In rural India, up to 90% of families cannot afford appliances, have no electricity and have no refrigeration. Appliance manufacturer Godrej & Boyce decided to make a smaller, cheaper refrigerator to tap this market. Many of their assumptions turned out to be wrong; they ended up making a lightweight portable battery-operated refrigerator with customizable skins to make them cool and aspirational and sold to multiple market segments, including the urban affluent.
Godrej & Boyce also pioneered a novel distribution system: the Chotukool would be sold at the post office.
The Chotukool won several design awards and FastCompany gave Godrej its “Most Innovative Company” award.
a. What were the pros and cons of attempting to develop a refrigerator for India’s rural poor?
b. What product and process innovations did the Chotukool entail? Would you consider these incremental or radical? Architectural or component? Competence enhancing or competence destroying?
c. Did the Chotukool pose a threat of disrupting the traditional refrigerator market? Why or why not?
d. Is there anything you think Godrej should have done differently to penetrate the market of rural poor families in India?
e. What other products might the lessons Godrej learned with Chotukool apply to?
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