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issue: August 2009 APPLIANCE Magazine

International Report: India
Designed for India


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Adite Banerjie

 As marketing becomes more global, products are becoming more local.

Samsung Solar Guru.

This concept is perhaps even more relevantin recessionary times as consumers tend to lower spending on consumer products.

While most multinational companies operating in India have a large portfolio of appliances to offer consumers, many new product features are being introduced to cater to the specific situations of Indian usage and consumer behavior patterns.

A combination of environmental needs, culture-specific habits, and infrastructure conditions come into play as multinationals go all out to offer features that enhance the value proposition for consumers. Several recent innovative product features are directly targeted to the Indian consumer.

Cellular Phones

South Korean multinational Samsung has launched what it claims is the world’s first solar-powered cellular phone, Solar Guru, in the Indian market. The new handset enables users to charge the battery as long as the sun is shining. The Solar Guru was developed for Indian customers who reside in areas where electric supply is erratic. Other features include FM radio and a powerful torch light. The product also comes with a mobile prayer feature—a specialized feature allowing users to select the prayer of their choice, according to their religion, along with appropriate wallpapers.

Refrigerators

The entry-level segment of direct-cool refrigerators, which have a capacity of less than 200 liters, is usually purchased by consumers who reside in small homes with even smaller kitchens. Storing vegetables that do not need refrigeration is always a constraint in such homes. So when Whirlpool launched its Genius direct-cool refrigerator in 2005, catering to this segment of the market, it came with a nonrefrigerated “utility drawer” at the bottom of the refrigerator designed for storing onions and potatoes.

Another innovation aimed specifically at Indian consumers sought to eliminate the thermostat from Whirlpool’s Mastermind and Professional refrigerators in the frost-free and high-capacity range. Customer feedback data revealed that users often forget to set the thermostat to high cooling as ambient temperatures rise. Consequently, service centers become flooded with complaints of low cooling. This insight gave birth to a range of refrigerators that adjusts the cooling automatically without human intervention.

Power outages are a common occurrence in India. It’s a common enough problem to have a kitchen plunged into darkness just when preparing the evening meal. This consumer insight led Whirlpool to develop an innovative feature called E-light in its Fusion range of direct cool refrigerators (230–260-liter capacity). The light on the refrigerator switches on automatically during power outages, providing a source of light in the kitchen space.

The Fusion is also India’s only Direct Cool refrigerator to have electronic controls, a feature usually associated with frost-free models. This offers the modernity of a frost-free refrigerator while staying with a technology that is in many ways better suited for some Indian consumers. For instance: vegetarian consumers often do not require the large freezer space that frost-free refrigerators offer. Whirlpool says the cooling retention of the Fusion models during power outages is significantly better than that of frost-free models.

Microwave Ovens

Given that Indian cuisine is significantly different from Western cuisine, the microwave oven, too, offers tremendous scope for customization. Whirlpool introduced a feature called the Microtawa in its selction of Magicook microwave ovens. A “tawa” or a griddle is often mandatory for cooking Indian breads such as the “paratha” or the “dosa.” Whirlpool’s Magicook comes with a separate attachment, the Microtawa, which is a plate that heats up to 210°C within two minutes, enabling users to easily make parathas and dosas.

Water Purifiers

In 2007, Philips India launched an ‘intelligent’ water purifier that works using ultraviolet light technology. The product was originally made for India but is now being sold in other global markets, including Eastern Europe, Thailand, Turkey, and Brazil. Apart from its water purification features, the product has a rechargeable battery that ensures a supply of pure water. It is able to dispense 20 liters of safe drinking water even during a power outage. Another feature that is unique to the product is its low electricity consumption: it consumes just about 30 W of electricity. The UV lamp switches off when the purifier has not been used for more than 10 minutes, thus enabling it to be more energy-efficient.

 

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