Giving BIS teeth to be a game-changer
The Narendra Modi government has shown it is serious about implementing and turning into reality the “zero defect” and “Make in India” call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech from the Red Fort. It was no mere rhetoric: the government is learnt to be working on a plan to make it mandatory for over 19,000 products to have Bureau of Industrial Standards (BIS) labels. Failure to obtain this will attract a jail term of one year and a fine of Rs5 lakhs.
The government has said this will apply to imported products too, and this is vital if the mandatory application of BIS standards is to succeed.
This is a brilliant, strategic move on the government’s part, and if it is implemented properly it will not only boost India’s exports by making more items acceptable in international markets, it will also help cut down imports of the same products and, most of all, will provide a level playing field to Indian manufacturers who are fighting an uphill and losing battle against low-quality cheap imports. There is a huge market for cheap, low-quality products in India. Among the main competitors for Indian products are cheap Chinese goods which have flooded the Indian markets — these range from power and electrical equipment to toys, and even our gods and Ganeshas.
India will have to set up systems to ensure that these cheap goods that come into the country adhere to the BIS standards. If Indian manufacturers have to upgrade their manufactured goods to adhere to BIS standards it will necessarily make their products more expensive, so in order to create a level playing field for them, it would be imperative to make sure that all imports coming into the country also conform to BIS standards.
There are several agencies overseas that provide such certification. In Europe, for instance, all products like electrical and electronic items are required to have a CE (certified equipment) label. If the BIS has to do this, it should ensure that it has agencies, say in China, at the factory level, to certify goods being exported to India. Global agencies have their representatives in India. If the BIS cannot have its own units in China and other nations that export to India, it can give accreditation to some other agency or the local national authority to certify that the goods conform to BIS standards.
This is going to be a massive challenge, and one can be sure the government and BIS are aware of this. It would be interesting to see the final ambitious amendment that the government makes to the BIS Act of 1986 that will make the BIS the “quality keeper” of the country.