1. Pollution in major cities: Clean air is big business

Pollution in major cities: Clean air is big business

Rising concern about pollution in major Indian cities has led to a dramatic increase in sales of air purifiers with big and small brands stepping in to clean up the air

By: | New Delhi | Published: November 7, 2016 6:15 AM
As per World Health Organisation data, Indian cities of Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Raipur have the highest particulate matter levels. As per World Health Organisation data, Indian cities of Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Raipur have the highest particulate matter levels.

Darkness at noon. Of a different kind. The kind that chokes your throat, leaves your eyes stinging and makes your chest feel heavy. The kind that sees the sun desperately trying to peep in through the smog that envelops the city. That’s what citizens in India’s metros are increasingly waking up to every morning as winter sets in. It’s air pollution at its worst.

As per World Health Organisation (WHO) data, Indian cities of Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Raipur have the highest particulate matter levels. The international health agency has named Delhi as the most polluted city in the world; the national capital encompasses a wide range of pollutants such as dust particles, pollen, PM 2.5 particulates, soot, carbon monoxide, bacteria, virus, etc. Delhi leads the pack with more than 153 micrograms per cubic meter.

As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them. Whether outside or
inside, the high prevalence of pollution has caused a rise in cases of new onset of asthma or a degree of breathlessness, especially among children and senior citizens.

Consequently, there has been a major spike in the demand for air purification solutions in recent years, with a number of established big and small brands stepping in to fill the void. “I believe that just like
China, India can also become a big market for air purifiers in the long term,” says Mahesh Gupta, chairman, Kent RO Systems, whose firm has introduced numerous air purifier products in the market. “We, at Kent, believe that, just like access to clean water, access to clean and pure air is also a fundamental right.”

Seeing the bigger picture

Syed Moonis Ali Alvi, general manager, Water Purifier & Air Purifier, Panasonic India estimates the air purifier market at R150 crore, growing at 30% CAGR in the last two years. “With the growing popularity, this industry is expected to reach around R1,500 crore in the next four years.”

According to Gupta, air purifiers

market in India is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 40% during 2015-20. Growth in the market is anticipated on account of continuously degrading air quality, increasing awareness about air purifiers, rising inclination towards lifestyle oriented products, along with rising health consciousness among consumers. “Apart from air pollution prevalent across the country, metro cities such as Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Pune account for the highest levels of air pollution in the country, resulting in increasing demand for air purifiers in these cities. Moreover, increasing vehicle fleet in the country, which is responsible for emission of harmful particulate matter is another major factor contributing to growth of the Indian air purifiers market,” he adds.

“With increased awareness about the health hazards that air pollution poses, people in cities have started turning towards air quality management products such as air purifiers for indoors use and N99 masks for outdoors use,” says Vibhor Jain, CEO, Atlanta Healthcare. “There is now growing acceptance towards air purification which was hitherto missing.”

Further, the demand increases

multi-fold during the winter season, informs Jain. “This is on account of a phenomenon called temperature inversion where the cold air is trapped by a layer of warm air, resulting in the air pollutants
remaining closer to the ground. Although the air quality in most of the tier 1 cities remains unhealthy throughout the year, during winter season the air quality becomes hazardous.”
Recently, Atlanta Healthcare together with AirVisual introduced, what is claimed to be the world’s smartest air

quality monitor, the Node, in the Indian market. The Node identifies invisible airborne threats such as PM 2.5 and carbon dioxide to help people achieve a healthier living environment.”

Tapping technology

We can wear face masks when out, roll up the windows of our cars or simply lock ourselves at home. However, the air inside our homes can be 2-5 times, and occasionally, more than 100 times more polluted than outdoor levels. So the easiest option is to use an air purifier at home.

Technologies that revolve around air purification can be segmented into two broad categories—filter-based and non-filter based technologies. The filter-based technology includes HEPA technology,
Activated Carbon, molecular sieve media, cold catalyst, fibre filter, etc. The non-filter based technology includes UV, electrostatic precipitator, ioniser, etc. Atlanta Healthcare’s Jain informs: “Considering the air pollution scenario in India, it is always advisable to go for air purifiers and products that provide a combination of both filter based and non-filter based technology.”

Alvi informs that Panasonic air-purifiers are equipped with various technologies which enhance the quality of indoor air by filtering out poisonous particles present indoors. “The Econavi technology in Panasonic air-purifiers monitors the indoor air-quality and improves it as per the requirement and lifestyle of the users. The Nanoe technology filters out harmful particles including PM2.5.”

Mahesh Gupta of Kent RO stresses: “It is a necessity to make indoors air free of pollutants and particulates. Acting as a first line of defence, the pre-filter installed in Kent HEPA room air-purifiers catches and removes large particulate matter with high efficiency. It arrests particles like large dust, human/pet hair, debris, sand particles. Using innovative filtration process, Kent air purifiers effectively remove 99.97% of particles, less than 0.3 microns in diameter.”

Air purifier makers reckon that the biggest challenge today is the lack of awareness amongst customers about the quality of air they breathe in and the impact of it on their health. “The issue (of air pollution) is there but it is like slow poison. You have bad air but it doesn’t mean it will kill tomorrow. It’ll start a disease that will get aggravated (over time),” says Gupta. “We are making people aware that you can at least clean the air in your room. It’s a very tough market. It is not a commodity that you place on the shelf and it’ll start moving. You have to create awareness.”

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