Utpal Borpujari

May 24, 2010

LG goes the healthy way

Filed under: Business Sector,Deccan Herald,Health,Media — Utpal Borpujari @ 2:41 pm
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By Utpal Borpujari

There was a time when you bought home appliances just for the need of it – a refrigerator was meant to keep stuff cool, a microwave oven was switched on to cook your food, and a washing machine was supposed to, well, what else but clean your clothes. They still do that, but thanks to a more environmentally-aware society that is alert about the health of its citizens, they are now also expected to add their bit towards keeping the citizen healthy while being environment friendly to the maximum extent possible.

Thus, these days you see products that come certified with “stars” from the government’s Bureau of Energy Efficienty (BEE) according to how less energy they consume, and also companies launching appliances that are advertised as being eco-friendly. But how do the manufacturers actually go about doing their R&D to develop these products that claim to take care of our health and environmental concerns? A peek into the facilities – and the minds working in them – of one of the global home appliances giants, in this case LG Electronics of South Korea, provides some clues about how things really move in developing products in a market that is highly competitive in both prices and features.

The company, which in India faces tough competition in the home appliances sector from its country cousin Samsung as well as Whirlpool, IFB and sundry others, has recently launched its “Health Plus” campaign, promising to equip its products with technologies that are sensitive towards the health of users, and is reorienting its entire R&D and marketing approach towards this. And researchers at its Home Appliances Lab at Gasan and at the HAC (Home Appliances Company) Design Research Lab of the Corporate Design Centre at Seocho-gu, both on the outskirts of Seoul, or those at the Global Cooking Lab at Changwon near Busan, have churned out some global award-winning technologies, 6,000 of which hold Korean patents and 2,000 of which also hold overseas patents, that the company says slowly but surely revolutionising the way consumers look at the segment. This, even as products are being increasingly developed with localization features – a microwave that will soon be churning out traditional Indian food items like chapattis, coconut chutney and even the famous litti of Bihar, or a refrigerator that is specifically used to store only the hugely-popular Korean preparation, Kimchi.

Dan D H Koh, vice-president of LGE HAC, sitting at the company’s world headquarters, the imposing LG Twin Towers near the South Korean National Assembly, lists out some of the products the company has developed as part of its Health Plus campaign. And he is confident that with increasing health and environmental concerns across the world, consumers won’t mind spending a “little bit” extra for these products that would provide them with healthier cooking, zero-germ washing, allergen-fighting air that come from energy saving and less-noise polluting machines.

Take for example the Green Ion Door Technology-equipped refrigerator that keeps the temperature inside the machine consistently even, as opposed to traditional refrigerators that suffer from inconsistent temperature distribution, or the one that is equipped with a pouch that injects Vitamin C inside the machine to keep food, especially vegetables and fruits fresher for longer periods than now. Or the Steam Technology and Baby Care system in front loading washing machines that claim to not only kill all germs and allergens in clothes but also more effectively remove detergent residue even as the Tub Clean feature promises death to all bacteria within the machine. Or microwave machines that promises to cook traditional Indian dishes, but using only one-fourth of the oil usually used while cooking the traditional way. Or for that matter, air conditioners that eliminates all dust and allergic material and even eliminates almost 100 per cent of the bacteria suspended in air inside the room by emitting nano plasma ions.

The upwardly-mobile middle class in countries like India seems to be falling for these products, going by LGE’s sales projections. “In India, the turnover of health plus products in 2009 was 15 per cent of our total turnover, and this year we are targeting to raise it to 25 per cent, while LG India’s revenues are expected to grow by 30 per cent in 2010 over last year’s Rs 13,089 crore,” he says. Adds Rajeev Jain, LGE India’s business head (home appliances), “Our studies say there is an increasing demand among Indian consumers for a healthier lifestyle using innovative products that are economically-priced and provide for easy usage.”

No wonder, the company is pumping in Rs 50 crore just for advertising and marketing its home appliances in India this year, up from last year’s Rs 40 crore, apart from investing up to Rs 400 crore to upgrade the production facilities in Pune and Greater Noida near Delhi, most of the amount earmarked for developing newer products as also make India the company’s export hub for Europe and Central Asia, as against being the hub for exports to only Nepal, Bhutan and the Middle-East at present.

The company surely is putting a lot of emphasis in designing and developing “healthy” products, as is evident in its R&D labs and manufacturing facilities in and around Seoul and Busan, the research team working in tandem with the five overseas design centres in Greater Noida, London, Beijing, Tokyo and New Jersey to develop local market need-based products.

Some of the cutting-edge technologies that the company either holds patent or claims to be the first-off-the-block developer are the HomNet Solution that can help the user control all the home appliances even while being out of home, the Direct Drive Technology in washing machines that has eliminated the belt and the pulley thus ensuring less noise and longer durability, the Linear Compression in refrigerators that saves energy and creates much lesser noise as there is just one friction point as against the four in traditional compressors, and the ovens that cook food using light waves, steam or induction system and not only microwaves.

Unfortunately, not all of these technologies are coming immediately to India, especially in the cooking systems as the Indian mindset, according to industry studies, is still to mature as a user of microwave or other ovens for regular cooking. In fact, according to Jain, the only latest technology that is expected to be launched India in the immediate future is the Linear Compressor, refrigerators equipped with which will be launched in the domestic market by July end.

Design expert Seon-kyu Kim, who mentors researchers at the Corporate Design Centre at Seocho-gu, while giving an overview of how R&D is done by LGE, points out to some more innovations that are not coming to India in the foreseeable future – such as the dust compressor system, called “Kompressor”, that compresses the dust collected by vacuum cleaners enabling easier and non-messy disposal, or the robot vacuum cleaner that once switched on automatically goes around a room to remove all dust, or the water purifier and ionizer systems. But he and his fellow design project manager Joongsan An emphasise that all these products, and many more being developed by company’s scientists, point to the mindset of LGE to be ahead in the race for cutting-edge technology that would enable its home appliance users to lead a healthier and ecologically better life.  

(The correspondent visited LGE’s facilities in South Korea recently at the invitation of the company)


1 Comment »

  1. A very interesting article about the LG technologies and its aim to keep the citizen healthy while being environment friendly to the maximum extent possible. I am always proud of LG and they are always in head of technology. Well done to the Koreans in such a great invention in technology for the consumer market!

    Comment by Health — July 25, 2010 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

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