08 Jul 2017
8 min read
Over the last 20 years, the electronic home appliance sector has seen
robust year-on-year growth. Making up a large volume of that growth in sales are appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, fans and coolers--appliances designed to help consumers beat the summer heat. This lucrative segment, which was unaffected even by the decade-long load shedding in the country, sees an annual increment of 15-20 per cent every year.
Over the years, appliance sellers have also seen a discernible shift in buyer behaviour. "A few years ago, most home appliance buyers were first-time buyers who chose appliances solely on the basis of their functionality. But as of late, we have noticed that buyers are increasingly looking to get an upgrade over the appliances they already own. They are seeking to own the latest models on offer. What most of these buyers look for are innovative features and energy efficiency," says Sunny Shrestha, manager-Corporate Sales & Marketing-of Nepa Hima Trade Link, the authorised distributor of Whirlpool.
Buying preferences and patterns
Buyers are also looking beyond just the utilitarian aspects of appliances. "Aesthetics, for example, play a huge role when a consumer wants to purchase, say, a refrigerator-they are finicky about choosing a product that complements and even enhances their kitchen's interiors," says Shrestha.
"Similarly, customers also look for refrigerators that come with better-more efficient-technology. These demands have resulted in appliance manufacturers introducing sophisticated features such as "sixth-sense" technology, moisture-lock technology and so on. Today's customers are happy to spend a little extra if an appliance's features justify its price," he says.
Currently, the appliance market is dominated by brands such as CG, Kelvinator, Orient, Phillips, Himstar, Whirlpool, LG, Samsung and Videocon, among others. Demand for appliances has been so keen that, besides the international brands, quite a few Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) brands have today made a foray into the market. The demand for electronic home appliances is so great that sellers need to restock their inventory rapidly during the summer season.
Refrigerators today come in a variety of sizes and boast many features. If you were to categorise fridges on the basis of their cooling capacities, you'd be looking at two variants-direct-cool refrigerators and no-frost refrigerators. Refrigerators with no-frost systems can preserve food without generating any frost (frost can wreck the textures of your stored food). No-frost refrigerators have multiple air vents to control the humidity and prevent frost from developing on the walls or on the food. The direct-cool model isn't as efficient at keeping cold foods fresh as the no-frost version. Direct-cool refrigerators make use of natural convection to freeze food. This, however, means that a separate defroster is required to get rid of the built-up ice.
You can also categorise refrigerators on the basis of door types: refrigerators come in single-door, double-door, multiple-door and side-by-side variants. The double-door refrigerator is more efficient than a single-door refrigerator when it comes to keeping down the temperature inside the unit. This is because in a single-door refrigerator, when you turn off the freezer or the fridge, the coolness inside the entire refrigerator gets dissipated. With a double-door refrigerator, however, because the fridge and the freezer are two clearly divided sections, you can choose which side to turn off and on. Side-by-side fridges (which look like steel closets) are the most expensive of the lot. These are much more convenient to access and organise thanks to their large sections and segmented compartments.
There are essentially four types of air conditioners available in the market: window, package, central and split air conditioners. Window air conditioners are installed in open windows, from where the air blown into the evaporator subsequently cools the air that is blown into the rooms. The heat drawn from inside the room is dissipated outside as a second fan blows the air outside over the condenser. A package air conditioner is a bigger version of the window air conditioner, with a higher cooling/heating capacity. Central air conditioners are large units that circulate cool air by first pulling in warm air inside a building-through a duct that has a motorised suction fan. An exterior compressor coil in the air conditioner pumps a refrigerant into the interior evaporator coil, which absorbs the heat in the air. The cooled air is then pushed through connecting ducts to vents in different rooms.
The most common AC in the market is the split system. It includes a compressor that is controlled by an internal thermostat. As the thermostat detects warm air, it activates the outdoor compressor, which circulates a refrigerant gas. In the condenser, the heat is removed from the gas through the conversion of the gas into a liquid. The liquid is then sent to an evaporator system, from where cool air is blown into the room.
Air conditioners come in varying sizes and can cost anywhere from Rs 53,000 to Rs 212,000. Apart from being an expensive appliance, ACs also consume a lot more power than any other cooling appliances. "An AC is a luxury item, whereas a fan/cooler is a basic commodity that people can afford," says Bineet Kumar Sharda, managing director of Premier Overseas, the official distributor of Orient Fans in Nepal. "ACs and fans belong to completely different segments. Our customer base is mostly made up of people from the Tarai, where fans are a basic necessity. But fans and coolers now represent a growing market-perhaps because of the increased purchasing power of Tarai residents."
A cooler is a device that cools the air in a room by evaporating water. The system differs vastly from a typical air-conditioning system, which uses vapour-compression or absorption refrigeration cycles.
In a cooler, filter pads are located at the back or sides (or both) of the unit and air is sucked into the machine through the pads. As the air moves across the wet pads, the water gets evaporated, removing the heat from the air. And the air that exits the machine is in a cooler state than when it entered the machine. Air coolers use up to ten times less energy than air conditioners. The price for coolers ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000.
Around ten years ago, customers focused mostly on a fan's power output before making their purchase, but now they are increasingly becoming more conscious about how the fans complement their home decor too. People are moving on from basic fans to more advanced ones that are noiseless, have anti-dust features and are more energy-efficient.
Fans usually get noisy when their blades are off balance. They can also make noise owing to loose screws, if they've been incorrectly mounted, etc. The motor is also a major determinant of the amount of noise a fan makes. Larger, good quality motors are smoother and quieter than their smaller, lower quality counterparts. The material with which the blades of the fans are made, too, determine noise levels. Blades made of thick, sturdy materials produce less noise. Thin blades tend to vibrate more and thus create more noise. The number of blades on a fan also determines the amount of noise that the unit generates. The more the number of blades, the lower the noise level.
Years ago, keeping fans clean was difficult-for they easily gathered dirt and grime. Fans today come in variants that attract much less dirt. That's because their blades are painted in hydrophobic (water-repellent) and oleophobic (oil-repellent) coats-which decreases the accumulation of dirt and grime on the fan.
And today, there are plenty of options available for consumers with varying aesthetic preferences. Fans now come in sleek designs informed by minimalistic design principles as well as more classic designs that make use of materials such as wood to give them a more retro feel. You can even buy fans that have been printed with superhero and cartoon motifs-to make for perfect fits for a kid's room.
Better informed customers
"The buying habits of people have changed drastically over the years. People have become more aware of what they are buying," says Saphal Subedi, marketing and communication executive of Him Electronics. "Earlier, they would go to stores without any prior knowledge about the products they were going to purchase. Now, they pick a model before they even head to stores by looking it up online."
"That said, people aren't exactly brand conscious when it comes to electronic appliances, especially outside of Kathmandu. They focus on an appliance's features and their own budget more than on brand value," he adds. "Our local brand, Himstar, has better sales outside the Valley. In fact, the market is much bigger for appliances outside of the capital."
But you can't really compare Kathmandu's market with the rest of Nepal's. "The Kathmandu market is much more developed in comparison to the rest of Nepal and offers premium products. That said, areas outside of the capital have emerging markets where demand for consumer appliances will continue to grow," says Sanjay Rajbhandary, marketing manager of CG Group.
Sellers like him know that there is a whole spectrum of buyers in Nepal today, with varying needs. "Our aim has always been to meet the aspiration of people at different value points," says Rajbhandary. "But regardless of where they lie on the spectrum, people today demand quality and efficiency." And with companies rolling out ever-new products every summer, the choices on offer for consumers continues to grow in this ever-growing sector.