The Swedish company's top brass talks to BrandLine.

Debdatta Das

Electrolux, the home appliances and consumer durables company, became synonymous with home refrigeration through its tie-up with Kelvinator. While it used the Kelvinator logo of the penguin to advantage and gained market share in refrigerators, it lost its way somewhere down the line. But the company hopes to be back with a bang.

BrandLine caught up with Peter Birch, CEO, Electrolux Major Appliances, Asia Pacific, and Hans Straberg, President and CEO, AB Electrolux, for a chat on the brand and its marketing strategies.

In a world bustling with numerous consumer durable companies, what does Electrolux stand for? How does it differentiate itself from the others?Birch: Electrolux has a very specific worldwide approach that sets it apart. The company, not only in India, but also across the globe, is extremely consumer-oriented. Very much led by consumer insight. Everything we do is related to how we can understand the problems of consumers and how we can bring to life demands of consumers. This always leads us to thoughtful innovations, though there are very often differences in our products depending on different types of consumers in various countries. But one commonality across the world is focus on energy and water conservation. Therefore, across the globe, Electrolux products are made keeping in mind these factors. I think this is what sets us apart, that we are a truly consumer-oriented company.

What plans do you have for India?Birch: Well, there is plenty waiting to happen in India for Electrolux. In May, we will be launching a four-door refrigerator. It will be the first of its kind with unique features such as an extra-wide internal space (770 mm), deep door pockets with adjustable dividers, an integrated LCD display to modify operating and storage conditions along with a stainless steel finish. The company will be importing them, not manufacturing them in India. In October, we will be launching a range of our frost-free refrigerators. In fact, we conducted extensive research across Asia on the specific requirements of Asian consumers on food preservation. Many consumers felt there was a great need to ensure that food retained its original nutritional values, taste, and most importantly, flavours do not mix. So, in response to the needs of the consumers, we decided to launch a number of unique innovations to our new frost-free range. The refrigerators will have features like dual deodorisers to control odours, multi-air flow cooling system to keep moisture at optimum levels and a door alarm and frost-free freezers. Besides, we also plan to get more of our global products into the Indian market. For now, the consumers can choose the new refrigerators models in capacities ranging from 180-320 litres.

Electrolux made a very good start in India with its Kelvinator range. In fact, the penguin logo became synonymous with refrigerators in the country. What happened then? Why the slack?Birch: Electrolux grew through a very large number of acquisitions in the Seventies and Eighties. The company acquired a number of brands. But our global strategy has always been to focus and build the Electrolux brand. And buying those companies gave us the resources to focus on our business strategies. Moreover, it wasn't economical to support the several brands that we bought, not only in terms of marketing, but also manufacturing.

Straberg: We got it right in many Asian countries, but in India situations changed. And during those times we learnt a lot. Now we are getting our focus right. When we had come into India, we were promoting other brands that we had acquired. But now, we are leveraging the Electrolux brand together with our partners (Videocon in India). We are now totally focused on building Electrolux as a global brand.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 17, 2007)
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