed backsides. I was devastated. Is there any limit to my stupidity?

“Don’t worry”, said husband, who arrived just as I was about to throw the whole unit out. “We can take it apart and put it back together. “

“Not when you see how well I nailed the back panel”, I told him and we agreed that I was, after all, a moron.

That night, I had a Skype call from an old British friend, who used to work with me in Baku, and has recently moved to Turkey.

“Can you imagine, he said, what it would be like? IKEA in Baku? Can you imagine, he said, Azeries and IKEA?”

I don’t have to imagine, I said, do I.

We discussed why it would not work in Azerbaijan. Just the idea of self-service would simply fall flat.

My friend insisted he knows for a fact that IKEA did consider coming to Azerbaijan. And, after a very careful consideration, decided not to. Wounded, I asked if there was an IKEA in Turkey. “Yes”, he said. “With a very, very large restaurant. Turks love to go there to eat.”

Of course, I thought. You see... They had to adjust their business model slightly to fit Turkey. So why can’t they do the same for Azerbaijan?

It would work. Of course, it would.

Look, here is my business plan for Ikea in Baku. (I knew I would eventually find some use for my expensive MBA.)

1. Allow 10% for furniture, 90% for a restaurant.
2. Provide horns on trolleys, as Ikea’s one way system will never work in Azerbaijan. Everybody will cut across, move in an opposite direction and will need horns to constantly blast at each other.
3. Provide policemen at corners and junctions inside the store.
4. Provide service staff- to find the aisle and location of boxes, load them and take them to customers’ vehicles.
5. Increase the number of free pencils by 50%
6. Provide service staff to visit customers’ flats to assemble the flat-packed furniture
7. Re-design colour scheme. No whites, especially no beige tones. Instead, more gold, some silver and purple.

See? Simple.

IKEA concept will work in Baku. All they need to do is adjust their business model to the local environment.


  1. It's so simple, isn´t it? Let's get the idea to IKEA management. And ask for a store in Lima, too.

  2. Hmm, hmm, hmm... Here is today's article in the Moscow Times about the experiences of IKEA in Russia. I think you may have left some "necessary expenses" out of your business plan. ;)

  3. I did that too! U might have noticed on the Billy bookcases in Agincourt Rd! IKEA in Singapore sends people out to customers' homes to assemble stuff for them for a very low fee.

  4. Hilarious post!

    I've got #8 for you: provide Azeri-friendly product names. "DÅTID OBI", "AVSIKT", "HOVSKÄR" - are you kidding me?

    The founder of IKEA became one of the top 10 richest people in the world by selling incredible crap to innocent consumers. I am actually glad they didn't open any stores in Azerbaijan. If only McDonalds did the same...

    P.S. Not sure about Turkish IKEA, but the food in the US stores is just as bad as the furniture. The only edible thing there is the Daim Torte.

  5. I hate IKEA. It reminds me that Soviet time furniture from GDR (Eastern Germany). My furniture is ... monumental. And no purple, Scary, black, black, black.

  6. That was my dream,to have IKEA in Baku :-(

  7. Guys, guys.....You are just wro-n-g! Honestly, how can ANYONE not love IKEA meatballs? With the cranberry sauce? and some other, their own sauce? and chips? Oh. Lovely. I would go to IKEA just for those, and of course, the Daim torte. I actually prefer the little daim sweets, I always get a bag when I go there.
    Sophisticos, long time no hear, you are back! :) I thought you left me. IKEA has some really nice things, actually. It is good for bits and pieces. reminds me how stupidly over-priced everything in the UK is. when it is possible to have things cheaper and enjoy them. Honestly. But you just need to step over the complexes we, ex-Soviets have. That is it embarassing to have an IKEA chair. It isn't. I know some rich people who buy IKEA stuff, and then chuck them away when bored.
    I almost said black, you know. BUt I got attacked when I once said Azeri girls like black colour; I did not want to go into all that all over again. :)

  8. I think you're underestimating the engineering capabilities of Azeri's. Any place where people drove Zhuguli's and Neva's required handiness with a screwdriver, pliers and hammer. Ikea furniture assembly? No comparison to a misbehaving fuel line. Hey, I even so men syphoning mouth. Now THAT'S capability!

  9. @Anonymous:

    That is what I told my friend as well. I think Azeries will be OK from the engineering capabilities point of view- if they can be bothered. I suspect though, that most of them would consider self-assembly below them.

  10. I'm glad somebody touched on the IKEA and Azerbaijan issue.

    I mean, if you had to define the opposite of post-Soviet aesthetic, that would be none other than the Swedish one. I was there today - there is literally nothing in IKEA that is golden, embellished in lace, sequined, or a combination of these. Post-Soviet style is all about looking like a million bucks, especially when you are not. Like you said, if people are going to go that low and assemble their own furniture, it better look like it came from the Versailles, not 1970s. Though I think all these countries are gonna get there if/when a larger middle class develops.

  11. Loved your suggestions!

    IKEA is also a day out for my daughter and me; she loves climbing in the beds!

  12. When the decadent villas of the robber barons of Baku are envied by the local population and seen as the very pinnacle of taste, there is no hope. Every single one of them is utterly ghastly, designed, constructed and finished in the most vulgar noveau riche style possible. Practical, modern and affordable products the like of which Ikea sells will be viewed with complete misunderstanding by the poor brainwashed and servile Azeris.

  13. I love the post, funny how no one has actually stated what food they would serve in and Azeri IKEA, I know döner kebab, something with so much fat in it one bite will give a normal person a heart attack. There is also no smoking in IKEA, this would never work in Baku the concept of going outside to smoke they would be nonplused.  The problem in Azerbaijan is that an Azeri would rather sell their house, to buy a BMW to show off to all their friends, than spending less money on making their house better.(This actually happened)   all comes down to way of thinking or way of not thinking, which is quite abundant in Azerbaijan.       

  14. @Anonymous: Really? Brainwashed? That's rich coming from a person who calls IKEA crap "practical and modern". Spend too much time reading their catalogs?

  15. Riyad...You think the vulgar Turkish or Asian furniture the Azeris buy at present is not is badly designed, badly made has no style and thanks to the robber barons' horrendously expensive crap. You are not related by any chance to one of the robber barons are you????????

  16. @Kerrial: Of course, the smoking must be allowed. Especially whilst eating a doner kebab.

    @Riyad & Anonymous: You are both right in some ways :) I dont think Ikea is ALL crap. It really isn't. Honestly. When was the last time you bought anything there, Riyad? I bought a great set of glasses, very nice, honest! I will in fact, take a picture for you. :) And some other bits for the kitchen. Perfect. :)

    It definitely has cheap crap. But let me tell you one thing. It is a pretty practical and modern crap.:)

    I was recently looking for a side table. And in Laura Ashley, they had a little side table for £270 or so. And the display item had the edges peeling off, because it was just a cheap veneer. Only it cost 270 because "Oh, you know, it is Laura Ashley!" crap. So you are paying for the name but not always quality. :) Just saying. I dont agree Ikea is all bad, that's all.

  17. @Scary: We bought most of our furniture, plus a bunch of other household goods at IKEA when we transferred to the US. The furniture was cheap, but since it was made out of sawdust it broke down easily and most of it didn't survive the moving truck. A mover told me jokingly that it was never meant to be moved (I doubt he realized the irony - the word "meuble" literally means "mobile"). The other stuff - silverware, glasses, cups, etc. - had zero elegance and were thrown away as soon as we could afford something nicer.

    Once again, the only IKEA product I don't hate is the Daim Torte... yum!

  18. Speaking as someone who has just arrived in Baku from UK, will be here 3 years and has to set up a house,I would love Ikea.I would rather spend my money there than spend 100's of Manats in Master Tibeo.I by the way lived 7 years in Abu Dhabi and the UAE nationals coped so why not the Azaris...
    They choose what they want and then send the driver to get it.

  19. @Anonymous: Hmm...Master Tibeo sounds well dodgy to me. :) I remember in my days, there was a small company who brought Habitat stuff to Baku. I wonder if they still have their shop. It was great. Just keep looking around. Remember: black and golden are the colours to chose though.

  20. Word on the street is that Baku IS getting an IKEA:

    There is also an IKEA Home Store that just opened near Caspian Plaza. It is small and sells just a few dishes, pots, and textiles items. More expensive than IKEA is in the US or other places, it seems, but less expensive than you'd normally find household items in Baku.

  21. There is a local producer "Embawood" which is better than Ikea

  22. Ikea home store? Never heard of this one, where is it? Ikea would only make a fortune once all those empty apartment blocks on airport road begin to be filled up, and that's a pretty distant prospect just now.
    Keep up good work, Scary.