Aishwarya Ramesh

Will dishwasher sales finally take off in India?

As the nation looks to ‘unlock’, will middle class people ask their maids to come back, continue to clean their own dishes, or buy dishwashers? We try and find out.

Dishwashing is a manual task that involves a soap or gel, a scrubber of some sort and, well, a whole lot of grit. Traditionally, in most middle class Indian homes, this chore has been part of the domestic help’s duties. However, this task has, for over two months now, become part of the daily lives of many, if not all, Indians, who’ve dismissed their house help due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the days ahead, will Indians continue to clean the dishes on their own, risk bringing the house help – most typically work at multiple homes in an area – back into their kitchens, or finally go for dishwashers? We take a look at this mysterious appliance, which many of us have only seen in an American context – either on televison, or in the home of relatives who live overseas.

Representational image
Representational image

According to a Times of India report, the demand for dishwashers has jumped by 70-80 per cent this year (2020). Brands that sell dishwashers in India include Bosch, Siemens (both owned by BSH Home Appliances), LG, Whirlpool, IFB, Voltas Beko, Hindware, among others. Google Trends reveals that the search interest in the term 'dishwasher', has shot up between April 26 and June 06.

Google Trends graph showing spike in interest for dishwashers
Google Trends graph showing spike in interest for dishwashers

Today, the dishwasher segment in India is a part of the consumer durable segment. According to a joint report by Frost and Sullivan and CEAMA, the consumer durables sector is estimated to be around Rs 76,400 crore as of 2019. Another expert, estimates that the total dishwasher market size in India is close to one lakh units, with negligible penetration. In 2019, the dishwasher segment saw 95,000-1,10,000 imports which is indicative to the total number of units sold.

The usage, so far, has been restricted to the upper socioeconomic strata in urban regions, primarily in south and west India.

Typically, a dishwasher's price starts at Rs 15,000, with mid range models costing anywhere between Rs 22,000 and Rs 60,000. The prerequisites for installing one are fairly simple – a water connection with proper flow, a good drainage system and an electric plug point.

‘Massification’ of the dishwasher?

Why did it take a pandemic and a lockdown to bring this category into our lives in a serious way? KG Singh, vice president – marketing, Whirlpool India, explains that previously, dishwashers were considered a premium appliance used by households with modern, modular kitchens and latest gadgets only.

KG Singh
KG Singh

“But given the present conditions, with more consumers doing household chores, and an increased preference for hygiene and sanitation focused appliances, there has been a rapid increase in enquiries around this product,” he says.

Consumers’ shopping preferences and behaviour patterns are changing. Restricted to their homes, they are adapting to the 'new normal' by making use of appliances that support them in their daily chores, say experts.

Neeraj Bahl, MD and CEO, BSH Home Appliances, states that since the lockdown began, there has been a surge in the demand for dishwashers, which is expected to continue. “In fact, we have already started receiving a lot of enquiries and booking for dishwashers. We have seen 20 per cent year to date sales (compared to 2019) in approximately 60 days of the lockdown,” he says.

Neeraj Bahl
Neeraj Bahl

BSH Home Appliances is a joint venture between Siemens and Bosch – both brands sell dishwashers in India. Bahl makes a case for the segment, by clarifying that there is no need to pre-rinse utensils before loading them into the dishwasher.

Essentially, a dishwasher heats up the cold water and then circulates that water (which also contains detergent) to clean up the dirty dishes, with the help of a number of ‘spray arms’. The dirty water is then drained, and the dishes are rinsed with a fresh burst of clean water.

“Consumers are still not very familiar with the category, and are struggling to figure out the right product and how to operate it,” says Whirlpool’s Singh. Going forward, convenience and resource efficiency will impact consumers’ decision making process. In general, the way they look at the hygiene and appliance space is deemed to change.

While the demand for dishwashers is certainly seeing a spurt, the segment is still at a nascent stage. The easy availability of household help and the unique shapes of Indian cooking utensils – tackling the quintessential Indian ‘kadhai’ is not easy for the average dishwasher – are some of the reasons why dishwashers did not fall into consumers’ shopping lists in the past.

In fact, a study done with a sample size of 7,000 across urban India by Voltas Beko reveals these reasons as deterrents to the demand for, and purchase of, dishwashers. So in the days ahead, we wonder whether companies will manufacture and market special dishwashers equipped to clean 'desi' utensils stained with 'masalas' and oils, or whether buyers will wash some utensils themselves and use dishwashers for plates, spoons, cups, etc.

Another deterrent is the belief that dishwashers take up a lot of space. Prasenjit Basu, marketing head, Voltas Beko, argues that it’s a myth, because the machine can be installed in a 60 cm wide space.

Prasenjit Basu
Prasenjit Basu

Basu opines that going forward, it will be crucial to educate the masses about the usage and relevance of dishwashers. “Currently, there is a lot of interest, but a severe lack of information. People need to be made aware that there are different models of dishwashers, and they can opt for the counter top variant to save space,” he says, insisting that another myth is that dishwashers, in their present avatar, are not designed to handle grease or ‘chiknai’. “All these concerns need to be addressed at different levels, from the retailer to the consumer,” he says.

According to Basu, Voltas Beko saw a 300 per cent jump in sales in May 2020, as compared to May 2019. He also talks about the massive increase in dishwasher-related traffic to the company’s website in May, as compared to the same period last year.

Another uniquely Indian problem is the large amounts of water a dishwasher uses – or does it? To put things in perspective, an average washing machine uses 50-100 litres per wash cycle. A dishwasher, in comparison, uses 9-11 litres per load. Which means, besides time efficiency, one of the other crucial selling points for marketers in this category will be ‘water efficiency’.

Have news to share? Write to us