It's a weekend. I am at home with my octogenarian dad on a hot summer afternoon. After a leisurely lunch and some uplifting conversation, I ask my dad to go for his afternoon nap. As he is just about to sleep, a loud kkkkiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnggggggggg sound shatters the silence. The sound is so impactful that it could even have woken up the mythological king of somnolence, Kumbhakarna.
The culprit is a tile-cutting machine that's being used in a neighbouring flat undergoing renovation. And it's common knowledge that tile cutting machines have decibel levels which qualify them as distress signal instruments. The entire neighbourhood must know that a home is being refurbished and the noise level caused must become a talking point or a sounding point as much as the amount spent on "interiors" done by the interior designer.
Or picture this scenario. Get into a car for some catch-up conversations with a friend that you are meeting after ages. Even with the windows rolled up, you cannot hear your own voice amidst the constant sounds of honking multiplied by the sound of roaring engines coming from bikes that are aspiring to be Harley Davidsons. Added to that is the background music going dhin chak dhin chak dhin chak from teenagers demonstrating the power of their car's sound system. A simple meaningful conversation is impossible.
As we try to talk, we hear someone else's voice instead of ours. That too, rather loudly. It actually emanates from someone in an auto rickshaw next to us. A passenger is talking on the cellphone in the firm belief that shouting loudly is the only way to be heard.
Everyone is aware that India's cities have a huge pollution problem. But besides not being able to breathe, you cannot even talk or scream about it because our cities are drowning in noise. Against noise levels of 70 decibels which human ears can endure, in Mumbai, for example, noise pollution levels routinely touch 110 decibels ensuring that people are experiencing sound levels of a rock concert all the time and plunging themselves into deafness.
While this pollution level continues to scale alarming levels, what is equally alarming is the lack of any noise reduction options across various products and categories. The only weapons to combat this journey into deafness seem to be noise reducing headphones at the higher end, which one can use simply as a defence weapon, clearly hoping that these will drown out all the sound. At the bottom end, there are good old cotton ear plugs for the masses. Nothing else. This is clearly a huge opportunity for marketers.
Start with buildings. The glass supplied for windows in apartments by brands like Saint Gobain and Pilkington have noise reducing variants. But most builders avoid these to save costs. Looking at it the other way, builders can actually charge a premium and make such glasses a standard option available to buyers. Also, car makers can now have a variant where the glasses are noise reducing and charge a premium for that. Imagine, a Maruti Suzuki Shanti range of Altos, Dzires, Wagon Rs. No Raaste Ka Shor. Only Shanti. Or will they come up with the Renault Duster Sound Buster variant.
There are so many other noise reducing categories in a house which can be evolved into brands. Noise reducing curtains for instance. Windows that allow a peaceful apartment to feel like being in a live rock concert all the time can be covered with simple noise reducing curtains made from special fabrics that allow for acoustic reduction. A whole new range of curtain brands are waiting to be created. Similarly like light reducing films that can be stuck on windows, there can also be noise reducing films which can be stuck on home windows and on car windows.
And there is the noise reducing paint category that can used to coat walls of homes suffering from the dhinchak effect. A US-based company actually has a product called "Coat of Silence" a spray on sound deadening coating that can be applied on walls.
Moving from homes to honks. In this interconnected world and in the age of chips and internet of things a fundamental question to ask is why do cars, two wheelers and autos need horns at all. Just like electric cars and hybrids, why not have cars which have no horns. Instead they could be replaced with sensors that allow one vehicle to communicate with another vehicle without a loud honking.
Or horns set at a certain frequency such that can only be heard between cars without any noise escaping outside. Technology enabled possibilities here are endless for replacing the noisy and redundant Bhopu across different vehicle types.
Inside homes there are again endless possibilities. Furniture can now be designed in a way to reduce noise levels within an apartment. Top furniture brands your "No Shor" ranges are awaited.
Another area of defence is in the mattress and the bedsheets category crafted to absorb and reduce noise. The Sleepwell range needs a Sleepwell Serenity extension.
Clearly there is a whole range of noise reducing products waiting to be developed into mainstream brands. And till that happens, television and radio channels should figure out peak noise pollution timings and broadcast a simple public service message with regular frequency and at a high decibel level. It need not be anything very complicated or long. It can simply be done with one word. Simply Shatrughan Sinha repeatedly voicing his legendary "KHAMOSH". Loudly!
The author is a senior consumer marketing and financial services professional based in Vietnam who has lived and worked in India, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. His book "Marketing Chronicles" is available on Amazon India , Flipkart and at key online/ physical book stores.
(If you have more solutions for brands to create a low-decibel world, do write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org