On a spectrum ranging from green to maroon, New Delhi achieved Vantablack status in the early hours of 8 November 2018.

Different countries may have different parameters for measuring air quality index (AQI), but the colour codes are standard: green is good. Yellow, moderate. Maroon straddles anything from ‘hazardous’ to ’emergency’. But what colour do you associate with an AQI of 2000 (so off the charts, one can only liken it to a forest fire) when the hazardous limit in India is 500?

Answer: Vantablack. The darkest colour, one that absorbs 99.9% light – which also sums up the visibility over Delhi University’s North Campus a day after Diwali.


The situation may not be as apocalyptic in Mumbai. Yet. But in the fourth aisle of a suburban Croma outlet, in a space once occupied by digital cameras (RIP), a gleaming, champagne-coloured device stands as a portent to our grotty times. The Honeywell Air Touch i8 and its neighbours – five Philips and a Blueair – attract a gaggle of customers who’ve wandered into the air purifier territory.

Two sales executives in the consumer electronics store hurry over, using buzzwords brands pay big bucks to market: ‘VitaShield IPS’. ‘HiSiv’. ‘HEPASilent’. This one has a thicker HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. That one has more ACH (air changes per hour). This one is better for a larger area.

“But if you ask me ma’am, these are the best,” says one, pointing to the Philips models. “Because they have a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) of 0.02. Other brands have a 0.2 CADR.”

Wait. If CADR is the volume of air filtered in a minute, 0.02 is laughable in a market where higher CADRs are collar-popping material. Is it really CADR you’re talking about?

One executive flips through the company brochure, then replies: “Sorry, I meant EFS (effective filtration size). HEPA filters usually keep out particles measuring 0.2 microns and above. This means Philips can filter smaller particles. There’s also a three-year extended warranty offer…”

A similar scenario plays out in Vijay Sales, another electronics retail chain. Except here, a Philips sales assistant in a crisp blue shirt and khaki trousers talks about the brand’s AeraSense display – a “PM 2.5 reading in real-time, which others don’t have”…

“…are you offering an extended warranty?” the imp in me interjects.

“The product comes with a default two-year warranty ma’am,” the executive smiles.

“But Croma is offering a three-year extended warranty as a Diwali offer.”

“Oh… please give me few minutes. I’ll call the company and ask if we can make a similar offer.”

Three minutes later: “Ok ma’am, I’ve confirmed. We can also offer a three-year extended warranty. So, may I have your number if you’ve decided?”

And just like that, Philips has mastered the art of the lure in a country obsessed with warranties.


Roshni Nair

Roshni P. Nair joins us from Reuters, where she was an online producer. With a background in weekend features at Hindustan Times and DNA, Roshni has written on subjects ranging from India’s amateur UFO investigators to the provenance of sambhar. When not pursuing story ideas, she enjoys reading, making a great cuppa adrak chai, playing with street dogs, and avoiding large gatherings. Roshni will work out of Mumbai and can be reached at roshni at the rate the-ken.com

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