There has been an uptick in the sales of robotic and upright vacuum cleaners in India
Vacuum cleaners — one of the least bought consumer electronics products in India — saw an upsurge in demand in 2020. The burden of juggling household chores and office work due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, and a heightened sense of hygiene, has encouraged more Indians to invest in vacuum cleaners.
Xiaomi launched its autonomous vacuum cleaner in India late last year, and Realme is set to enter the market ahead of Diwali. Eureka Forbes and Inalsa, too, have introduced robotic vacuum cleaners. Dyson, which has been present in this category since 2018, added a second demo outlet in Mumbai in February 2021, expanding the brand’s offline retail footprint to seven stores.
Euromonitor International estimates India’s vacuum cleaner market to be worth Rs 275.6 crore in 2021. In 2020, more than 4.3 lakh units of vacuum cleaners were sold in India. Anurag Mishra, principal, Kearney, informs that until 2020, the market had been growing at 1-2% per annum. But this grew to 5-6% in 2020.
A clean sweep
Xiaomi India ran a crowdfunding initiative for its robotic vacuum cleaner in 2020. This was mainly to understand if the spurt in demand for vacuum cleaners was merely a fad. The company said it will bring the product to India if 10,000 orders are placed.
“When we evaluated the vacuum cleaner category in 2018, the market was tiny,” says Raghu Reddy, chief business officer, Xiaomi India. But things changed last year. About 85% of the crowdfunding goal was achieved, and Xiaomi launched the Mi Robot Vacuum Mop-P at Rs 17,999 (offer price).
Eureka Forbes, which commands about 70% of the market, added a vacuum cleaner that also mops, an autonomous vacuum cleaner and a handheld variation last year. “Until 2020, the category was chugging along with single-digit growth,” says Shashank Sinha, chief transformation officer, and head – strategic marketing, Eureka Forbes. He adds typically cleanliness fanatics opt for upright or canister models for more efficiency, while working professionals prefer robotic models.
As per industry analysts, among upright vacuum cleaners, the most popular price point tends to be around Rs 18,000. Autonomous vacuum cleaners can cost anywhere between Rs 15,000 to Rs 1 lakh; among these, the ones in the Rs 25,000-30,000 range are in demand.
Pulak Satish Kumar, director and COO, iRobot India, saw a threefold growth in demand for the Roomba and other iRobot automated vacuum cleaners in 2020. He says these machines, which can be programmed to work on a set schedule, are popular among affluent tech-savvy consumers and those who have lived abroad and used similar products.
Unlike the western markets, the penetration of vacuum cleaners remains negligible in India. According to industry estimates, refrigerators have a penetration of 33%, washing machines even lower at 12% and ACs have a penetration of a little over 5%.
Devangshu Dutta, chief executive, Third Eyesight, attributes the low penetration to affordable labour being available abundantly. Washing machines have been around for as long as vacuum cleaners in India. But both these products have had vastly different journeys.“Washing machines had become an upcoming trend in metro cities about a decade after their launch in India,” Dutta observes. “They reduced the homemaker’s workload. Vacuum cleaners, which are still expensive, cannot be handed to the domestic help, who would need to be educated to use the product.”
Historically, vacuum cleaners have been sold on the premise that our homes host a multitude of unhygienic matter, dust and other microscopic particles that are not visible to the naked eye. “We had to create a need. We did this by showing dust inside homes, embarrassing customers and pushing a sale,” says Sinha of Eureka Forbes. Direct selling has been the predominant retail channel for this product — about 40% of vacuum cleaners are still sold through this channel.
Inalsa, which ventured into affordable vacuum cleaners about four years ago, is selling its latest product exclusively on Flipkart. “Going omnichannel, selling on e-commerce platforms and playing on price points are required for this market to grow,” says Kearney’s Mishra. He expects the sudden demand to taper and settle at a growth rate of 3-5% per year, for the next few years.