Hearth is no longer the home. For millions of Indians living in cities across the country, home is where the gadget is.
Smart homes, in which everything right from the curtains, kitchen ware, fitness corner, air conditioners to the cosy little private theatre in the basement springs to life at the click of a switch, is the in thing in India now.
The buzzwords in Indian homes are greater technological awareness, finer aesthetics and heightened concern for the environment. Almost all home appliances in the market now are designed to save power.
According to interior stylists, the booming economy, rising disposable incomes and increased stress and 24X7 work hours have turned Indians into complete homebodies. They prefer to spend as much time as possible at home.
Consequently, homes have become microcosms of what luxury hotspots outside have to offer: quality entertainment, holistic health services, gourmet cuisine, high-end home amenities and accessories matched by cutting edge technology.
The bottom line is de-stressing without compromising on time.
"Indian homes are becoming smart. High net worth individuals are bringing five-star amenities of hotels like sophisticated home theatres, expensive spas for rejuvenation and relaxation, accessories like ultra-luxury beds and the latest electronic gadgets into their homes," Siddharth Shetty, managing director of a Mumbai-based company, Evavo Wellness, told IANS. His is the country's first wellness firm that has brought a host of Shiatsu-based mechano-therapy products, based on the ancient therapy from Japan, to India.
However, the hottest products in lifestyle marts across India are automated curtains or glystro, which operate either by wired switches, home automation systems or remote controlled devices. Some of them are also computer-generated and can be operated from a distance of 20 metres. Automatic curtains allow the user to open and close curtains manually without damaging the system or fabric.
"With the number of working couples on the rise, automated home solutions have become the need of the hour. Since we live in a digital age, it is only natural that some solutions need to be available at the tip of your finger," Emmanuel Contagel, general manager of the French home product company Somfy Ltd, told IANS.
Somfy specialises in automated blind management systems for Indian homes. According to Contagel, climate is a major constraint in India and only an intelligent home can reap the benefits of Indian climate - by using sunlight as an alternative source of energy and electronic gadgets to control the harmful spin-offs of Indian climatic extremes.
The company, which is now looking beyond metros after 10 years In India, has found a ready market for its automatic solar-protection curtains that trap harmful rays of the sun and also prevent direct sun rays from entering, as well as blinds, shutters and awnings in Tier II cities like Pune and Chandigarh. The company's business has grown by about 30 percent in the last five years.
Prices of its 16 automated remote-controlled home accessories vary from Rs.8,000 for simple motorised blinds to Rs.20,000 for the sophisticated ones. Glystro motorised curtains cost Rs.60,000 and above.
Automated and solar protection curtains, according to Contagel, can save up to 40 percent energy because they reduce the use of air conditioners at home, Contagel said.
Renu Bansal (name changed), wife of a Mumbai-based businessman, has a room on the second floor of her villa in Mumbai developed into a home theatre. "We built it last year. The experience of watching a movie in a home theatre is amazing," says Bansal. The theatre, which resembles a mini PVR facility, is done up in red, black and beige and fitted with a projector and sound processor and a proper cloth screen. The seats are PVR gold class reclining seats.
"It can seat 11 people," Bansal told IANS. The theatre was built by Delhi-based interior designer Himanshu Kumar. His company, Mini Theatres, designs home theatres across metros in the country and even for homes in South Asia.
The price of his mini theatre range from Rs.120,000 to Rs.1 million, depending on the kind of space Kumar has to convert into a theatre and the accessories.
Mini Theatres, according to Kumar, is one of the fastest growing home theatre designing firms in India. In 2007-2008, Kumar designed more than 25 home theatres in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune Chandigarh and Gurgaon. "Almost every villa or bungalow in Delhi and Mumbai now has basement space which can be converted into a mini theatre," says Kumar.
A home spa saves Delhi-based executive Milind Arora at least six hours that he used to spend in the gym every week. Arora can keep a tab on his workstation, even while enjoying a rub on his Shiatsu massage chair.
His little bungalow in the heart of the capital has a little spa fitted with an aroma steam bath. It boasts of a 'Presidential Luxury' bed that offers automated reclining, leg resting, rotating and television viewing facilities. It cost him Rs 240,000.
"People are increasingly working out of homes and children are studying from home. So one needs products that offers the maximum comfort in their work, sleep, health and entertainment zones" Shetty of Evavo Wellness said.