Ingvar Kamprad, who died this week aged 91, was a tortured soul but a retail genius. As the founder of Ikea he sold cheap but stylish furniture to millions of what are now called ‘hard-working families’: those who want to improve their homes and make better nests for their children on limited budgets. Though his fortune does not seem to have made him happy, his stores have made a benignly egalitarian value-for-money contribution to modern civilisation and it’s interesting to list other companies that have done likewise. Here are a few for starters.
Ford, Fiat and Volkswagen for ‘people’s cars’ more reliable than anything ever built by 20th-century British marques. Boeing for the 747 ‘Jumbo’ that made long-distance travel accessible to everyone, and Ryanair for cartel-busting low-cost short-haul. Nokia and Samsung for mass–market mobile phones — more so than Apple, a design pioneer but an elite brand. Intel for the microprocessors behind personal computing, Google for information and Amazon for shopping, but only if we forgive its impact on the rest of the book trade. As for banks, none have ever been described as benign or egalitarian — but let’s include the building society movement before it demutualised and Visa for globalising the credit card industry. Then there’s Bayer for aspirin, Boots for ibuprofen and (some might say) Pfizer for Viagra. More suggestions welcome, to firstname.lastname@example.org.