When Covid-19 forced people to stay home, it also forced a lifestyle rethink. Domestic workers became inaccessible. Cleaning the house was no longer someone else’s problem. While the vast majority of households just had to grin and bear the extra burden, a surprising number of people turned to robots.
For Milagrow HumanTech, a 13-year-old robotics company that deals mainly in the floor-cleaning robots segment, business couldn’t be better. In the first four months of the new financial year, the company did as much business as it did in the entirety of the last fiscal, says Rajeev Karwal, founder and CEO of Milagrow. “And in the first 15 days of August, we did almost 50% of the last four months.”
Milagrow doesn’t just sell floor cleaning robots. The company has 45 robot variants across a plethora of use cases. From robot waiters for restaurants to small robots that perform back massages, no other company in the country sells such a wide range of robots. Covid, though, has blurred most of this into the background, with cleaning robots decidedly front and centre.
Globally, the household robots market is estimated at $3.3 billion $3.3 billion Markets and Markets Household Robots Market by Offering: Global Forecast Read more . In India, however, it is an extremely niche market. The abundance of cheap domestic workers, combined with the price tags of robot helpers, has made household robots largely unnecessary.
The cost of Milagrow’s floor-cleaning robots, for example, ranges from Rs 7,000 ($95) to Rs 1.2 lakh ($1600). Last financial year, the company sold about 600 units, at an average price of Rs 40,000-50,000 ($540-680). For the financial year ended March 2019, it had revenues of Rs 3.2 crore ($436,200), according to company research platform Tofler.
Milagrow isn’t the only company swimming against the tide to mainstream robots in India. Far bigger companies have tried and failed. Multinationals such as LG and Philips, which had robotic vacuums of their own in India around 2015, have long since discontinued discontinued Philips Philips' India website lists its discontinued robot vacuum Read more them due to a lack of demand. Even when Chinese company Xiaomi—the market leader for mobile phones—sensed the demand for cleaning robots back in April, it preferred to crowdfund crowdfund Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P Mi crowdfunding page Read more 3,000 units to avoid the risk of unsold inventory.