India has never been a big market for home automation products such as vacuum cleaners and dishwashers thanks to the easy availability of cheap domestic labour. But the Covid-19 pandemic is changing that.
As millions of Indians juggle office work from home and household chores without dependence on domestic helpers—to avoid exposure to coronavirus—dishwasher sales in the country have picked up like never before.
“We have witnessed significant growth in the demand for dishwashers across cities to the tune of 230% over the pre-lockdown period (before March 25) as an increasing number of consumers opt for home automation products to save on time,” a spokesperson of Walmart-owned Flipkart told Quartz. “The 12 place dishwashers have been the most popular in the category.”
Amazon India has seen a five-fold increase in search queries for dishwashers over the last few months, and customers in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi, and Mumbai are making most of the purchases in the category, said Suchit Subhas, director of large appliances and furniture at the company.
The demand is so high that companies are struggling to cater to customers in some cities. “Customers are enquiring about the product but we don’t have it with us because there wasn’t any demand earlier,” said Ashok Mitthal, an electronics store owner in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut. “We are receiving many bookings but we don’t know whether we will be able to deliver or not.”
India has close to 20 million domestic workers, mostly women, who cook, clean, and do laundry by hand. The average salaries of these workers are under Rs3,000 ($45) a month.
But when the Narendra Modi government announced a nationwide lockdown in March, domestic workers were not allowed to work in most parts of the country. Now, even as the lockdowns have mostly lifted, many Indians are being cautious and not calling their help back.
Dishwashers are the new necessity
The demand has increased so much that even dishwasher manufacturers are surprised.
“It has come as a pleasant surprise, consumers are looking for effort minimisation, storage, and hygiene in the new normal. There is clearly a trend of substituting domestic help with gadgets,” Kamal Nandi, business head of Godrej Appliances told Business Today.
Godrej Appliances had estimated a 40% degrowth in dishwasher sales during April-June due to the overall economic slump, but the segment de-grew only around 15%.
Another major brand, LG Electronics has witnessed 400-500% growth in sales after the lockdown was implemented.
Still, the dishwasher industry is pretty small in India, estimated at under Rs200 crore ($30 million), minuscule compared to air conditioners (Rs20,000 crore), refrigerators (Rs21,000 crore), or washing machines (Rs8,000 crore).
But brands are going all out to woo more buyers. Several popular electronics brands are planning new launches to cash in on the growth.
“Godrej has lined up the launch of new products during the upcoming festive season whereas other brands like Samsung, Onida, Midea, Toshiba, and Panasonic are planning to do the same in the next few months,” Subhas of Amazon India told Quartz. “Products such as Bosch (12 place settings) and Voltas Beko (8 place tabletop) are seeing a considerable uptake among customers.”