Blog

Thanda Matlab AC

Cool Home: Paresh Rana of Chembur, Mumbai fit his one bedroom with a 1 ton split air conditioner on
5th April, his wife’s birthday, replacing their window air conditioner. Kinjal their 12 year old spends most
of her time in the bedroom on her computer, her study table squeezed in the corner. Though the new
air conditioner is wife Saguna’s birthday gift, Kinjal is the “AC master”. She wields the remote and deftly
shows me the functions and sets it at 22 degrees. The intelligent remote has 4 buttons that glow in the
dark and make it easy to switch off the AC at night. He claims to set the alarm for 4 am so he can wake
up and switch off the AC.
The AC brand the Rana bought is not what the boss recommended. Neither did he bring it from their
“usual” electronics and appliance chain store. They bought an international Korean brand from the
modern electronics retail chain store nearby. Not only was it cheaper by Rs. 1000, they got a pre-service
call to assess the room size and AC required. This came with the promise of a free installation and a 0%
interest scheme to pay in 12 installments. Innovative financing, good quality service and reputed brands
help create a positive consumption spiral as it assures great value, a dependable brand and service like
never before.
Room air conditioners are currently growing at 20% per year in India and half of these are for
residences. Korean, Japanese, US and Indian brands sit side by side in appliance store walls, entice the
growing Indian middle class. The consumer is in the store, unabashed yet astute. They seek deals and
freebies, but do not compromise on the brand band that they are willing to consider. ‘I don’t go by store
attendant recommendation alone. It depends on what gets him a higher margin’, says Paresh.
Advertising, the rub-off of other categories, good design, state-of-the art features, an affordable price
range, enticing offers, easy interest free installments and the promise of power-saving with the “star
rating” is breaking down the barriers for air conditioner purchase.
‘I’ve been trying to convince my sister to buy an AC but she is very worried about their electricity bill’,
says Paresh. However Kinjal’s classmate told her mother about Kinjal’s new AC. ‘They came over to our
place to see and experience the cooling. Then they went to the same store and bought the same AC
model’ says Saguna with a hint of pride. They are relieved that there is no need to clean the window AC
unit. There are no more messy bathrooms to deal with. What’s more, the cooling is more efficient. Just
as frost-free refrigerators did away with the pain of defrosting, the split AC is soon becoming the norm.
AC ownership grows faster than economic growth. In 2003 62% Chinese homes owned an AC compared
to 1990 where less than 1% urban Chinese households owned ACs. Large housing complexes pre-fitted
with amenities brought about the boom and Chinese homes became larger, more private and neatly
appointed than the crowded structures of the 80s. This evidence suggests a similar explosion of air
conditioners in India. The consumer durable is rapidly shifting locus from a luxury to a convenience.
Time was when coolers were the norm in North India. Every home resounded with its noisy whirr, a faint
khus aroma and slightly sticky water mist that enveloped you. Sit too close and the blast was to chill, sit
far away and it was warm. ‘Joint pain is what it gives you. There is water shortage too, so we bought an
AC’ says Digvijay Singh of Jaipur, a first time AC owner.
Fast Forward Today: The word “comfort” is the common suffix to “air-conditioned”. The language code
for air conditioners is young with techie action words like ‘turbo cool’, ‘swing’, and ‘motion sensor’. The
star rating system of three, four and five stars cues the extent of eco-friendliness and the price
premium. The AC category code is transformation, revival and refreshment. It promises a mood shift
just like a soft drink does except at a thousand-fold premium.
Buzz from family and friends are the starting point. Reconnaissance trips to 4 stores, comparing
features, and prices with the brand band, helps the customer make a choice. A pre-service call made to
a prospect home helps gauge the optimum air conditioning for the room. A consulting service of sort, it
is early investment into a relationship before it is established and with the promise of customization.
The size of the room, ventilation available, aesthetics, and of course, ones budget decide the brand and
capacity. If the refrigerator is about biggest, the LCD is about big plus brand, the air conditioner is about
the affordable best cooling from a trusty brand. Trust is primarily hearsay and the rest is the features
that entice.
Large housing complexes come equipped with air-conditioning facility. There is a pressure to re-evaluate
the window air conditioner. The dissonance created is that it does not cool well as the split AC, it’s
noisier, and cleaning is difficult. Future housing complexes will have no jutting out window air
conditioners. No more stubborn pigeons with their incessant cooing disturbing Sunday siesta. Windows
that could be opened fully let in the breeze. Sliding windows just meant half the window for fresh air.
Box-type grills with an enclosed feel needs a powerful AC to compensate.
In the SEC A home, the air conditioner is fast acquiring mobile-like ubiquity. Personal and personalized
rules, even if there is only one bedroom. Every person comes fitted with their unique in-built
thermostat. Paresh and Kinjal are happiest at 19 degrees, Saguna is freezing. When they move to their
two-bedroom flat in the next 2 years, surely there will be an AC for each bedroom. When her mother
asks her to switch off the AC after an hour in the afternoon, Kinjal retorts, ‘If Papa works in the AC office
all day, why shouldn’t we be comfortable’? And she is matter-of-fact that Papa gets no sympathy for
working all day. Working in the AC, she believes, makes hard work easy, just as sweating it out makes
easy work hard.
Decision-Making: Saguna initiated the fridge and the washing machine purchase. The microwave is next
on her list. She claims to have scrimped on the AC purchase saving Rs. 5000 in the bargain so she can
justify buying a microwave in a few months time. Paresh took the lead on the conversations around
replacing their AC, just as he will initiate the move to buying an LCD TV when they move to their next
home. Men and women spaces are clearly distinct and where one takes the lead, the other will follow
but influence purchase. It began when Paresh’s boss invited people from his office to dinner. They
admired the new AC, impressed by its sleek look, cooling, and features, particularly motion sensor. ‘How
intelligent that the AC switches on when it detects movement in the room’! He points to the TV ad that
showcases the feature. A medical representative, Paresh knows how relaxing his centrally airconditioned
office is when he gets back after his beat. Why not the same comfort at home especially at
night? ‘On Sundays I switch on the AC again at 8 am and let him sleep till 11 am’ says Saguna.
Eject Button on the Remote: Working in an office with AC is the ploy used by parents to push children to
study. ‘If you study you will work in an AC office, else swelter under a vehicle’ says Daljit Singh a motor
mechanic to his son in a vocational training course. Manoj Mali the courier agent who has completed 5
years in his company is expects a promotion soon. ‘I will move from the outdoors to working out of my
AC office’ in a voice that belies hope. Hindi films of yesteryears showed the boss in heavy draped
windows and with the AC blasting away, while the staff and workers sweated it out. Democratization in
the work place has meant centralized air conditioning. Open offices and doing away with cabins meant
more people have gotten used to working in air conditioned comfort.
Two decades ago couples setting up home bought a TV, a fridge, and gradually a washing machine. The
TV entertained, the fridge promised freshness and the washing machine brought independence from
house-help and reduced elbow effort. The air conditioner does not do anything visibly but brings about
an invisible transformation in lifestyle. 15 years ago ACs were assembled, with thick copper pipes that
made the room look like the back of a fridge. Powerful compressor was the only functionality that
anyone spoke of. The gas leaked and the AC needed maintenance. Just like there is a panic attack with
the refrigerator door open, an open door with the AC switched on is a no-no. The AC in the bedroom has
begun the “shut door”. The mother-in-law believes that son and daughter-in-law have shut the bedroom
door so the room can cool. Privacy in the Indian home is coming of age!
The AC space is crowded with brands and opportunities that will put more choice in the hands of the
consumers. The pressure will be to deliver cost effective value propositions backed with dependable
brands and outstanding service. It will perhaps less adjusting and more intolerant as a people. Each of us
in choosing our temperature of choice is exercising great control on our immediate environment and in
some manner playing God when we decide at what temperature we want to live our lives. As
environmental concerns grow and the pressure on power rises, manufacturers will dial up the ante on
greener alternatives that promise a better life on this planet. Just like find it impossible to function
without a cell phone, perhaps we will soon find it difficult to think without air conditioning in our homes.

1992 - 1996
1996
1997 - 2001
1999
2001 - 2007
2013 - 2019
1992-1996

Initiation

Deepa starts working at Hindustan Unilever Ltd., and after working there for a few years decides to take a career break to take care of her son. The family plans to move to Jamaica, and she wishes to resume working. There are not a lot of opportunities post a career break for her, and this makes her realise the plight of women all across the world who are trying to resume working after taking a break. The seed for Lumière is planted. Deepa joins J.A. Young Research Ltd. to get back to her roots, and ultimately decides to start her own firm under her CA's advise.

1996

Beginning

Start of Lumière Consultancy in Jamaica

1997-2001

Incubation

The family is aching to return to India, and post the birth of her second child, Deepa gets an offer from HUL to rejoin them. She has an itch to make it on her own, and so declines. This results in a different type of engagement between the two, and Lumière engages exclusively with HUL by expanding their scope. Deepa builds a stronghold in consumer behavior, and Lumière develops into an entity of its own. Inception of 'Consumer Centricity', which is their future key to strength, begins. With an expansion in their work, they need more resources and a group of like-minded talented professional women to join the team. Lumière gives them solace, a place to grow, rebuild their careers, and achieve goals beyond their expectations. They begin with mentoring initiatives, with an urge to inspire young individuals. People approach them through word-of-mouth, references, and to create opportunities beyong market research, Lumière becomes a Pvt. Ltd. company.

1999

Establishing

An opportunity arises to be a part of something big, to analyse the growth mindset and the creation of a best practice document for sequential recycling. Lumière makes an impact across categories and branches into Product Testing and Category Creation.

2001-2007

Invigoration

Lumière touches ₹ 1 crore. Their brochure is presented at MRSI. The company turns 10, and Milind joins the team as an observer. This becomes the phase of Lumière's upheavel: from scaling up, digitization and automation of processes, to plugging in leakages across departments and accounts. Their billings reach ₹ 3 crores.

2013-2019

Innovation

Rashmi Bansal dedicates a chapter of her book 'Follow Every Rainbow' to Deepa and Lumière. The company enters adulthood, and they facilitate change management for Lumière. The introduction of the Gallup Strengths to the portfolio is a game changer. A revamp of the technological infrastructure ensues, giving way to an articulation of Lumière 3.0.