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How Covid-19 changed consumption of home appliances, electronic devices in India

Demand for laptops and tablets in the past year jumped to 200% and 90% respectively on a pre and post lockdown basis.

Home appliances
Home appliances (Pexels)

A lot has changed in the past year since the Covid-19 pandemic forced people to stay inside their homes. This not only includes people all across the globe studying and working from home but it also includes how they consume technology.

In the past year, people all around the globe, including the ones in India, turned to improving their fitness levels and their culinary skills in the extra time that they had at their disposal. Millions of fitness and food videos shared on various social media platforms are a testament to this trend. This shift was also reflected in the home appliance that they purchased during the past year.

In addition to that, we also saw a momentous growth in the purchase of electronic devices such as laptops, tablets and headphones among others during the past year. People also looked for more efficient devices as work-from-home became the new normal.

We at HT Tech sat down for a conversation with Flipkart’s Vice President of large appliances Hari G Kumar and the company’s Senior Director of Electronics Rakesh Krishnan to understand how the pandemic impacted the sales trends in these two categories not just in the metropolitan cities but also in tier two and tier three cities across the country. Both the executives confirmed that there has been a phenomenal growth in the sales of home appliances and electronic devices in the country in the past year.

Life in the pandemic

Flipkart’s Vice President of large appliances told us as more and more people settled in their routines they looked for automating their home appliances in a bid to save time. “From microwaves having 73 auto cook menus to curd maker refrigerators and quick wash washing machines to dishwashers, customers across the country, including customers from tier-3 cities and beyond, increasingly adopted home appliances through e-commerce. This led to almost doubling the demand for home appliances in the last year,” he said.

He also said that since the pandemic forced people to stay at home, there has been a growing demand for niche kitchen appliances such as electric tandoor, hand blender, waffle makers, pizza makers, popcorn makers and cotton candy makers. The executive said that this segment witnessed a growth by over 200% in the first few months of 2021 as against the same period last year.

He also said that there has been significant growth in cooking appliances like microwave, OTG, induction cooktop, productivity appliances like juicer mixer grinder, hand blender, dishwashers and hygiene products like vacuum cleaners, and water purifiers. Additionally, Kumar told HT Tech that an increasing number of customers are opting for COVID ACs with air purification functionalities and multi-functional refrigerators such as convertible refrigerators and curd makers.

“According to a survey done on our platform, in-built air purifiers were one of the top features preferred by customers. In addition to this, we have seen an almost 20% increase in the adoption of No Cost EMI since the pandemic,” he told HT Tech.

“Furthermore, we are registering a higher percentage of customers opting for replacement options while purchasing a refrigerator since the launch of product replacement construct on Flipkart...In addition to this, customers are also opting for energy-efficient ACs refrigerators to save on electricity bills and reduce the cost of operations. While the former saw a jump of up to 40% in the demand for 5-star high capacity, high energy-efficient AC's, refrigerators adoption too reflected a similar trend,” he added.

ALSO READ: Demand for niche kitchen appliances increased in 2020, says Flipkart

He also said that juicer mixer-grinder also witnessed a surge in specific use cases for juicing, grinding and mixing appliances with blenders, cold-pressed juicer in demand.

As far as electronic devices are concerned, Flipkart’s Senior Director of Electronics shared that the demand for laptops and tablets in the past year jumped to 200% and 90% respectively on a pre and post lockdown basis. Office essentials such as printers have seen a 75% increase in searches for various kinds of printers (inkjet, ink tank and lasers).

He said that there was a spike of over 50% in the overall headphones category with 300% growth being witnessed in the true wireless (TWS) segment. He also said there has been a significant increase in the demand for electronic accessories such as routers, UPS and inverters as people continue to work from home and also use them for entertainment purposes. “The category overall has seen a growth of 125% with products such as routers and UPS having grown by 4x and 1.25x respectively,” Krishnan told HT Tech.

“As customers continue to consume entertainment at home, the demand for home theaters and music systems have notably increased as people are looking to create a theater-like experience at home. There is also a significant increase in demand for health and hygiene devices that help ensure the safety of consumers and their families with healthcare essentials such as IR Thermometers, Pulse Oximeters, BP Monitors, etc being the top verticals,” he added.

Electronic devices
Electronic devices (Pixabay)

As far as changes in the pre-pandemic vs the pandemic era are concerned, the Flipkart executive shared that customers are looking for larger sized screens that offer an immersive experience and complement their working and learning experience, which has led to a significant increase in the demand for large-screen laptops and tablets with the share of 10-inches tablets growing to almost more than 70% from 35% in December 2020 alone.

“High-performance laptops with strong processing power have also been one of the top choices for consumers. With an increased focus towards bringing the convenience of the office at home, customers are opting for ink tank printers. This product category has seen a 2x increase given the continuing work from home scenario,” Krishnan told HT Tech.

Additionally, the Flipkart executive also said that almost 45% of the laptop and tablets demand currently is being driven by the student cohort and an increasing number of brands are launching affordable laptops to meet this demand. “Flipkart also witnessed a significant shift in the average selling price (ASP) of these products with laptops and tablets increased by 25% and 15% respectively as compared to pre-lockdown prices...ASP for high-capacity storage devices has grown by 35% as compared to last year,” he added.

Trends in tier 2, tier 3 cities

Interestingly, while there has been a significant uptick in the demand for home appliances and electronic devices in metropolitan cities. A similar trend was observed in tier two and tier three cities as well.

“For products like microwaves, juicer mixer grinder, hand blender, kettles, toaster, vacuum cleaners, OTG, water purifiers, etc, we have seen an uptake from tier-II and beyond cities for these products with about 2X increase in demand coming from these markets,” Kumar told HT Tech.

“In the niche kitchen appliances segment, while the demand from metros continues to be high, the share of tier-2,3 cities has increased to 55%, registering a 2x growth on a yearly basis in the first few months of this year. This has also led to an increasing number of brands launching new products in the new kitchen appliances, translating into a 2x growth in launches. Interestingly, cities such as Guntur, Kottayam, Agartala, Cachar, Medinipur, Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur and Bankura are among the fastest-growing cities for niche appliances,” he added.

As far as the electronic devices are concerned, Krishnan told HT Tech that working and learning from home essentials like laptops, tablets and routers, tier-three cities saw almost 2x growth in traffic as compared to metros as several employees from top metros went back to their hometowns due to an extended WFH scenario, resulting in increased demand from smaller cities. “For printers, an increased demand was witnessed across metros such as Bengaluru and Mumbai while South has seen a higher increase than other regions. Furthermore, an increasing number of consumers are opting for affordable payment constructs with 1 out of every 4 customers opting for a no-cost EMI offer for printers,” he added.

What the future looks like

Things are improving. Many tech companies including Twitter and Microsoft are gradually planning to welcome their employees in their offices. Even as the world seems to be coming out of the pandemic that had paralysed the pace of life last year, both the Flipkart executives believe that sales trends in terms of home appliances and electronic devices that was witnessed last year are likely to continue throughout 2021.

“From COVID ACs to UV filter wardrobes, health and hygiene will continue to be an important factor as customers look for solutions that eliminate viruses, disinfectant properties while buying products. With work from home becoming the new normal, home automation will be key for people which in turn will continue to boost the demand for products in this segment. Affordability will also play a key factor while buying products,” Kumar said.

“...we believe that there will be continued reliance on high performing and larger screen computing products and peripherals...In addition to trends around work, learning and entertainment from home, smart homes as a concept is likely to gain pace in the coming few years with an increasing number of customers looking for electronic items which can control certain home attributes such as lighting, climate, entertainment systems, and appliances. Furthermore, with an increasing focus on health and fitness, the wearables market will branch out to cities beyond metros and tier-I cities,” Krishnan told HT Tech.

“This year, we are also likely to witness premium technology become more affordable with a growing consumer preference across the country and an increasing number of brands launching new products at lower price points,” he added.

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