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Consumer durable majors look at green option

By Tejal A Deshpande in New Delhi
August 07, 2007 01:47 IST
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Think of a television that runs on liquefied petroleum gas or a light that runs on solar power.

Even as India is mulling legislation to make energy-efficient air conditioners and refrigerators, consumer durable manufacturers are already thinking beyond that.

In a bid to woo the rural populace, Dutch electronics giant Philips is planning to launch products such as smokeless chullah (wood stove) and rechargeable lanterns.

For its retail chain Reliance Digital, Reliance Industries is reportedly in talks with companies like TCL to procure durables running on LPG under its private labels.

Both TCL and Reliance refused to comment on the plan.

Meanwhile, home appliances company Electrolux has for the first time in India announced its design lab contest directed towards developing products that will control global warming.

The company has notified 16 Indian colleges for the project. Madhav Nene, head-marketing, Electrolux, said, "This is the right opportunity to introduce the contest in India as there is a need to go beyond the water and energy efficient products. Though the consumption of washing machines is increasing, the top 25 cities in the country still face water supply issues."

Though the demand for home appliances and electronics goods is rising in India, inadequate basic infrastructure such as power and water are hampering the growth story, especially in rural pockets.

Sudhanshu Bhandari, assistant marketing manager, TCL Holdings India, said, "The companies will have to develop products using minimal energy or bio-fuels if they want to expand in the rural markets. Secondly, even in urban centres, the rising power costs are making it uneconomical for the consumers to operate appliances for a longer time."

Then alternate energy products provide differentiation in a cluttered market, where the only competitive edge is the low price.

An industry expert said that prices of 21-inch colour televisions, which are currently available at Rs 7,500 are expected to drop to Rs 4,000 by 2010.

The industry can ill afford to operate at such low prices and would have to look for innovative products.

According to Rangan Banerjee, head-energy systems, engineering department, IIT Bombay, "Almost 50 per cent of the Indian households do not have access to electricity and neither the capacity to pay high power bills. Some regions face erratic power supply and hence the applications operate on back-up supply. So, the future systems need to definitely look at alternative resources to cover these markets."

Industry experts forecast that by 2009-10 the Indian consumer will buy eco-friendly colour televisions, washing machines and computers.

The durable firms are eyeing the replacement market as consumers would be willing to buy eco-friendly products and the category would gain volume by 2015, when a larger chunk of the pie would comprise on products running on alternative energy.

"Though companies have started developing applications, many of them are not cost-effective. The costs are likely to come down. However, tremendous research needs to be conducted in this aspect as growth rates are significant and though such applications have evolved globally, they are nowhere near their potential," said Banerjee.

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Tejal A Deshpande in New Delhi

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