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Whirlpool to cash in on premium segment consumers

Whirlpool of India looks to cash in on customers who are increasingly looking to upgrade to premium products across the spectrum of mass-, middle- and high-end price categories.

The company has invested close to Rs 300 crore in the last three years in its manufacturing facilities in Puducherry, Pune and Faridabad in Delhi-NCR to raise its capacity in washing machine and refrigerators. Cashing on premiumisation trend, Whirlpool is targeting higher growth in the domestic washing machines market, which is expected to grow in double digits in the next 2-3 years.

Speaking to FE, Vishal Bhola, managing director, Whirlpool of India, said while there are certain categories of consumer durables that are emerging as premium, there is a trend towards premiumisation within the price segments too. “A semi-automatic washing machine consumer who was earlier willing to pay Rs 15,000 is now willing to stretch a little more and buy a fancier semi-automatic machine,” he said.

He added that the mid- and premium-segment consumers are coming back and are spending more as they want higher capacities, more premium products loaded with features, and the phenomenon is not restricted to metros. “We are seeing a lot of people in tier II and III going in for front-load washing machines as their first purchase and they have the money there. However, at the entry levels, consumers are far more discerning when it comes to value across geographies,” Bhola said.

The company, a subsidiary of Whirlpool Corporation, announced its foray into the front-load segment of washing machines with its new XpertCare range on Thursday with a feature of using Ozone to refresh clothes without any water or detergent. The company upped its offerings in top load and semi-automatic categories as well. It launched new Hydrowash semi-automatic washing machine range with 3D wave technology, while new Stainwash Pro range of top-load washing machines powered by 6th sense stain wash technology and in-built heater.

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The price range for for front-load washing machine starts from Rs 40,600 and goes up to close to Rs 75,000. The top-load premium range is priced in the range of Rs 26,200 to Rs 30,500, while the new semi-automatic range is from Rs 21,000 to Rs 22,000.

Bhola said that the Indian washing machine market is highly under-penetrated at around 14%, giving it a good head room for growth. Also, the coming decade will see a high level of “replacement demand” from the initial consumers of washing machines. The Indian washing machine market across segments is estimated to be around six million units this year. The front-load washing machines form 30% of the total market, and Whirlpool will be vying for a slice of that in which it was absent till now. “In the remaining 70% of the market, we are among the top three players. The total market share of top 3 players across segments will be 75-80%,” Bhola said.

The festive season traditionally accounts for up to 40% of Whirlpool’s total sales, and Bhola said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the demand this year around. The sales through online channels are currently around 10-15% of total sales compared to the rise seen during the last two years of the pandemic.

In the last one year, Whilpool has taken price hikes in the range of 6-10% across different categories. However, Bhola said that the volatility in the external environment makes it hard to predict an outlook on prices going forward.

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