New Delhi: Consumer durables major Whirlpool of India is seeking to build on its innovations around sanitisation for its washing machines category in 2021 to cater to the needs of consumers brought by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a senior company official. The company is also introducing technologies available in premium products to mass segment items as it seeks to accelerate growth in the washing machines category.

“This whole buzzword of sanitisation is something that has become such a big state in the mind of the consumers. It is here to stay. What we saw SARS did for Southeast Asia in terms of completely changing basic human behaviour…we will potentially see the equivalent of this (COVID-19) impact for us,” Whirlpool India Vice-President Marketing Kumar Gaurav Singh told.

Stating that sanitisation is a big theme that will be cutting across multiple industries, he said the pandemic had heightened the role of durables makers to protect consumers, be it clothes, cooking utensils, or taking care of food by offering storage of longer-term and reducing the number of trips to make to grocery stores.

Specific to washing machines, Singh said: “When we spoke to consumers to try and understand in the early days (of lockdown) what was their mindset around COVID, very interestingly the number one fear that people had about bringing covid into their homes is clothes.

“From washing clothes three days a week, people have started washing clothes every day with smaller loads because they were just worried.”

He further said, “Today we have claims around 99 per cent germs and allergen-free, removal of 50 stains. The interesting part would be how do we create wash cycles that can potentially also go into managing virus and removal of virus from your clothes, especially when you come back from outside.”

When asked if COVID-19 had accelerated some of the innovations, he said: “The broad direction of working on clothes was always part of the agenda, but the pandemic had added new dimensions for us to explore.”

Typically, he said a wash cycle is generally looked at from the point of mechanical action, chemical action, and thermal action to clean clothes from dirt.

“The conversation today is beyond the dirt. When we talk about cleaning clothes, what does clean mean? It is no longer about dirt, sweat, and marks. It is now about allergens and viruses. That’s the new reality that manufacturers like us need to step up to,” Singh said.

On the company’s plans ahead, he said: “The innovations we look at going forward is to help manage these sanitisation needs, to help build on the heater technology, to help build on Bloomwash technology, use sensors and build sensor-based intelligence that can create algorithms that can therefore create wash programmes and deliver the kind of output and performance that you are looking for.”

Citing the example of the Whirlpool‘s Bloomwash technology, he said; “It is to actually to see how we can not just have a top-load machine that can clean clothes but add a functionality called a heater, as we all understand hot water cleans better.”

While the heater feature has already been available with front load washing machines, Singh said, “to bring it down to a top load washing machine and create a proposition, that is what Bloomwash has been good at.”

The innovation was launched this year; he said adding, “we see expanding on it next year as well. What we see next year is building on this heater proposition and trying to bring more sanitisation based innovations.”

The company already has technology that uses sensor-based technology that can create algorithms to generate wash programmes based on the number of clothes put in, helping decide on detergent required, and checking hard water or soft water, and automatically changing the way to clean the clothes to enable the best washing, he said

“These are some of the interesting products, innovations, and solutions that exist on our products today, and we will look to build on top of this and build far better sanitisation solutions for consumers in the next year,” Singh said.

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