Changing gear

Updated: Oct 30 2004, 05:30am hrs
Maruti may not have quite made history by setting aside over Rs 20 crore during the second quarter against product recall. In the past too, there have been instances of Indian companies recalling their products. But the phenomenon is still rare enough for each such instance to be worth noting as part of the changing scenario in India. A scenario where sellers can no longer take consumers for granted. Today, its the European market that Maruti has provided for in its balance sheets. But the day when it shifts gears and makes a similar provision for Indian consumers may not be too far off. Indeed, why only Maruti and why not other companies too

The consumer may not yet be king in India. But liberalisation and the opening up of the Indian economy seem to be having a salutary effect on companies here. Faced with increasing competition, they are beginning to show some responsibility toward the consumer. Even though this is possibly more with an eye on protecting their own interests. No longer existing in an insular world, a number of automobile components and food manufacturers as also pharma companies in India are reported to be scurrying for product liability insurance cover. When a product recall can set a company back by crores of rupees, insurance does seem a viable option.

Recently, the European Union ordered 61 Indian companies to recall their food products on grounds that it was contaminated. A product recall of automobiles can prove to be even more expensive. When Bridgestone was asked to recall 6.5 million tyres from the market, the company nearly went out of business. While product recall is a common enough occurrence in the West where consumer rights are far more comprehensive and stringent, in India it is yet to find its place in the sun. Cadbury did recall its chocolates when worms were found in the product. And Boston Scientific Corporation withdrew its drug-coated stents from India owing to a malfunction. Such instances, though, are few and far between. Its time, therefore, that the consumer here is given his due. If reforms have brought some positives to the country, isnt it time that the Indian consumer too reaped the benefits of globalisation