Entrepreneur

Your Mum’s Fave Disciplinary Tool Is Being Used By This M’sian To Make New-Wave Furniture

Author’s Blurb: Back in the day, I used to stumble upon rattan stools, tables and decor in almost every house I visited as a kid. I noticed that they were replaced with more modern furniture over time, but Rotan Lot is one woman’s mission to make rattan attractive to the younger generation again.

Where some businesses might view competition as a threat that needs to be eliminated, Nana Khan goes out of her way to not disturb the businesses of others in the same industry as her.   

Nana is the mastermind behind Rotan Lot, a new wave rattan furniture studio in Subang Jaya.

She told Vulcan Post, “We avoid traditional furniture design which you can find in other shops that have been around for a long time.”

“The market is small and I believe that we need each other to grow the rattan market, in order to make it a staple household furnishing item again.”

So, armed with a digital design background, Nana began her journey to breathe new life into the Malaysian rattan market—all the while ensuring that even her competitors still got their piece of the pie.     

On A Mission To Modernise Rattan

After 10 years in the corporate world, Nana decided to quit her day job to look after her sons.

Underneath it all, she had always harboured an obsession for rattan furniture.

She would admire it in houses that she visited and collect pictures of designs from the Internet.

But when the harsh reality of depleting savings crept up on her, Nana decided to turn her longtime passion into a business that could provide her with income.

“One day, I just gathered all collections of rattan furniture designs from my personal scrapbook collection, took a trip, and got my dad to come with me to meet with rattan craftsmen,” she said.

In May 2018, Rotan Lot’s first collection was launched.

Some of Nana’s first-ever products / Image Credit: Rotan Lot

“For some time, Malaysians started to regard rattan furniture as something that’s ‘old fashioned’, so much so that it has been difficult to find local hands who can still make them,” she said.

Nana described the initial experience as nerve-wracking and a risk to take, considering she was very much in the dark about how the Malaysian market would react to her designs.

In a radio interview with BFM, Nana shared that she didn’t perform any market research when starting Rotan Lot.

“It’s an old craft, but this information isn’t easily attainable,” she explained.

She also talked about her struggles doing research considering most rattan shops were either something she stumbled upon or learned of through word-of-mouth.

Thankfully though, her risk paid off. “Alhamdullilah, it’s been very well received! Turns out Malaysians love the familiarity with the modern twist,” she said, relieved.

Breathing New Life Into An Old Design

Even though the design of rattan might have been something your grandma or grandpa would buy back in the day, most of Rotan Lot’s customers are in their twenties to forties.  

Nana always had this in mind, though. “We had hoped to introduce our home furnishings to the younger generation to uphold the appreciation of local and sustainable materials.”

Furniture design that’s catered to the younger generation / Image Credit: Rotan Lot & farhanakhirudin

All of their materials are sourced responsibly, and she shared that rattan, in general, was a more sustainable resource compared to timber.

Currently, their products could range anywhere from RM150 to RM2,200.

On how she comes up with her designs, Nana told us that she’s always inspired by the types of furniture you’d find in restaurants, shops, from vintage suppliers and other pieces on the Internet.

A Community Of Rattan Lovers

Other rattan businesses like Rattan Art, SJY and Titicane are also existing players, but Rotan Lot has one huge advantage—social media.

On Instagram alone, their follower count stands at 10.7k, bigger than that of the 3 competitors listed above combined.

This is also because Nana relies a lot on Instagram to list her products.

Rotan Lot’s Instagram page acts as their online storefront, for the time being, to show prices and the materials involved, and is used to manage orders too.

Alternatively, interested customers could visit her physical showroom in Subang Jaya and make purchases there as well.

Rotan Lot’s studio located in Subang Jaya / Image Credit: Rotan Lot

At the moment of writing, they are still yet to have an official website, though Nana reassured us that it’s in the works.

Huge parts of the business are still being developed, so she’s figuring it out as she goes along.  

“We are merely one and a half years old and we have grown from just an online pre-order based business to a full-fledged showroom. We are now a furniture supplier to homes, restaurants, and major public spaces alike around Malaysia.”

Rotan Lot’s growth so far keeps her in high spirits for its future. In the long run, she hopes to be the supplier for modern-day rattan to customers across Malaysia and the rest of the globe.

“We would also like to create a business that enables economic opportunities for people in Malaysian rural areas and job opportunities for communities,” Nana shared.

Bottom Line: I currently lack the budget to buy a whole furniture set from Rotan Lot, but on a whole, Nana’s designs speak to me because of how Pinterest-friendly they are. I definitely wouldn’t mind investing in one of her reading stools or lounge chairs one day (if I ever get the chance to redecorate my room).

  • You can read more about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Rotan Lot

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