Opinion

Promote local products with GI logo

N Lalitha/Soumya Vinayan | Updated on May 21, 2020 Published on May 21, 2020

The government will have provide massive publicity for the logo which would help the producers launch their product in a wider market. Also, there’s a need to strengthen ‘producer associations’

In the address to the nation on May 12, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the need for being more vocal about local products to revive the economy that is hit badly by the ongoing health pandemic. Local products strengthen rural-urban linkages and promote much needed non-farm employment. While a variety of strategies are required for promoting the local products from every region, there are about 361 products (foreign plus Indian) recognised for their uniqueness and registered with the Geographical Indications (GI) registry.

The registered Indian products include those from the agriculture, horticulture, textiles, food, and manufacturing sectors. Much of these products have, however, just remained ‘local’ and over time could disappear from the production calendar if they are not given a market push.

As the Indian economy is slowly opening up its activities, it is time to think of ways to promote these GI recognised unique local products among the consumers by popularising the GI logo. This logo, when adopted, would serve to demarcate the GI registered products in the market from similar products and help protect the interests of the genuine GI product producers and consumers who want to consume authentic products.

Features and guidelines

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, announced the GI logo and a tagline in August 2018. The logo contains the alphabets G and I, indicating the location that rightly represents the GI. The tricolours on the logo and the tagline ‘Invaluable products of Incredible India’ are intended to convey the ‘national pride and the essence of India’.

The logo and tagline are the property of the DPIIT. In June 2019, the guidelines for using the logo were made available on the website of IPINDIA.NIC.in, but are to be implemented. The delay is understandable given the type of registered GI products that include internationally traded products like basmati rice and Darjeeling tea, and Bhavani Jamakkalam (carpets) produced in Tamil Nadu that has a limited regional market.

GIs are community intellectual property rights, where small artisans/farmers produce most of the GI products. Keeping this in the background, the logo guidelines are simple. There are no user charges. The registered proprietors and authorised users of registered GI products and government entities do not require prior permission to use the logo. However, as a safeguard measure, the DPIIT says it “is desirable” to apply for the same. DPIIT also lists entities that need to take prior permission.

In the current context, there are three main obstacles to adopting the logo. First, the lack of awareness about GI in general and the common logo in particular among producers and consumers. Second, identifying the authorised users of the GI products. And, third, the lack of collective organisation of the producers.

Increasing the awareness

While the GI awareness among producers and consumers in the country is low, it is a concern that often producers do not even know that a specific product has a GI registration. In the case of an application for patents or trademarks, the person seeking protection would keep a close watch on the developments around the IP application.

However, GI applications/notices for any objection go unnoticed by the different stakeholders as they are published only in the GI journal, whereas the actual producers may be more in touch with the vernacular news media. Publishing the details about GI application and registration in wider news media in local languages would be beyond the scope of GI producers who operate on a small scale.

Given that GI products are heritage and cultural assets of a region, the State governments concerned will have to take the responsibility of publicising the application at the very first stage and later when it is granted. Similarly, the logo will have to be publicised widely to reach both the producers and the consumers. As the logo is for all the registered GI products, wide promotion of logos like Hallmark/Agmark/ISI would help the consumers to associate the logo with the authenticity of the products.

Authorised users, producers collective

The Indian GI registration involves two parts. Part A involves the registration of the product and Part B (authorised users) is concerned with registering the producers and others in the supply/value chain. However, the priority in the Indian context so far has been on identifying and registering the products with the GI registry, which is Part A.

Hence, in the early days of GI registration, government agencies like Spices Board, Development Commissioner of Handicrafts and the National Horticulture Board were active in filing the GI applications on behalf of the producers. In the later years, the GI registry has been encouraging the producers to register the products. Hence, while we may list the registered proprietors of the product for all the products, it would be difficult to identify the authorised users for the same.

This is justifiable to a certain extent because, many of the GI products are produced in small scale by artisans/farmers who have not organised themselves into an association so far, except for a few products like textiles and exported items. In addition, where the actual producers have taken an initiative to register the product with the registry, the GI awareness is not widespread, as the association has been formed with a few individuals, mostly to register the product with the GI registry.

Hence, these 'associations' have to grow into a 'producer association' by mobilising all the producers in villages and talukas to benefit from the strength of collectiveness. Where the government has been involved in applying, the actual producers need to be co-opted as proprietors.

Instead of the cumbersome process of scrutinising individual applications, for the government, it would be administratively easy to process a few applications from producer associations to assign the logo and the tagline. This would partly address the issue of identifying the authorised users and would be cost-effective as the cost of publishing the logo with the product could be done collectively.

This solution would be most appropriate if the producers sell through a single entity like the textile cooperatives or the e-platform. Micro units with small-scale production and deal with customers directly may find it costly to adopt the logo due to print costs on packages. However, if the producers realise that the use of the logo would authenticate their products and distinguish them from similar products, then they would willingly adopt.

Other concerns

The logo guidelines do not prescribe any timelines for the use of logos. This defeats the very purpose of the certification mark. Yet another concern is the legal framework governing enforcement of the use of logos. Since there are no charges for using the logo and the tagline, DPIIT should make it compulsory for all the GI producers and other stakeholders to adopt the logo and check the free-riding in the use of the logo by non-GI producers.

The government will have to step in to provide massive publicity for the logo which would help the producers to launch their product in a wider market than before. The importance of common logo can never be undermined in a vast country like India with high potential for region-based goods. Particularly at this juncture where the focus is on reviving the economy with the ‘Make in India’ initiative, measures to promote authentic regional products would help small producers to reap maximum gains.

Lalitha is with Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad, and Soumya is with the Council for Social Development, Hyderabad.

Published on May 21, 2020

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