Panasonic Corp. is spicing up the washing machine market in India with a unit that boasts a special button, "curry." The electronics giant is hoping that a machine specially designed to remove curry stains will allow it to challenge the South Korean firms that dominate the market. When the curry button is selected, rather than the "quick" or "soak" buttons, for example, the water swirls around at six times the normal speed and enables those stubborn stains to be removed, according to Panasonic officials. Panasonic was initially selling Japanese-style models that boast excellent water-saving and other features, but many Indians complained, "These machines just cannot remove curry stains sufficiently."
The firm's response was to analyze the ingredients of curry throughout India as well as study the lifestyles of the locals. Panasonic says it was thus able to identify the optimal water current strength and the washing time required to remove the curry stains. But removing these blemishes comes at a price. The innovative product is priced at 22,000 to 28,500 rupees ($328 to $425), about 10 percent more expensive than most other models. The washing machine is available only in India, so curry fans in Japan, Panasonic's home country, won't be able to find it in the shops. Panasonic began mass production of washing machines at its Indian plant in 2013, but most people in the nation hand-wash their clothing in rivers or elsewhere, with only about 10 percent of homes having washing machines.
According to British research firm Euromonitor, Panasonic products accounted for only 2 percent of all washing machines sold in India last year, compared with 24 percent for market leader LG Electronics and 20.1 percent for Samsung Electronics, the second largest maker in the market. Panasonic is looking to sell 330,000 washing machines in two years, which would be about double that of sales in fiscal 2015.
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