In an industry dominated by multinational giants, it’s not easy for a smaller player to compete, let alone for over two decades.
But Equator Advanced Appliances, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this season, has two major factors in its favor: a lead in the niche combo washer-dryer category, and a visionary entrepreneur, inventor, president, and founder in Atul Vir.
You can add stubborn to Vir’s attributes. An Indian immigrant, he was told on his first U.S. job interview: “You don’t know a thing.”
Sixteen patents, a million SKUs, and numerous awards and honors later, his company is a global presence that also produces refrigerators, wine coolers, microwave ovens, and freestanding washers and dryers for the Asian and U.S. markets.
Domestically, the Equator line is carried by Best Buy, Costco, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club and Sears, and can be found in some 250,000 American households.
Along the way, Vir has earned a reputation as a principled and ethical CEO (a subject he has lectured on around the world), and his company has become synonymous with superior customer service.
But the backbone of the business remains the combo washer-dryer, which he developed to help his wife spend less time doing laundry and more time with family. Equator was among the first to introduce the category to the U.S. market, and today’s sixth-generation model, the Super Combo, continues to build on Vir’s innovation platform.
The unit, described as the world’s first convertible venting and condensing combo washer-dryer, was designed to address laundry challenges in developing nations. To that end, Asian-model features include:
• an onboard surge protector;
• a cleanable water filter;
• a bottom panel to prevent pest; and
• a secondary pump to draw water from an alternative source such as a bucket.
A Wi-Fi-enabled U.S. iteration with a fashion-forward pink finish — Pantone’s 2016 Color of the Year — is set to ship on Aug. 15. The energy-efficient Super Combo is only 22 inches deep but can accommodate 13 pounds of laundry. It will also feature add-a-sock stopping; delayed start; wrinkle guard; a second fan at the exhaust outlet for faster drying, another industry first; and push-button selection of vent or condenser drying.
Also on tap for Equator: a stainless, built-in microwave and thermal oven that cooks separately or in combination, and a slim and silent seven-bottle wine refrigerator that doubles as a built-in or freestanding unit.
Given the breadth of Vir’s accomplishments in the first 2.5 decades, one can only imagine what he has in mind for the next 25 years.