Once you've found a place, what do you put in it? Quite a few expats, posted to India, arrive with a large amount of personal goods, often to find that what they have brought is not compatible with local conditions and they could have bought something similar here. We'll try and give you an idea of what is available locally, and an estimate of what it might cost. You could save considerably on shipping costs and customs duty, as well as save time and avoid problems. Here are some points to consider:
- Shipping costs both ways, if you want to take it home again.
- Duty minimum of 20%, plus the hassle of clearing the goods.
- Repair may be difficult to get parts unless the same model is sold in India.
- Compatibility local conditions may not suit the product. Indian current is 220 volts, 50 cycles, and television transmission is PAL.
- Local availability can you get something you'll like here? Selling a local product when you leave may be easier than a foreign brand. Most major and minor appliances are now produced in India, often with Japanese or American collaboration. Quality in India, while not usually world class, is improving, and the higher end products are often pretty good. However, service and customer relations programs are still in their infancy. The customer, once they have paid their money, is rarely king.
Electricity is unreliable in many areas, and voltage fluctuations are so common that voltage regulators are necessary for many appliances. These, as well as transformers to convert American 110 current to Indian 220, are available locally. If you have computer equipment you will also require an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS), locally available, to protect your equipment. Random black outs and brown outs are common, and during the dry summer months you can expect daily power cuts (up to 4 hours a day on an announced schedule) in many major cities.
What you can get here
Many people are surprised at what is available in India these days. Granted, sometimes the quality is not up to scratch, or the style may not suit Western tastes, but things are improving yearly. Those used to shopping at yard sales and buying good second hand furniture cheaply will be disappointed. There isn't a large second hand market, unless you find some expat heading home. There is a small antique market, but good pieces will be hard to find, and prices may be high.
A large range of furniture is available ready made, and it is easy to have something custom made. Prices vary widely, as does quality. In the cheaper range, you'll find wicker furniture of all types - a good choice if you're not here too long, and comfortable in the summer. These are made locally, in small store/factories so check out the quality and design at several places. Pay a bit more and get the best quality of cushions, etc., that you can, and get cushion covers made up on your own. The fabric they supply will most likely be poor.
A living room set
couch, two chairs, and a coffee table
will cost Rs 3000-6000 in wicker.
More conventional upholstered wooden furniture will be two or three times as expensive.
Beds tend to be on the short side - six foot to six and a half foot - so you may consider something custom made. Double beds, without a mattress, run Rs 3000-5000 in wicker, up to twice that in wood.
Mattresses vary by material. Simple 3 foot by 6 foot cotton futons (about 3 inches thick) cost as little as Rs 200-300, while foam and coir combinations might run Rs 2000 to 3000. For double mattresses, double the price.
table with 6 chairs
range from Rs 5.000 to 15.000, depending on size, quality, and how much real wood there is.
There are a large range of appliances available in India now, many of the companies with tie-ups to major Japanese, European, and American manufacturers. Some foreign companies have set up fully owned subsidiaries. Customer support is not too developed yet, nor is there much consumer information available as to which brands work best. INDAX is trying to compile consumer comments on a range of appliances, so check out our "Product Reviews" section, and help us add to it if you can.
You can get a range of brands with a range of sizes. Small units, 165 litres, run around Rs 7,000-8,000. Mid size, 200-300 litres, run about Rs 10,000 - 13,000, and large units, with two and three doors, run Rs 20,000 and up.
The best cooking medium is gas, available in portable cylinders. Electric stoves are too unreliable and expensive, considering the power situation. For gas, you will need a "connection" - meaning someone to supply you the cylinders. The State owned oil companies sell heavily subsidized gas, but getting a connection may take, literally, years. Private operators are now selling more expensive connections. This involves a hefty deposit Get two cylinders if you can, so you have a backup when one runs out.
Gas is potentially dangerous, so if you smell leaking gas don't ignore it. Periodically check the regulator and the hose that connects the stove to the gas cylinder. Use the switch on the regulator to turn off the gas when not in use, and especially if you go away for a while. Change your connection hose regularly, even if it does not show wear. Ask for a gas instruction pamphlet when you first get your cylinder and follow the suggestions. Gas stoves do not come with pilot lights, so keep matches handy, or get one of the lighting devices that are sold.
There are a few range/oven gas stoves on the market but they are not recommended. Apparently, the gas ovens are not effective. Perhaps the pressure in the cylinders is too low. Look for a counter top gas cook range and consider an electric oven, if you need one. Gas ranges run Rs 2,000-3,000 for two burner ones, and up to Rs 5,000 for four burners ones.
Electric ovens come in a range of sizes, from small toaster ovens (Rs 1,000-2,000) to larger ovens, some with rotisseries and timers, and go up to Rs 5,000-6,000.
Televisions & Video Players
The broadcast standard in India is PAL, but many sets sold here are multi-platform. A 21 inch colour set will run between Rs 10,000 and 20,000, depending on brand and features. Larger and smaller sizes are available also. Video players run in about the same price range.
There is not the range of equipment available here that you might find in the West, but models from portable boom boxes to fancy stacked components are available. Dual cassette equipment is most common, but CD players are becoming popular. Prices would be comparable to the West, perhaps a bit higher, and not necessarily the most recent features.
This is the latest appliance to become popular with the middle classes here (after colour TVs and refrigerators). The most popular are smaller models with one tub for washing, and a separate spinner. These run from Rs 5,000-8,000 and the newer single tub machines go from Rs 10,000 up. Dryers are not popular, nor necessary. Most people use a clothesline outdoors or on a balcony.
Air Conditioners and coolers
India gets HOT, especially in the summer. Along the coast, especially, it can also get very humid. Air conditioning helps, but air conditioners are fairly pricey to buy and quite expensive to run. If you are living in a fairly dry place, like Hyderabad or Bangalore, you can get by with a much cheaper and ecologically sounder alternative. Desert Coolers draw in air through a moistened mesh and blow it out, cooled and humidified, into the room. The disadvantages include being a bit noisy, and using quite a bit of water. A large cooler can use a full bucket of water in an hour. If you have a manual fill model you'll be hauling quite a few buckets. Desert coolers do not cool to the degree air conditioners will, but they take the edge off the heat. If you need a cooler environment, especially for sleeping, you might try aircon in the bedroom, and desert coolers in other rooms. Desert coolers cost between Rs 2,000-6,000, depending on the volume of room it can cool.
You won't find the volume of small appliances you may be used to, but you will find the most useful ones. A few, like wet grinders for South Indian style delicacies, are items you won't find in the West. Other items, like hair dryers and electric beaters don't even seem to be on the market here. Bring one if you feel you can't live without it.
Not the range of features you could expect in the West, but getting better. Mostly you get blender-type machines, called mixies here. These are in the Rs 2,000-3,000 range.
Available, and not too expensive. Many people just use a wire grill over a gas flame.
These range from Rs 500 for simple ones, to Rs 1,500 for fancy steam models.
Clocks and Radios
Lots of clocks. Don't bring an electric one, as the power is too unreliable. Short-wave radios are the most useful, there isn't too much in the AM or FM bands.
Kitchen ware and crockery
Lots of options are available these days for plates, cutlery, and the like. Plastic products for storage are cheap, but so are stainless steel containers. You can get most things you might want, except for the more exotic items, like a garlic press or metal whisk. It's also hard to find good kitchen knives.
You can get full sets of china (for 8), including serving bowls and a tea set, for Rs 3,000 to 5,000. Some of the patterns may be gaudy, but some are quite modern. Quality is fair.
Shop around for the good stuff. A lot of what is offered is poorly made, but good sets do exist. There is fancy stuff in boxes, but better value is buying items separately, if you find a pattern you like.
Pots and pans
Lots of these available. Choose stainless steel over aluminum ones. The best have copper bottoms. Curiously, these items are often sold by weight. Lids are sold separately. You can also get coated skillets and the like, but better value is found in the local markets where you can get cast iron fry pans and woks very cheaply - also by weight. These need to be seasoned. Cover the cooking surface of the pan with about a quarter inch of regular salt and cook at high heat for about an hour. This helps seal the surface, but be careful of the hot salt. Finally, coat the inside of the cooled pan with cooking oil. After using, don't wash the cast iron with soap. Just rinse and re-oil before storing.
Most pans do not come with handles, and even when they do, they are often not strong. Indian homemakers use a claw type gripper, sold at utensil shops, to handle hot pans.
Textiles & Carpets
Sheets and towels
India produces vast amounts of cotton textiles, but there is not much demand for things like fitted sheets. You can easily find cotton sheets and bedspreads in a variety of prints. Towels are available, but the ones sold here do not seem to be as absorbent as they could be, at least not until they have been washed many times.
Curtains and drapes
You will probably have to get these made to order. There is a wide choice of fabrics on the market.
You will not find houses with wall-to-wall carpeting, but India produces a wide range of hand knotted carpets. These days, carpet producers are trying to wipe out the child labour in the industry that has dramatically affected sales abroad. Shop carefully for carpets, and take your time. Bargaining will save you a lot of money. Check out as many different stores as you can, get an idea of prices, and then start haggling. Don't make offers until you know what you want to buy, and then start off offering half of what you're quoted. Several visits will be necessary to reach a good price. You might want to 'practice'' by buying a smaller piece first.
Lamps & Lighting
Most places you rent will probably come with fluorescent tube lights and not much more. Indirect lighting, table lamps, etc. are available at special stores. You may have to get plugs installed where you want them, or use extension cords.
Check your fuses. Most fuses in India have been retreaded with heavy wire so they never trip. This is unsafe, as if there is a problem your appliances or wiring burns out instead of the fuse. Replace them with proper gauge fuse wire. If you have circuit breakers, this may not be a problem.