Founding Year: 1985
Office Locations: London (UK), Nigeria, India
“In addition to our luxury furniture range, we offer a comprehensive interior design service with a team of trained designers. Our mission is to create transformative, positive spaces that contribute to overall happiness and wellbeing.”
– Firdaus Nagree, the founder and CEO of FCI London
A dialogue with Firdaus Nagree: Firdaus speaks to The Chief’s Digest about how FCI London rose from a small showroom to become the largest luxury furniture and interior brand in the UK.
How did you come up with the idea or concept for your business?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs. FCI London in its earliest form was a small mom-and-pop shop established by my parents in 1985. At the time, it was called Furniture Craft. After working for several years at Accenture, I joined the family business to help it grow and evolve. Together with my business partner, we bought commercial real estate property in North London and that’s where the FCI London showroom was born.
What are your company offerings? How have consumer responses shaped them over the years?
FCI London is one of the largest luxury furniture and interior brands in the UK, showcasing over 700 of the world’s best brands under 1 roof in our 30,000 sq. ft. North London showroom. We are an independently owned family business with deep roots in furniture design, manufacturing and interiors.
We sell the most exclusive luxury furniture from the world’s best designer brands. When we first started importing pieces to the UK, many of the brands that we worked with were still small artisan workshops. Today, they are hugely successful and recognised around the world.
We have an extensive customer base on the B2C side, but we also work with a close network of interior designers for whom we’ve created a range of trade services designed to take the headaches out of design projects. From product sourcing and technical drawings to logistics and installations, we provide bespoke project assistance and curated brands at trade prices.
Every business, big or small, has its fair share of challenges, especially during the initial days. Tell us about your challenges and how you managed to overcome them.
After we opened the first FCI showroom, the business expanded rapidly. We opened several more furniture showrooms and things were ticking along nicely until we hit a bump in the road in 2008 when the bank wanted to foreclose on one of our commercial buildings.
We had until the end of January to come up with a load of cash. In late December, my business partner and I signed a new tenancy agreement that brought in the cash we needed and prevented the bank from taking the building into receivership.
In those days, as a young entrepreneur and leader, I was also still learning about business and people. Entrepreneurs face many challenges on a day-to-day basis, but I would say the primary challenge is getting the team right. It took me many years to figure out how important company culture is and how to create a positive and supportive working environment. I had to learn how to ask for help and to acknowledge that there is power in admitting that you don’t know it all.
In more recent times, the advent of the pandemic presented unprecedented challenges. Like everyone else, we were blindsided by the effect it had on our business. Because we already had an existing remote team, we had a proven formula to follow while we were all stuck at home during the lockdown. But not being able to see and interact with our customers was tough.
Our furniture collections are not cheap – we sell luxury brands that are real investments. In most cases, people want to come in and see samples or at least browse the showroom and chat with someone before they commit to buying. We had to find new ways of being available to our customers by creating fully integrated online consultations where we could view someone’s space over Zoom and make furniture recommendations.
The way that our team members all mobilised to make this happen was just incredible. The UK team, the India team and all the others across the world just put their heads down with this single collective purpose: to survive. Every person bar none was committed to that, and it was both an inspirational and humbling moment in my career.
How do you define success? Do you think there is a formula to be successful?
I think there are many ways to measure success, but not all of them are equally important. As a company, we’ve won many different awards for things like the best furniture showroom, best interiors, best up-and-coming business, etc. They’re all great and we appreciate them, but at the end of the day, they’re not a true measure of success.
What makes us proud and what lets us know we’ve done our job well are our customer reviews. The positive reviews are the real measure of our success and they help to guide the direction of our brand.
As far as a formula goes, I don’t think there’s one specific recipe for success. But, I believe that half your battle is finding the right people. You have to bring people into the company who understand your core values and who have similar core values themselves. When you create that tight-knit team that is supportive of one another and committed to working together towards a common goal, you have the best chance that you’ll ever have of seeing success, both professionally and personally.
What would you say are the factors that have contributed to your success as an organization?
I’d say that personally, my greatest achievement has been building an incredible team. One thing we’ve done really well at FCI is to cultivate a very accessible environment where people feel safe to share their ideas.
This creates a platform where everyone can be open, which leads to a cascade of creative thinking and innovation. When everyone contributes and they’re excited about what they can potentially do, they will strive to keep improving and you’ll get the best out of them.
I credit my team for every success we’ve had. I’ve learned that in my role as a leader, I am a servant, and my role is to serve the people that I lead. If I do this well, they will flourish and grow into the best versions of themselves, which in turn leads to success for the business.
What do you think is a unique aspect of your business?
When it comes to the luxury furniture that we import, our relationships with our suppliers are very strong, which allows us to offer bespoke options to our clients that they may not be able to get elsewhere.
But what really sets us apart is our customer service. We are very, very good at it. Everybody says they’re good at customer service, but we genuinely are a cut above the rest because we own all the necessary moving parts in-house.
From the installers to the fitters, the delivery vans, the warehousing, the admin – it’s all in-house and none of it is subcontracted out. So, whether you’re buying a custom-built wardrobe from us or we’re renovating the interior of your entire home, we own that last-touch experience with you, the client.
This has definitely won us points, particularly because we’re in the luxury sector and expectations are very high. It’s not enough for one person on the team to go the extra mile – every division, every team, must work together as a unit to offer an integrated experience that will simply wow people. And we do that.
Where do you see your company a few years from now?
The way that people see interior design is changing. This advancement has been the inspiration behind one of the biggest projects that we’re currently working on – the development of a global SaaS platform that will revolutionise how people access design advice and allow them to optimise their living spaces without spending an arm and a leg.
We want to make people happy by transforming their spaces – that is our ultimate goal. If we can make someone’s space visually perfect to suit their style and keep it within their budget, it will go a long way towards contributing to their overall happiness, hopefully inspiring them to then pay it forward.
We’re also looking at how tech innovation is contributing to luxury furniture and how can we use new trends to make the FCI experience better for our customers. We’re constantly dealing with new designers, new products and new brands and now we’re busy exploring the world of NFTs.
How has your journey been so far?
It’s been a wild ride! Being an entrepreneur comes with many challenges, but it is also so thrilling. I love the variety of my work that constantly leads to learning new things and meeting new people. I love being able to make a difference in the things that really matter to me. And I like challenges – learning from them and improving is what drives me.
The Man Behind FCI London’s Success
Firdaus is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, father, husband and passionate scuba diver who has founded or funded numerous successful companies since 1999. After beginning his career as a strategy consultant with Accenture, Firdaus became involved in the London property scene, trading properties from the age of 21. He has been actively involved as an executive, board member or investor in a variety of sectors including Digital Hospitality, F&H, Construction, Interior Design, Retail, Bridge Finance, Proptech, Education, Aggregated Logistics, Property, On-Demand Food Delivery and Insurance.