Nation of Beancounters

Godrej and Globalisation Creates Rs3,500 Fridge for Rural India

Posted in Uncategorized by Navin Kumar on June 22, 2010

The ChotuKool being delivered for testing Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd has developed the ChotuKool, which costs Rs.3500 ($77) to buy and – according to them – Rs.60-70 ($1.3) per month to run. Besides the low price, there are a number of features meant to make it a “disruptive innovation”, geared towards rural India.

There are many indications of this: it opens at the top, instead of the bottom in order to prevent air escaping when it opens. It’s low maintenance: only 20 parts versus the regular refrigerator’s 200. The parts can be extracted easily and taken by hand to the nearest servicing center. The device is small: 40 liters of storage, but sufficient for the rural Indian family and portable, which makes it easy to take to he villages and put away for family functions. It can withstand power shortages and run on battery.

But the key variation is the discarding of the old “cooling by compressor”, instead using the Peltier Effect – a method which, in the west is used to make thermoelectric refrigerators that are used to cool beer at barbecues etc. You can read a detailed report of the innovations and company here.

One bit caught my eye:

Its ambition and pedigree have made the ChotuKool a heavily anticipated product—the TataNano of appliances, as it were. “The technology is there, but I’m doubtful about the cost,” says S. Srinivasa Murthy, a professor at the regrigeration and air-conditioning lab at the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai. “Every thermoelectric fridge I’ve seen has been priced higher or been subsidized at some point. But thermoelectric modules have been very expensive until recently, when Chinese versions started coming in. Maybe that’s driven the price down.” [Bold my own]

So, cheap Chinese manufacturing enabled an Indian company to create an innovation that is of immense benefit to the Indian poor. We’re talking about a population where 77% live on under Rs.20 a day. Progress comes via innovation. Thermoelectric cooling has been around for decades, but it wasn’t until Godrej picked it up that it could be used to bring relief to a country where a third of all food is lost to spoilage.

But, of course, we have to prevent the evil Chinese monsters from hurting us with their cheap goods.

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