For a few rupees less

Recent price hikes coupled with the economic slowdown

have led customers to defer high-value purchases. Consumer durable brands are now playing the affordability card launching cheaper versions of premium products to get the price-conscious customer to dip into her wallet

Rising interest rates, inflationary pressure and a falling rupee have all conspired to keep the consumer durables industry on tenterhooks this year. With discretionary spending hit the most, consumer durables sales have been sluggish as consumers defer high-value purchases. That, however, is not preventing brands from re-working their strategies to get the customer to step into their showrooms. While some companies are trying to grab a larger share of the R35,000-crore consumer durables industry which includes air-conditioners, televisions, refrigerators, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, DVD players, cameras, etc., by withholding any hike in prices, others are playing the affordability card by coming up with cheaper versions of their premium products.

When it comes to market strategy, Japanese consumer electronics brand Sony, seen as a premium brand with its comparatively more expensive products, has been resisting any hikes that could scare away the customer. Tadao Kimura, general manager, marketing, Sony India said, "We do not have any plans to increase the prices of products till June 2012 as we have hedged the currency. In fact, the company hasn't raised prices since one and a half years."

On the other hand, brands such as Panasonic, LG and Samsung are following a consumer-centric approach by altering their products to suit the limited budget of the middle-class customer. Panasonic has introduced Cube air-conditioners (AC) –a smaller version of a split AC without the concomitant cost. Manish Sharma, managing director, Panasonic India said, "The Cube AC has been developed considering the requirements of the Indian consumer who cannot afford a split AC. The new Cube AC range is available for R18, 490 to R21, 490."

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