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Pratyush Nalla

Pratyush Nalla (no, not me :-P), a first year undergraduate student doing Mechanical Engineering at IIT Bombay shares his thoughts with us today on “planned obsolescence”. He gives a different point of view on why products become (or made to become) obsolete. Enjoy the article and leave your comments below. Or, join the discussion on the ReflectionsPN Facebook group.



I’m sitting here in my room with a peculiar thought tingling my brain. This thought of mine develops its grounds on “planned obsolescence”. The economic growth of any country is imperatively dependent on “planned obsolescence”. The notion of the so called “planned obsolescence” is that no product produced and consumed on earth is intransient or in other words has a long life span. “Planned obsolescence” works perfectly for competitive markets looking for growth and profits.

The basic theme of economics is to produce a cost effective but DURABLE product in the most efficient ways plausible. But what is going to happen to the economic growth if a 100 per cent durable product hits the market. As expected its demand would go down after a few years, thanks to its durability, affecting the GDP of a country in an incredulous fashion. Ever wondered why after so many years of a product’s entry into market its demand still remains the same way or in most of the cases increases as it was at the time of its initial months in the market. Voila. Here is where the concept of “planned obsolescence” makes its entry. Any business organisation or an enterprise would want to reap profits, but how would it continue reaping profits year after year after year. So the business organisation tries to resolve this fix by producing non-durable products which would lose their complete efficiency a few years after they are created. Take for example, a laptop. I bet no laptop would work for more than 10 years without any defect creeping up in the system. Here comes in the maintenance organisation which will try to fix that defect. But hey, how the profit will be generated if the problem is fixed forever. So a correction has to be made to my previous statement… ‘the maintenance organisation which will try to fix that problem TEMPORARILY.’ This is how the whole system of necessity, supply, demand and consumption is regenerated again and again which helps the GDP to rise year after year after year.

While I pondered over the concept of ‘how planned obsolescence helped the GDP to rise’ another thing that struck my mind was ‘product improvisations’. In such a competitive market there are many firms producing the same type of product. So how do these firms sustain themselves in the market? You got it. Product Improvisations. The market competency is so high that a product suffers from the inevitable pain of being out-dated the minute after it enters the market. Yes, a new modification of the product is made available in the market by the other competing firms continuing this chain year after year for GDP growth. One day I expressed this situation of product improvisation to my friend. I asked him why a perfect and 100 per cent durable product can’t be produced. The obvious answer he gave me was that nothing in this world is perfect or can be made perfect. Hello, which law of nature defines that perfection is non-attainable. Why a perfect prototype of a product can’t be created? Is it actually impossible or are we being made to look at it as impossible? Are we being fooled each and every minute of our life and made to believe what is being shown to us as real?

After reading all this you may say that I’m being cynical about the whole thing. But all I’ve got to say is that I’m looking at things with a slightly different point of view than yours and I think cynical is a relative term which depends on one’s point of view. So with my point of view I may claim that the world is being quite cynical regarding the whole thing. What say?

Comments on: "Pratyush Nalla – Planned Obsolescence" (6)

  1. whackywhizkid said:

    Okay.. I get your point. Let’s say Dell has serious battery issues. They don’t work upon the battery cz if they change the power aspect then ‘probably’ the technology should also be touched upon, which they don’t wanna compromise on, cz that’s their forte. I’d like to put forth my viewpoint that, yes, there are discrepancies in production. Companies do make unreliable products for shameless profiteering, but you must think of it in a positive way than a negative pov. Would you like to stay money less if you were the CEO of a big firm?

    • Pratyush Nalla said:

      i’ve been basically talking about the economical point of view here. one of the crucial aspects of it is efficiency. we know that resource inadequacy is presently blowing out the world with a huge number of problems. so the cheap concept of “shameless profiteering” wont do any good in this case right. according to me when a person says “a country is economically sound” it doesn’t mean that it is doing financially great exploiting its resources ruthlessly. so for being economically sound the country’s got to maintain a crucial balance between finance and environment. this would have also unveiled what the CEO of a big firm must be doing.

  2. Intriguing line of thought. Every now and then my parents comment that electronic equipment breaks down much earlier than it should. Which brings me to the question- how old can this concept of planned obsolescence be?

  3. Prithvi Bharadwaj said:

    Brilliant read. Written absolutely to the point. Well done 🙂

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