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The cooler option
Jai Arjun Singh | March 27, 2004
Hunting for an air cooler as the summer approached was always a dreaded task. In Delhi you headed off to crowded, bustling 'approach at your peril' bazaars like Lajpat Rai market or Daryaganj.
There you had to haggle over the motor, the fans, the amount of straw and, of course, the unwieldy body that came with it.
Now a handful of branded players are attempting to capture a larger share of the market. The advantages of buying a brand are obvious: there are different models to choose from. And, you don't have to haggle about each individual part. But, there's still the question: is it worth paying the premium?
After all, buying a cooler is all about economy. In these days when the cost of electricity is rising and sending shocks through customers it's important to remember that a cooler uses only a fraction of the electricity an air-conditioner does. Also, air-conditioners need very powerful generators during power cuts.
But if you thought air coolers were unfashionable, think again. There's a variety of sleek models to choose from now. Achal Bakeri, chairman and managing director, Symphony, says that when he first started manufacturing air coolers in 1988, "the idea was to make coolers that looked as sleek as air-conditioners". Years down the line that USP has not changed, and other companies have also got into the business of making air coolers look good.
Many shopkeepers and dealers recommend Symphony coolers -- for the simple reason that the company specialises in air coolers, as compared to its competitors, which deal in a variety of products.
Today Symphony has eight models, the latest of which is the h!Cool, priced at Rs 4,990. The main feature of this portable, vertical-shaped cooler is that it provides air throw at body level.
"For most mid-sized coolers in the market before this, customers had to buy an additional trolley," says Bakeri. The h!Cool also has a humidity control system that makes it effective in coastal areas, as well as a mosquito net with a dust filter.
The h!Cool is suitable for rooms of up to 250 sq ft (or 25 sq m). But if you're looking for something that cools a much larger area -- up to 600 sq ft -- you should go in for the Sumo, with its multidirectional auto louvers that aid all-round cooling. This model is available for Rs 6,500.
As is the case with most home appliance products, the main advantage of these air coolers over the unbranded ones is the easier and more reliable availability of service.
Sunil Bhalla, director, SAR Silicon Systems, which does the marketing for Luminous, says greater variety is another factor. "Branded coolers generally have more models, for different room requirements," he says.
Luminous, better known for its inverters, launched a range of air coolers just last month. There are two models. The personal or mini cooler (priced at Rs 5,250) is smaller, more compact and suited to bedrooms and living rooms, while the desert cooler (Rs 6,890) is ideal for halls, larger rooms and offices.
Both models have rust-proof, high impact-resistant ABS bodies as well as the obligatory multi-speed air flow controls. However, the desert cooler also has a built-in ice box that helps keep temperatures low for a longer time.
Desert coolers are more popular in northern India, where the heat factor is high but humidity is relatively low. Personal coolers on the other hand are more suited to coastal areas like Mumbai or Pune.
Bajaj Electricals also has a range of desert and personal coolers; their DC 2000 Deluxe is priced at Rs 8,490 while the PC 2000 Deluxe comes for Rs 4,290.
R Ramakrishnan, president and COO, Bajaj Electricals, says a key feature of the company's coolers is the chill-trap technology, which uses honeycomb pads imported from Switzerland.
"The special resin in these pads allows greater surface area for water to seep through," explains Ramakrishnan. "This in turn means that the amount of water available for evaporation is higher." The result, he says, is 25 per cent to 40 per cent more cooling.
Another feature available in Bajaj's deluxe desert coolers is the timer control, which allows the user to set a time at which the cooler automatically shuts off.
"This helps avoid the inconvenience of having to get up in the middle of the night to switch the cooler off when it gets too cold," says Ramakrishnan.Incidentally, Bajaj plans to introduce a new feature soon: a rotating grill. While most coolers have grills that can be set to direct air upwards, downwards, left or right, the rotating grill will allow air to move in a turbo or circular manner, thus cooling the whole room more effectively. Coolers with this grill will be available by next month.