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ChotuKool: the $69 fridge for rural India

ChotuKool: the $69 fridge for rural India
ChotuKool being taken for field testing in rural India. (Photo: Godrej and Boyce)
ChotuKool being taken for field testing in rural India. (Photo: Godrej and Boyce)
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ChotuKool being taken for field testing in rural India. (Photo: Godrej and Boyce)
ChotuKool being taken for field testing in rural India. (Photo: Godrej and Boyce)
ChotuKool. Source: Godrej and Boyce
ChotuKool. Source: Godrej and Boyce

Is this the world’s cheapest refrigerator? Launched by Indian conglomerate Godrej and Boyce, ChotuKool's $69 price tag is not the only reason it can be called super economical. The portable, top-opening unit weighs only 7.8kg, uses high-end insulation to stay cool for hours without power and consumes half the energy used by regular refrigerators. This is a product that has crossed several technological barriers and is designed to cross several social barriers as well.

To achieve its efficiency the ChotuKool doesn't use a compressor, instead running on a cooling chip and a fan similar to those used in computers, so like computers it can run on batteries. It's engineering credentials are further boosted by the fact that it has only 20 parts, as opposed to more than 200 parts in a normal refrigerator.

The ChotuKool was co-designed with village women to assure its acceptability, and is distributed by members of a micro-finance group.

"It’s a reverse engineering of sorts,” says G. Sunderraman, Vice President of Corporate Development at Godrej & Boyce.

Sunderraman says the idea to target the bottom of the pyramid customers was given shape at a workshop with Clayton M. Christensen, the Harvard University professor, best known for his ideas on disruptive innovation.

The idea discussed in the workshop was to involve villagers right from the design to selling of the product. A survey by the young employees of Godrej followed, with findings showing that rural Indians expected a refrigerator to be used to cool 5 to 6 bottles of water and stock 3 to 4 kilograms (6 to 8 pounds) of vegetables. They also wanted it to be portable so that it could be moved out to make room for family gatherings.

The ChotuKool has undergone several alterations after every little detail, including pricing and color (red and blue were the clear winners) was discussed with a select group of villagers and micro-finance institutions. The villagers will also act as marketers and will earn a commission of approximately $3 per fridge sold. This fridge is targeted at households who earn approximately $5 a day, of whom there are almost 100 million in India.

Addressing the power shortage in rural India

Products like the the ChotuKool overcome technological and social barriers and address the one of the most pressing issues in India.

India hosts the world’s largest population deprived of electricity. Ninety two percent of this population lives in rural India, equaling about 380 million people or 71.7 million households. The quality and quantity of power these people have access to is very poor and consequently the country has very little development happening in rural areas.

The power situation in rural India cannot be fixed overnight and until it is, products like this are needed to make people's lives a little better. Effective refrigeration in rural areas can help people extend their access to not only food, but also essential drugs.

Godrej and Boyce, which has interests in real estate, FMCG, industrial engineering, appliances, furniture, security and agri care, plans to launch ChotuKool in India by March 2010 at a price of US$69 or Rs 3250.

Well done on trying to help the lives of the poor- But I can’t see too much innovation in this- it uses a peltier- and looks like products that one can get readily from China- please can someone tell me why this is \"so good\' -and the price! Way to high for a person earning $5 USD a day. I live in Africa and can tell you that our poor can get a small bar fridge for about 75USD that’s bigger and works in the same fashion.
It is cool. But as the previous commenter says, maybe not cool enough...
I also wonder about the peltier...(quite poor efficiency in comparison so I wonder what would be the real costs of running these beasts compared to some Energy Star A fridge mass produced in China).
What is the miraculous stuff that insulates the unit? (It is not aerogel for sure, this is still unavailable even in Mass...the second best in insulating qualities is urethane foam...which is pretty common stock.)
I like the social engineering project.
This article seems like a good PR.
Nirmal Kishore
Very few corporations have focused on the \'rural india\' segment of the market due to potential for only low margins.
The margins may be small but the market is large and the way this product has evolved from an idea to a real product (by the people for the people) encourages me to be optimistic about this and similar products.
I am glad Gizmag has featured an Indian simple, innovative product for the rural poor. This is what is needed for Developing countries. As Mao put it rich work for the rich, poor also work for the rich but few are there who work for the poor. I am involved in the design,demonstration,dissemination of (3D approach) many innovative gadgets like Simple Solar Drier, Vertical and Cylindrical Solar Water Heater, Pedal operated washing machine, Hand operated battery charger,Savonius Wind rotor with concentrator for battery charging, Solar Disinfection unit for safe drinking water,Microhydro device for low heads, Air-cum-water cooler, Cap to beat heat, Fireproof apron,etc., What is more I have not taken any patents on my innovative devices. I believe in the adage,\" Science to serve society-Society to support Science\".
I will be glad to share my experience, expertise and enthusiasm in promoting my socially relevant gadgets around the globe:
My contact E-mail:
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
Developing countries as well as places like the US - *WE* need appliances that minimize electrical use - the US uses a disproportionate amount of the worlds energy and needs to reduce the usage.