Anyone who has bought furniture from Ikea knows the frustration that is arriving home with your beautiful closet or dresser only to face the realization that you have to put the whole thing together yourself.
The Swedish furniture multinational clearly understands this too. They announced on Thursday that they are buying US start-up firm TaskRabbit, an online marketplace website and app that matches various kinds of labor - delivery, furniture assembly, cleaning and general handyman work - to local demand. In other words, that closet or dresser may now more easily be built for you, if you're happy to pay a little extra.
"With Ikea Group ownership, TaskRabbit could realize even greater opportunities; increasing earning potential of Taskers and connecting consumers to a wide range of affordable services," said Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO of the San Francisco-based start-up in a statement. "Taskers" are the workers who provide the services.
Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ikea - the world's largest home furnishing retailer - suggested that the aim of the purchase was to make Ikea customers' lives easier after they buy the company's products.
"As urbanisation and digital transformation continue to challenge retail concepts we need to develop the business faster and in a more flexible way. An acquisition of TaskRabbit would be an exciting leap in this transformation and allows us to move forward with an even greater focus on innovation and development to meet changing customer needs," he said.
Connecting with assemblers
The price of the purchase was not revealed but it has been confirmed that Ikea will buy 100 percent of TaskRabbit's shares. TaskRabbit currently operates in cities throughout the United States and in London, and will continue to operate as an independent company within the Ikea structure.
In November 2016, Ikea initiated a pilot program between TaskRabbit and Ikea's own stores in London to connect furniture-assemblers with those who had just purchased products in Ikea. That was clearly deemed a sufficient success by Ikea to warrant the full purchase of the start-up, which was founded in 2008.
Ikea has stated that the aim of the purchase will be to eventually provide their customers with easy access to TaskRabbit services but it remains to be seen at what extra cost the services will be provided. Ikea says that the TaskRabbit services may be added to locations beyond their current locations of London and the United States at a later date - good news for TaskRabbit, which was beginning to grapple with major competition.
The purchase is Ikea's first step into the so-called "gig economy," a labor market trend ushered in by companies such as Uber and Deliveroo, where work is provided by a huge network of freelancers, rather than permanent employees.
aos/sri (Ikea, Reuters)