A New Whiff of Coolness!

Air Conditioning

Energy Efficiency

Air Conditioning has gone beyond the basics in India as innovations hold the key to its success!

Merely keeping the room cool is now a bygone, as air conditioner (AC) manufacturers have taken the onus upon themselves of transforming this erstwhile luxurious appliance with utmost zeal! The idea is to maintain 'innovative coolness' by incorporating various new features, with energy efficiency being the prime.

In fact, the 'green sentiment' has reached unprecedented levels among air-conditioning solution providers. The HVAC (Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning) Industry, for instance, is basing its growth on energy efficiency. Technologies which safeguard the ozone through controlling emissions of greenhouse gases are being incorporated in the appliances. Moreover, there's a relentless endeavour to promote energy savings and maintain indoor comfort, which is beneficial both to the occupants of a building and the environment. A vivid example of this is the Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) Integrated HVAC Systems, which are one of the latest and most revolutionary technologies used for large sized buildings. The VRV system offers large outdoor capacities, greater energy savings, easier installation, longer actual and total piping making it one of the pertinent cooling solutions available.

Deluxe Room Double Master Bed

And when we talk of room air-conditioners, perhaps the most visible and relevant change is the appearance of a 'star studded' label which denotes the level of energy saving the AC provides. Other changes are remote controlled operation, the automated timer which can be preset to control the functioning, motion sensors which detect human presence and track their movements; and air purifiers that discharge odourless and bacteria free air. In fact, some ACs also release repellant mosquito repellant air, a highly beneficial feature in tropical climates such as India.

Well, be they room air-conditioners or HVAC systems, all the additions stem from the fact that ACs are now a necessity, and as more people espouse them, backed by rising disposable incomes, the market for these appliances has become quite competitive. And given the surge of real estate, the demand will also continue to shoot upwards. In order to ensure volumes, AC manufacturers are offering highly technologically equipped products at competitive prices.

A Novel Approach

Suresh Kumar Bandi
Panasonic, the global electronic giant, has launched a new line up of ECONAVI ACs. The ECONAVI technology, along with revolutionary 'Inverter Technology', helps the air conditioning unit reach the desired temperature faster and also operate more efficiently than other ACs. Informs Mr. Suresh Kumar Bandi, Divisional Deputy Managing Director, Home Appliances Business, Panasonic India, "Econavi AC along with Inverter Technology provides customer energy savings upto 65%. Also, the ACs are equipped with enhanced nanoe-G air purification system which acts on finer particles upto level PM 2.5, to give a healthy life to consumers. The first-of-its-kind India specific innovation Cube AC, is moderately priced with all comforts and energy efficiency of split units, to suit the requirement of Indian households."

According to him, the opinion of people towards the ACs has witnessed a tremendous shift over the years from a luxury product to becoming a necessity in hot humid weather conditions of India. While easy finance options have made ACs more affordable, companies are also going that extra mile to make air-conditioners a "must-have" appliance in more and more middle class Indian homes. Despite this, the AC segment is highly under penetrated. However, changing environmental dynamics, urbanization and rising income levels, present this segment with a high growth potential. Increasing demand by the housing sector owing to reduction in prices has prompted the manufacturers to aim for a higher market share in the highly potential market of air conditioners in India. The demand from the commercial segment is catching up fast with the increasing number of commercial offices, stores and business apartments being set up, as compared to the demand from the residential segment."

Beat Marugg and Markus Bassler

He continues, "Increasing disposable income, rising weather temperature, falling prices of ACs coupled with the latest technological innovations increasing the cooling efficiency and the increasing commercialization of the economy are the factors which are driving air conditioners market in India. Owing to these factors, market is poised for greater growth over next five years and is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 13.6% for the next five years."

Kanwaljeet Jawa

Daikin, another behemoth in this segment, has also initiated a gamut of innovations. Mr. Kanwaljeet Jawa, Managing Director – Daikin India, states, For the Indian HVAC market, Daikin offers a range of energy efficient products, which include the HFC32 refrigerant, which being environment-friendly, is employed in every product that Daikin India produces. Replacing R410A, the HFC32 refrigerant is a new technology for which we have redesigned our air-conditioning line from the scratch. This way the newer product line is tuned up to accept the new HFC32 refrigerant, thus becoming energy-efficient and environment-friendly in its truest sense."

Indian HVAC Market
Being an industry leader in VRV technologies, Daikin India offers varied features such as complete flexibility wherein the VRV system enables independent control of air-conditioning on different floors and zones.

While explaining the nitty-gritty of the Room Precise Temperature Control integrated HVAC Solutions, Mr. Jawa says, "This revolutionary electronic expansion valve continuously adjusts the refrigerant volume in response to load variations in indoor units, thus maintaining comfortable room temperature at a virtually constant level without temperature variations typical of conventional on/off control systems. Other benefits include low running costs based on individual control, non-requirement of standby equipment, inverter driven condenser fan motor, long piping length and the proprietary Daikin Airconditioning Control Management System which offers control, monitoring, and management functions in a user-friendly screen display."

Saurabh Singh Rathore

Meanwhile, Climaveneta Climate technologies (P) Ltd, a JV between Climaveneta S.p.A and TFA Climate Technologies (P) Ltd, has brought to Indian heating and air conditioning industry a plethora of innovations and requirement oriented products. Mr. Saurabh Singh Rathore, AVP – Business Development, unveils, "Climaveneta has always been a pioneer in technical advancements. We have a large range of products catering to specific market requirements. Our range of products cover magnetic levitation chillers, inverter driven chillers, multifunction machines capable of generating chilled as well as hot water simultaneously, heat pump machines, and chillers with heat recovery."

He expresses, "The situation of central air conditioning industry over the past 1 year has not been very encouraging as the economy is going through a rough patch and the growth is standstill. However the sentiments have started improving over the past few months and the situation is expected to improve further in the coming months. The Indian central air conditioning market though is welcoming more players and hence has become more competitive.

Making Innovation Affordable

Magnetic Levitation Chillers
Those who have a 'touch-and-feel' experience of economic revolution in the country wouldn't deny that apart from the emergence of other goodies, ACs too have become more visible in buildings. The salaried class and the Middle Income Group, for whom these appliances are nothing less than a dream, are now contributing majorly to the growth of this industry. Nevertheless, these income groups are inherently price-sensitive, while the High End Customers are keen on quality and various attributes. Since AC manufacturers spend a lot on R&D, your ACs ought to be highly priced, whereas reducing quality to make the prices competitive is not feasible. In this scenario, how do the companies reconcile the price-quality conflict to make the air-conditioners affordable by all?

Mr. Bandi offers a logical explanation, "Today, while there is a significant increase in the purchasing power, the consumers are looking for 'value options' which are increasingly becoming 'price plus', that is, an option which balances the variables of price, quality, convenience, consistency, innovation, and shopping experience. At Panasonic, we intend to introduce more products that can enhance and improve quality of life and address specific requirements of our Indian customers. In line with the same, Panasonic has introduced ACs with added features which will benefit the consumers in long-term."

Shedding light on Climaveneta's strategy, Mr. Rathore says, "Capital cost has always been important, but of late, Indian users have started understanding the importance of running cost of the equipment and today more customers are choosing their equipment based on their overall life cycle cost rather than capex. The green building revolution in india has further given boost to high end efficiency machines. To offer further comfort to our Indian customers, we have started an assembly unit in india where we are able to supply high quality EUROVENT certified machines at comparatively lower cost."

While competition is rampant, players have devised meticulous growth routes to maintain their position in the market. Apart from augmenting the product portfolio, AC manufacturers are adhering to structured after-sales ethos to establish a long-lasting connectivity with the buyers. Moreover, there has been a concerted focus on the Tier I & II cities as well, since here too, the disposable incomes are rising, and people's attitude towards money has changed. To a certain extent, it's true that ACs aren't considered luxurious items even in smaller cities anymore.

Mr. Rathore elucidates, "Our machines are EUROVENT certified. This third party certification validates the performance and hence the buyer's confidence. Moreover, our after-sales services have always been excellent and we take pride in the fact that we have the best team of trained engineers in our organisation. We have been regularly getting repeat orders from our customers and this trend is helping us maintain our sales volumes. We are a technology driven organisation and we stay ahead of our competitors based on technical advantages we are able to offer. The Indian market too has evolved over the years and the buyer has matured enough to select a machine on technical merits and built quality."

HVAC Solution
Panasonic too ensures a firm customer-connect by serving them beyond their expectations through flawless after-sales service and customer-care centers. "In the tradition of our company, we continue to excel in 'value for money' products here in the industry," avers Mr. Bandi. "Looking at the market conditions in India," he adds, "we have devised a mid-term strategy. The company aims to target both Tier 1 and Tier 2 & 3 markets and our marketing and communication strategies are also aligned with this. The core focus for Panasonic India has been to create top of the mind recall value among consumers and there has been a plethora of initiatives that have received an amazing response and helped the brand to gain visibility as well as connect with the consumers. An integral part of the strategy is to introduce Panasonic products in India that match the needs and aspirations of Indian households and businesses. To achieve 'Indianisation' of products, we had earlier established an R&D subsidiary in India, which worked in line with Panasonic's plans to make India a hub for the development of products that will contribute to the future and help realize green innovation for a sustainable society."

For Daikin, the upcoming year is a very critical one as it aims to be amongst the top three HVAC solution providers in the country by 2015. "We also seek to increase our channel partner strength from the current thousand plus partners to two thousand channels across the country. Plans are also afoot to increase the reach of Daikin Solution Plazas wherein Daikin India endeavors to develop around hundred Daikin Solution Plazas in the upcoming financial year."

Well, the Indian AC market is poised at a defining threshold! Highly conscious and necessity oriented consumers, influx of innovative technologies, and the growth of real estate are the right ingredients for the growth recipe.