Why recalls are rare here

Product recall is rare in India compared with overseas markets. Does this mean our companies’ products are perfect?


Ranjana, not really. In most cases, until a problem is a bit too acute or unless there is a problem that is brought to notice by an external regulator, most companies ignore issues.

Does it reflect the state of the Indian market in which even defective products find a place and standards are compromised? Maybe, yes. India is still in a state of evolution in the marketing mindset of perfection. As it sets in, our manufacturers are going to show a greater degree of concern for public safety.

Does it reflect the state of the Indian consumer and the larger environment with respect to lack of consumer activism? It does. Globally, you will witness recalls happening mostly in the pharmaceutical and automotive sectors. These are very sensitive sectors. Any small fault has the ability to impact life very adversely.

Is the Indian consumer market largely recession-insular?

New Delhi

Peter, I will not agree. Even though some categories may exhibit this tendency, by and large, Indians are as touched by the recession mindset as any other nationalities.

There are, however, two points of insulation I notice in India. Point One is the fact that India is only a second-generation brand-conscious market. We are newbies to the brand market and therefore our consumers show a greater degree of devotedness to brand names and a lesser degree of faith and interest in private labels and non-labels of the commodity kind.

This is especially so in the categories of automotives, telecom, durables and garments. In the case of FMCG, however, a brand category that is as old as Sunlight soap and Det detergent in India, besottedness with brands had shown a tendency to wane, as consumers in this sector are usually fourth-generation consumers.

Point Two is the fact that India did not really go through a tumultuous recession within its shores. We did not grow as fast as we did in the years just gone by, but we did not de-grow either.

From the pace of an 8 per cent market GDP growth we climbed down to the range of 3.6-5.3 per cent GDP growth, depending on which quarter and which sector of the economy we were looking at.

We did, however, witness what I call a cautionary recession in urban markets in India, where consumers had the money but were sitting on the wall of indecision to spend, just waiting and watching as to how the economy would pan out. Despite it all, in the last six quarters, India has witnessed a trend where consumers have seriously considered downgrading from brands (especially in FMCG), buying smaller SKUs of the same brands, and even stopping consuming items of frivolous importance. Items such as cornflakes have witnessed this in India, as have cosmetic appeal brands that cater to skin and hair care. The cautionary recession in urban markets, therefore, has been a moment of introspection for the urban Indian at large.

It made him get off the treadmill of inane consumption. In some cases, it made him slow down the speed of consumption. It made him think twice before popping stuff into his purchase basket. It made him peek at the back of packs for prices. It made him audit his kitchen needs and check if all that he bought was actually of use. It made him introspect on price, pack-size, relevance, functionality and irreplaceability.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO of Harish Bijoor Inc. Send your questions to >cat.a.lyst@thehindu.co.in