Surveys show that most consumers do a quick cosmetic appraisal of the product before they swoop down on the technology. Consumer durable majors like Samsung, LG, Sony and Whirlpool are therefore busy innovating on product design to entice the consumer.
Their logic - if Microsoft can beautify its Xbox video game console with colourful faceplates and Apple Computer can build fancy accessories for its iPod, why should consumer durables be left behind in the design innovation race?
"Beautiful is saleable," quips Anup Jain, general manager, brand marketing, Whirlpool India, adding: "While product innovation is a costly affair, it should be rightly credited for the rapid growth of this market."
Whirlpool India restyles its product line every year and has even set up a design centre that includes product designers from National Institute of Fashion Technology and even a colour consultant.
"Look at the refrigerators and washing machines. They are no longer made in shades of whites and blues. There is an entire new colour range which includes metallic colours that fit well in a modern middle class household," points out Jain.
Multinationals like LG agree that creativity has become a regular affair. Says Girish V Rao, vice-president, sales and marketing, LG India, "Consumers demand products that are not only functional but also have a futuristic design and sleek looks to match their home interiors. In such a scenario, it has become imperative for companies to take product design seriously."
This year, LG has revamped its frost-free refrigerators, which now boast of stylish diamond cuts, sleekly designed handles, dual tone finish and linear colours.
With the singular goal of tapping global design trends, Samsung runs six design centres - in London, Rome, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai and Seoul.
The company's research and development unit in India sends regular inputs to the global design and R&D centres.
A few Samsung products are specifically designed keeping the taste of the Indian audiences in mind. The company plans an innovative range of CTVs that will be introduced in India this season. Sony has also earmarked millions for its design centre in Tokyo.
Philips too has taken to re-designing its product line every year, instead of a three-year product cycle.
Says Ashok Narharpanwalkar, director (design), Philips India, "Consistent upgradation of products, including technology, into the market has driven growth in terms of both cutting-edge and budget sales."
Most companies chip in almost 10-15 per cent of total sales (globally) towards design research and development.
Says Ken Nakazawa, division head (IT), Sony India: "A strong design team and ability to offer products with unique and trendy styles alone can give a company an edge over competition, which invariably also determines the company's performance in a category."
Rao reckons that the market has not yet reached a stage where looks would be a deciding factor for the consumer; "however, the role that it plays in luring the customer cannot be denied."