Abbi Kanthasamy started his furniture company Domus Vita Design, which specialises in not only sofa beds but also recliners and lift chairs. The savvy businessman tells us more about his special collaboration with Tempur, and his plans for the future.
Options: Tell us about your work with bedding company Tempur. How did this come about?
Abbi Kanthasamy: Fresh out of university, I started working for a company called Lifestyle Solutions Inc in 1998. It was based in San Jose, California. The company was primarily into convertible/multipurpose furniture. I was the senior vice-president of manufacturing and product development there when I left in 2014. After leaving, I started my own furniture company (Domus Vita Design, which specialises in sofa beds, recliners and lift chairs). Domus obtained the licence to manufacture products under the Sealy brand. We manufacture and distribute Sealy products mainly in North America to customers such as Costco Wholesale, Sam’s Club, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Slumberland and Living Spaces.
The folks at Tempur liked what we had done with Sealy and gave me an opportunity to make prototypes using their Tempur material. They loved the prototypes and the heads at Tempur gave us the licence to manufacture and supply. I set up a new company, as this is a completely different product and business model from Domus Vita Design’s Sealy business and it also needed to be funded independently. The company started shipping products last November and we have shipped to 21 countries since.
What is special about the line your company has created with Tempur?
All products use Tempur material and have the unmistakable ‘Tempur’ feel. The differentiating factor between our line and other seating brands is our foam material, made at Tempur’s facility in Denmark. All design work, coordination, billing and so on are done in Malaysia and our products are manufactured in Italy. Thus far, we are shipping five different products: a recliner with an adjustable headrest, a modern one-seater and three-seater sofa bed, and a roll-out sofa bed that has an amazing Tempur mattress. We perhaps have created the world’s most comfortable sofa bed.
Has the pandemic helped or hampered your business?
It has definitely slowed down our product rollout. We officially showed the products to the entire international team at a corporate event last September in Athens. Representatives from all countries were there. We are slightly behind schedule, but that was expected after complete shutdowns in Italy. The factories are still catching up. Sales are strong; however, the pandemic has increased lead times.
What are your goals for the year ahead?
We are already designing the second-generation Tempur products. We shall be adding a modular seating system, home theatre seating, commercial theatre seating and more fun recliners. Funding our growth is definitely one of my future goals. We have been speaking to a Malaysian company that has invested in modular homebuilding and owns reusable rubber technology, and which most likely shall join us.
Tell us about your own living space.
My general decor and style is modern and minimalistic. Our home has simple straight lines with the kitchen taking on a bar/cocktail vibe. Our walls are filled with my photographs and my daughter Misa’s paintings. My wife, daughter and two dogs share our small home. We will have a new addition to the family in June and that’s going to change the space and mood in the house. We won’t have a guest room any more, but I do have a couple of sofa beds we can use when we have guests.
How has the pandemic changed the way you live and work?
I used to be on a flight at least once a week before the pandemic. Destinations were usually China, Vietnam, the US, the UK and Italy. I’ve not left Malaysia in a year. Like most companies, we have learnt to get our work done remotely. Our Tempur business, although based in Malaysia, has staff internationally. We have people in the UK, Italy, Canada and the US. They have always connected across time zones and are used to working remotely. Not being able to visit our vendor partners in Italy has been challenging; however, we are managing thus far.
What have you been listening to or reading to stay inspired?
I just read When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole. It’s an amazing thriller. Music: I pretty much listen to anything but country. Jazz and reggae are perhaps my favourites. Reggae always makes you feel like you are on holiday.
What apps have helped you adapt to the new normal?
For work, predominantly Zoom and Microsoft Teams. For survival, GrabFood.
Where are you looking forward to travelling to once the borders open again?
Canada, to visit my parents. My favourite chef on the planet is my mum. You might have tried some of her recipes at one of my restaurants, A Li Yaa, in Damansara Heights.
This article first appeared on Feb 22, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.