THE QUALITY CHALLENGE
In the altered regime of Globalization and free economy, business firms are also facing the challenge of graduating from shoddy products to products of excellence. In the earlier days, the permit-licenseâ€“quota regime had guaranteed profits to them even when they turned out shoddy products at high prices. It has been a very peculiar phenomenon: India was one of the largest markets in the world, Indian products, sadly, were rated the shoddiest. And, the Indian consumer was paying, the highest price. Now, quality has suddenly become a major issue for business firms in India. It has acquired an additional significance in the context of the new focus on exports. Business firms of India have felt the pinch in this regard all the more as they went in search of global markets.
There is now a new awareness about quality; and a good deal of effort is being made by many firms to attain international quality standards and to obtain international quality certification.
The BHEL example: BHEL, for example, found that it could not achieve its planned exports without paying attention to quality and obtaining international quality certification. As a part of its new strategy to boost exports, BHEL set a target date to obtain ISO-9000 certification for its products. The company was forced to do this following the loss of orders worth millions of dollars on the ground that it did not have ISO-9000 certification. The company faced disqualification in several cases .A supplier without such certification was also required to pay higher insurance rates. The company realized that the third party quality assessment and registration was becoming a must for doing business in International markets. As a result, it organized a crash programs for ISO certification for its plants and products.
Examples of seafood industry: Indiaâ€™s seafood industry faced the quality challenge with the compulsion to implement the total quality solution based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). A majority of the processing units in the country have to upgrade their facilities or face the risk of being marginalized in international markets where quality was fast emerging as the most important concern of the consumers.
The detection of salmonella bacteria in cooked shrimps by the US health authorities, the rejection of several containers of marine products by the Italian health authorities and the detection of industrial waste materials in some consignments of low value fish were some of the quality problems the industry has confronted in the recent past.
Both the US and the European Union have made the HACCP-based quality system mandatory for seafood processors. The HACCP system necessitates better infrastructure facilities like better landing centers, more hygienic handling, both at the transportation and at the processing stages, laboratory facility for all units, adequate supply of good quality water and uninterrupted power supply. Training of personnel for implementing the HACCP system is another crucial area.
The Consumer Calls the Tune
With the change in the environment, the consumer clearly is gaining a new importance. Companies that could afford to ignore the consumer all along are now forced to compete with one another to win his favor.
In conclusion we say that the Indian consumer now has access to the best products in the World. He is no longer required to subsidize the antiquated production processes and inefficiencies of Indian manufacture. Till, now, he could not get a well-engineered product, though he was willing to pay the due price. Now, he has a choice. Rules of business, which have all along been in favor of the producer, are now being rewritten in favor of the consumer.