Ananya Pathak
Marketing

After dishwashers, is there room for ‘ultraviolet disinfection boxes’ in Indian homes?

Hitherto used as a factory-level equipment in the B2B space, a pricey, scaled down version of the ‘ultraviolet disinfection box’ is poised to enter our homes. Philips, Borosil and Godrej are among the early advertisers.

What’s the best way to sanitise an object at home? Well, it depends on the type of object. If it’s, say, an apple, one can either wash it with soap and water, or a specialised ‘fruit cleanser’. And if it’s, say, a cell phone, one can either clean it with a regular hand sanitiser, or a special germ-killing spray. Of late, though, there’s a third kind of segment that wants the attention of the Indian consumer: the ‘ultraviolet disinfection box’, or the UV case.

Among the early advertisers are names like lighting brand Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), consumer goods company Godrej, and appliance brand Borosil.

Before the COVID pandemic, the use of ultraviolet gadgets was limited to the B2B space, in the form of large UV devices used to sanitise wide surfaces, like table tops and beds. Companies like Sanitaire, Hygeaire, Voltas, Philips, among others, have been using them. UV-based devices were also widely used at the retail level in the form of UV disinfection lamps, batons, mosquito/fly catchers installed at eateries, hospitals, airports, malls and offices.

Voltas' UVC-based handheld surface disinfectant
Voltas' UVC-based handheld surface disinfectant

Interestingly, now, in the COVID world, a scaled down, house-friendly, version of the UV disinfection case, or box, is being marketed as a gadget that can sanitise clothes, delivery packages, masks and other common household objects. Positioned as a household appliance, these microwave lookalike aluminum boxes, with capacities ranging between 20 and 70 litres, cost upwards of Rs 8,000.

“Earlier, the UV technology was largely used in the B2B space, especially in food processing and animal farming business. In the B2C space, it was used only in water purifiers,” Nikhil Gupta, head of marketing and integrated communications and commercial operations, South Asia, Signify Innovations, tells afaqs!.

Philips UV-C Disinfectant System
Philips UV-C Disinfectant System

Signify introduced Philips UV-C Disinfection System in June this year. The portable 30-litre appliance is available on e-commerce platforms at a discounted festive price of Rs 9,999 (original MRP: Rs 12,990).

Gupta says that the newly launched product targets the ‘germophobes’. “Today, the society is divided between the ‘precautious’ and the ‘carefree’. We are targeting the precautious group that is willing to go an extra mile to ensure safety, and is ready to spend on a ‘one-touch’ device that is easy to use and provides the desired result in 2-8 minutes.”

Nikhil Gupta
Nikhil Gupta

He says that though the device is primarily designed for household use, it has a wider application. It can also be used in small retail stores, old age homes, schools, etc. It is, however, not recommend for use in larger public spaces, like hospitals and airports.

Speaking about the product’s current demand, Gupta mentions that the brand is delivering around 10,000 units every month. During Diwali, he anticipates the number to rise to 15,000-20,000 units per month, as he sees it as a ‘suitable gifting option’.

“The awareness around the product is fairly low at the moment. Once people get to know about it, we are expecting the demand to pick up. We are channeling our communications in that direction,” Gupta points out.

Signify released a TVC ‘Mumkin Hai’ for Philips UV-C Disinfection System last week, highlighting the day-to-day anxieties of consumers. It focuses on the shift in consumer behaviour for advanced hygiene standards and fear of contracting the ‘virus’ through daily objects.

According to Mehernosh Pithawalla, head of marketing, sales and innovation at Godrej Security Solutions, the global UV disinfection equipment market size currently (in 2020) stands at $2.9 billion, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.3 per cent from 2020 to 2025.

Mehernosh Pithawalla
Mehernosh Pithawalla

“We estimate that the total addressable health security and safety market for FY21 in the country will be around Rs 200 crore, and aim to capture at least 20 per cent share of this (addressable) market. Earlier, UV products were mainly used in the healthcare industry and for B2B applications,” he says.

Godrej launched its UV case in July 2020. It comes in three sizes: 20 litres (Rs 8,500), 40 litres (Rs 13,999) and 67 litres (Rs 21,999).

Broadly, the use of this product can be classified into two categories, i.e., B2B and B2C, depending on the usage. In the B2B space, it is suitable for almost any organisation and any type of office, from government offices to private institutions, and smaller commercial establishments.

The UV case can be used in homes for sanitising daily objects like phones, wallets, fresh vegetables, keys, etc., and can also be used for various commercial purposes for industries, such as hospitality, retail, beauty and leisure, etc. In hospitals, PPE kits can be disinfected by using the UV case.

Godrej UV Case
Godrej UV Case

According to Godrej’s Pithawalla, the product’s demand differs, basis geography, because awareness (for the product) is not uniform across regions. “While Tier-I cities are very responsive and adaptive to new technologies, Tier-II and III cities are not far behind, and we are witnessing a surge in demand from such markets as well. Establishments like luxury salons, multi-facility clinics and jewellery/accessory showrooms have been early adopters of this solution.”

Borosil launched a similar product, Borosil Suraksha UV Disinfection Unit, in July 2020. Priced at Rs 12,000, the product is currently being promoted to urban households, though the response and demand are pan-India, says the brand’s MD and CEO Shreevar Kheruka.

Shreevar Kheruka
Shreevar Kheruka

The gadget was initially launched on the brand’s website, and was later made available for purchase on e-commerce platforms, like Amazon.

Borosil Suraksha UV Disinfection Unit
Borosil Suraksha UV Disinfection Unit

“Sanitisation with chemical disinfectants is considered harmful for health, whereas using home remedies, like washing in saltwater is tedious for the homemaker and there’s little assurance on effectiveness. Therefore, the demand for a product like this has certainly been fuelled by the pandemic,” Kheruka says.

A quick search for UV disinfection box on any appliance selling e-commerce platform will throw a plethora of options for consumers to choose from. Virushield Large (70 litres) UV Sterilizer Box, VISMA UVC Disinfection Box, Rivicov UV Disinfection Sterilization Box, etc., along with other brand names mentioned in this article.

Are space-strapped Indian homes ready for yet another bulky gadget, what with equipment like dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and robotic floor mops vying for space?

Independent retail and brand advisor, Sanjeev Agrawal, opines that space is no bar in Indian homes and that purchase depends on the sanitisation need of the individual.

Sanjeev Agrawal
Sanjeev Agrawal

“The fact is that Corona isn’t going anywhere, even after the vaccine comes. Today, Indians want a dishwasher, though it occupies a comparatively larger space. So, there definitely is space for a UV case,” he says, adding that brands in the segment will do well to take a ‘better safe than sorry’ stance on the advertising front.