TBY talks to Anselm Tabansi, Managing Director of Svengali Designs, on the background of the company, his client profile, and the growing competitiveness of the local furniture design sector.

Anselm Tabansi
Anselm Tabansi is a lawyer by profession but creative interior designing is his passion and business. He graduated in law from University College London (LLB HONS) and passed an advanced management program at Lagos Business School (AMP12). He is the CEO of Fahrenheit Hospitality Limited and Managing Director of Svengali Designs.

Can you give us an introduction to the history and background of Svengali Designs?

Svengali was born over my intense passion for architecture and design. In hindsight, I think that I was meant to be in the design industry. After four years of practicing law, I resigned and started a small business trading in interior accessories. From there, I went into the manufacturing of wrought iron furniture in 1993. It was not popular at the time but, within a year, it blew up, became popular by demand, and I became an unexpected pioneer. From wrought iron, I moved to stainless steel balustrades and then wood-based furniture production. It was in the production of wood-based furniture that our creativity finally shone and since then we have not looked back.

How has the profile of your clients evolved over time?

Initially, when we first started, people were constantly surprised by our mettle. Our designs are bespoke and original. Over time, people gravitate toward Svengali because they identify with my eclectic and contemporary sense of style. It is like a homecoming of sorts. They understand what they want and trust that I have the capacity and ability to deliver on their expectations. Sometimes, they come in and want my personal input in their designs. They realize that there is an Anselm element involved, a certain je ne sais quoi that they covet. I never shy away from that. Such is the attraction for our brand; hands on and committed to customer satisfaction. Generally, our clientele has evolved from individuals seeking quirky furniture pieces to corporates desiring lifestyle experiences in their workplaces.

How would you describe the competitive landscape of the furniture market in Nigeria?

There is a slow general awakening going on. More people are travelling and coming back with various ideas on how they want their furniture to be or from a retail perspective a unique offering that is peculiar to them. Advanced courses on design are being taught in schools. Science and technology are taking over all that we do. It is getting more diverse with varying elements. Increasingly, with internet penetration at its highest people are constantly going online and seeking new style and concepts. So to stay ahead of the curve one has to constantly innovate and create new concepts.

How much more room for growth would you say there is for the company in Nigeria?

We are definitely ahead of our competition in Nigeria, but it would be foolhardy to think that we have arrived. There is always more room for growth. New concepts in art and design keep coming up. We have to constantly keep our finger on all the necessary pulses. We have to keep plowing on, being the pioneers that we are.

What are your expansion and development plans for the near future?

In line with the backward integration policies of the current government to encourage local production, we are in pole position to drive the policy and elevate our production capacity to fill the expected void in the market place. Also, the synergy we have created with our sister company Fahrenheit meant that as it embarks on its aggressive brand roll out Svengali shall be providing outfitting services for every property so it looks to be a busy period in our medium- to long-term calendar.

How would you describe the business environment in the country for the manufacturing industry?

Higher production costs resulting from worsening power outages, high cost of funding, insecurity, infrastructural deficiencies, foreign exchange crisis, and sourcing raw materials among others are some of the major challenges we are currently experiencing. The business environment is indeed a challenging one for the manufacturing industry at the moment. However, we are optimistic that some of these challenges will peter out as the new administration embarks on its diversification policies, which we hope will bring about a new critical thinking on the ease of doing business in the market place.