EKoCool is a great idea, but the price tag may prove to be a dampener Sakhidevi smiles radiantly as she serves chilled Coke at her shop.
That's a real big deal for this store-owner in a small village off Agra which goes without power for several days at a stretch.
"My daily earnings have gone up three-fold," Sakhidevi says.
The credit for this goes to Coca Cola India's innovation -- 'eKOCool' - a solar power-operated cooler that has a capacity to store two crates (48 no) of 300 ml Coca-Cola glass bottles.
Coke officials say eKoCool is a part of the company's bid to increase sales in rural India.
Coca-Cola is currently piloting eKOCool in upcountry Agra with 20 units, with plans to test-market 100 units across the country by the end of this year.
The company is also considering selling Kinley (its mineral water brand) in tourist places like Agra through these solar coolers.
Sunil Gulati, GM-technical, Coca Cola India, says, "eKOCool will also help in maintaining the quality of edible products in rural areas. We have already received a bulk demand of 40 units from African countries too."
But the jury is still out on the sustainability of this experiment.
To begin with, the company is supplying eKoCool to a few shopkeepers free of cost. But at a later stage, the coolers will be sold for Rs 45,000.
That' s a steep price and nobody is sure whether rural retailers will find it cost effective.
For example, Coke came out with coolers called 'Eutectic" in 2007 for markets which get 8-10 hours of power every day. Four years later, just about 17,000 such coolers have found takers because of the cost of the products.
Coke is aware of the problem. Asim Parekh, VP-technical, Coca Cola India, says the cost factor is the only challenge in promoting such energy-efficient products. Since eKOCool is still in a nascent stage, the company along with its bottlers is providing it free to retailers.
But he is sure of a demand spike if the government decides to subsidise such energy-efficient products.
Anand Ramanathan of KPMG says while the concept of chilled beverages in power-starved