Robotic vacuum cleaners can solve the problem of household helps playing truant. Moumita Chakrabarti checks them out
CLEAN SWEEP: Robotic cleaners (right) can reach corners and edges better than manual appliances (left)
Imagine how carefree your life would be if you had a robot to do all your daily domestic chores. It sounds unrealistic, but Meena Sharma’s life became so much more comfortable when she opted for a robotic vacuum cleaner in place of her manual appliance. A teacher at the Kendriya Vidyalaya in Panchkula in Haryana, Sharma believes she has solved the problem of domestic help playing truant. With a full-time job, she had little time for the daily chores. Now the robotic vacuum cleaner does the work — and cleans better too.
Like Sharma, some Indian customers are turning towards hi-tech domestic appliances and are ready to pay a lot more to make their life more comfortable. Several companies — including Eureka Forbes, LG Electronics and Milagrow — have introduced automated domestic appliances.
In 2010, Eureka Forbes introduced its robotic floor cleaner, Euroclean Robocleanz. Anunoy Chatterjee, marketing coordinator, east, says the robotic floor cleaner, priced at Rs 6,990, is a better product than the conventional vacuum cleaner in all respects — from suction power and efficiency to versatility. At the same time, a robotic cleaner is not only for the floors, but works on hard carpets. “In a country like India, we need powerful machines with good suction for sticky dust,” he says.
Milagrow came up with three models of domestic robotic vacuum cleaners in February this year. “The idea was to replace humans serving humans for petty tasks and let robots carry out them out,” says Rajeev Karwal, founder and CEO, Milagrow business and knowledge solutions. The products are designed in such a way that they can penetrate the corners, clean under beds and other furniture, and clean the carpets. One has to set the time and date and let the robot do its work. You don’t even have to be around to monitor it.
“When the battery charge goes down to 15 per cent the robot locates the charging station on its own and recharges itself before continuing the cleaning,” says Sharma.
Milagrow has also launched a robotic window cleaner, “Windoro” that is very useful for high-rise apartments. This is expected to be a big hit among apartment owners in highrises as well as businesses, especially hospitals and retailers. The products from Milagrow are priced between Rs 11,000 and Rs 18,000.
LG launched its LG Hom BOT in March this year. “The busy lifestyle of Indians has made way for such innovative products,” says Y.V. Verma, director, home appliances of LG India. “These products are accepted because they save time and trouble.”
With cameras on its two ends, Hom Bot maps your home precisely so as not to miss a spot. There are side brushes that help clean corners and edges, and the microfiber mop is great for hard floors. Like all the other products, this too, automatically docks with stations for recharging batteries and resumes cleaning from where it had paused.
Sheena from Mumbai has been using LG Hom BOT and feels that her life has become more comfortable. “The Bot cleans the floor and carpet without making any noise. It cleans under sofas, beds, chairs and tables. I can schedule the cleaning time for anything between one and 12 hours. It will continue cleaning from where it left off and won’t bump into any objects because of a sensor,” she says. The LG product starts at Rs 43,990.
However, while many companies are introducing products in India, they are still to make an impact. “The market is very niche,” says Gaurav Gupta, senior director with Deloitte India, a professional services firm. “If we examine the domestic appliances market, we see that conventional vacuum cleaners are not among the top 10 appliances that people buy. Refrigerators and washing machines are on the priority list. So we can well understand that robotic domestic appliances would also not be a priority among Indian customers,” Gupta says. In India, manual labour is cheap and hence people are not in favour of spending huge amounts of money on buying robotic products.
However, Abha Datta, a New Delhi homemaker, is all for robotic vacuum cleaners. “My mother stays alone on another floor in our building. The robot can clean the floor properly and she doesn’t have to make any effort,” Datta says. She doesn’t have to let outsiders in either, Datta adds.
Nevertheless, Gupta stresses that the companies that have introduced these products are only exploring the market here. Besides, the appliances are available only in the metros. The branded products are expensive but there are a few Chinese varieties that are comparatively cheaper.
But there is a flipside to using such appliances. Though they make life easier, the after sales services are still poor. Metalmate Robotics Private Ltd had to stop selling their products in India a couple of months ago because after sales service was a problem. “Metalmate Robotics Private Ltd had introduced domestic robots in 2009. But the Indian market was not ready to receive such high end products and the sale of the robotic cleaners suffered. Further, most of the robotic manufacturing companies make their products outside India, so after sales service becomes difficult,” says Navrisham Kaur Grewal, marketing director of Metalmate Robotics.
In the West, robotic lawn mowers and pet care products are a rage. But while lawn mowers are hardly used in India, people are also not very keen on spending large amounts of money for pet care products. “Robotic pet care products are highly useful but the percentage of people who would want to spend the kind of money required to buy these is low. An auto opening pet bowl, which opens when the pet comes close and closes when the pet leaves, is useful and comes for Rs 5,000. There are a few other sophisticated and high priced products that start from Rs 10,000,” Kaur Grewal says. Customers from cities such as Pune, Bangalore and Chandigarh, which have sophisticated pet markets, have been showing an interest in these products, he adds.
Clearly, for a small section of people, robotic appliances are a boon. But in a country like India, where manual labour is cheap, it will take a while for them to catch on.