Home appliance cos seek place on essential items’ list

Some companies argue that the culture of staying, working and learning at home will persist for a while, altering lifestyle habits of consumers.

The number of companies wanting to be classified as essential products’ firms is growing by the day.

After manufacturers of smartphones, laptops and desktops petitioned state governments to be tagged as essential category, home appliance makers feel they should not be left out.

“Products such as refrigerators, washing machines and television sets are there in almost every urban household today.

“Unlike staples, which are basic needs, these products are comfort needs. That point is taken.

“However, home appliances are needed for everyday existence and are essential products in that sense,” said Kamal Nandi, business head and executive vice-president, Godrej Appliances.

Makers of durable products from smartphones to laptops, desktops, TV sets and refrigerators argue that in a lockdown situation, when offline stores are shut, allowing their delivery home via online channels will help in business continuity.

Currently, much of this is being prevented by states such as Maharashtra, where food, grocery and medical supplies are only permitted to be delivered at home.

“It is not about pitting one channel against the other,” said Manish Sharma, president and chief executive officer (CEO), Panasonic India and SA.

“In the last one year, many offline retailers have built their online and home delivery capabilities, given the digital adoption by people.

“If their stores are shut due to lockdown curbs, these retailers should be permitted to deliver products to people’s homes.

“E-commerce players have also made a similar point of expanding coverage. The point is to allow channels, both online and offline, to safely deliver products to people,” he said.

Some companies argue that the culture of staying, working and learning at home will persist for a while, altering lifestyle habits of consumers.

The need for products that can assist them to live comfortably at home will grow, pushing up their requirement, according to the firms.

At the same time, after-sales service also acquires importance.

In a lockdown, TV, laptop or AC servicemen are not permitted to enter people’s homes, making it difficult for consumers to operate smoothly at home, said firms.

“We’ve been asking for servicemen to operate in a lockdown situation, since people have nowhere to go as stores are shut.

“This is a health crisis and all attention should be on the challenges emerging from it.

“But what do you do when your AC stops working? You do require technicians to service it.

“Companies are prepared to take the necessary precautions and service the requirement safely,” said Kanwal Jeet Jawa, managing director (MD) and CEO, Daikin India.

Lockdown curbs across the country have hurt durable companies in April, after gathering momentum between January and March.

While the industry grew around 10-15 per cent month-on-month in the March quarter, there has been a sharp decline in April.

This is because non-essential stores were shut and movement of people was restricted to curtail the spread of Covid.

Curbs could continue into May as India struggles to contain the second wave of the virus, which has exploded in the last one month.

Photograph: PTI Photo

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