Speaking to FE, FLC CEO R Krishnan said: "The advantages of this system lie in the fact that it consumes a fraction of the power of standard units, and considering that the refrigerant involved is plain water, it is environmentally sound as well."
The ACs are set to be priced at Rs 2.5 lakh for a four tonne unit as opposed to about Rs 64,000 for a standard AC of the same capacity and will be imported as whole units from China in large quantities.
"These will be concept selling products, so there has not been any real market research, but we feel that it will do well with Indian consumers," said Mr Krishnan.
"Having said that, we will be importing consignments on a large scale to sweep the market."
Currently, industrial boiler manufacturer Thermax produces industrial vapour absorption ACs, but these are in the high-capacity segment. In the last decade, two marketing tie-ups were seen in the Indian market for the same technology in lower-capacity consumer segment -- Voltas-Hitachi and Blue Star-LG International. Neither was able to make a perceivable dent in the Indian market because of the lack of after-sales infrastructure, according to Mr Krishnan. This time round, however, FLC will be focusing its 22 offices across the country on after-sales service.
Mr Krishnan also said that if sales of the new ACs was good, they would sell servicing franchises across the country.
The new ACs will occupy larger space than standard varieties owing to the space required for water storage. In this regard, the ACs will be marketed as roof-top units. The products will also be controlled by a microprocessor chip, where the unit can be hot-wired to a computer modem. Software supplied with the AC examines the unit as and when required by the consumer, and can be programmed to send technical information to a Board control room in China. Technicians, employed by Board, will then send specific recommendations and suggestions for maintenance to the consumer via e-mail. This sounds specifically like an up-market feature, but Mr Krishnan is optimistic.
"For large companies, there is always the question of returns on investment, but for the low-capacity consumer market, consumers worry little about returns on investment, and more on luxury, good service, and effective functioning," Mr Krishnan said.