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.

AUTHOR

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

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.