Indians battle intense heat with 'mad rush' for air conditioners, beer

By Reuters   June 28, 2024 | 07:11 pm PT
Demand for beer in India is at a multi-year high and air conditioner sales are skyrocketing as the intense, unprecedented heat scorching parts of the country becomes a boon for some consumer businesses.
A worker carries an air cooler for delivery to a customer during the heat wave in Ahmedabad, India, May 30, 2024. Photo by Reuters

A worker carries an air cooler for delivery to a customer during the heat wave in Ahmedabad, India, May 30, 2024. Photo by Reuters

Temperatures in the Indian capital Delhi and the western state of Rajasthan soared to almost 50 degrees Celsius in recent weeks, with scientists saying the hot summer has become even more intense due to human-driven climate change. While rains lashed Delhi on Friday, many northern areas such as Punjab recorded temperatures above 40 C on Thursday.

Beer sales volume are expected to jump 10% this summer and demand is at its highest since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Vinod Giri of Brewers' Association of India which represents leading beer makers Carlsberg, Anheuser-Busch InBev and United Breweries.

Beer in this scorching heat, Giri said, makes Indians "feel better without getting too high on alcohol."

The heat has also driven power demand to a record peak as more people seek ways to cool down.

B. Thiagarajan, managing director at ACs-to-air purifier maker Blue Star, said he has not witnessed such strong sales for air conditioners in the more than 30 years he has worked in the industry.

It's been a "mad rush ... anything called air conditioner would have got sold," he said.

The number of affluent people in India is rising rapidly, and Thiagarajan said overall air conditioner sales will grow 50% in the April-June summer months, outstripping the industry's expected demand increase of 25% to 30%.

Other businesses are also enjoying a strong summer.

Quick delivery service Swiggy Instamart said it is seeing a sharp rise in orders for ice cream and cold beverages.

Walmart-owned Indian e-commerce website Flipkart said demand for top-end sunscreen products jumped 40% between February-May 2024 versus the previous year, with products such as sunscreen sticks proving particularly popular.

"Heatwaves made me use sunscreens very frequently, like, 3 to 4 times a day," said S. Dinesh, 27, whose job demands him to stay out in the sun during the day.

But even as the heat pushes up demand for some online products, it is causing logistical challenges as more delivery workers fall ill due to the high temperatures, said Ajay Rao, CEO of Emiza, a logistics company which counts Flipkart and Mamaearth among its customers.

"People are not able to actually cope with the outside temperatures," he said.

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