Bharat – a glorious civilisation. The cradle for many inventions that form the foundation of the world as we know it today. Though credit for many inventions has been mistakenly assigned to /usurped by the western world.
The journey for Independence led to a powerful Swadeshi movement. Somehow post 1947 the momentum wasn’t there anymore. It could have been powered to build India. Sadly, the leadership in the crucial initial years and decades had no pride in India. Misguided socialist policies set us back several decades in terms of infrastructure and growth despite having natural resources, people, intellect and the legacy of a civilisation which even today has no parallel.
From being a country that took pride in its creations we became one where all things foreign were deemed to be of a higher quality than what was Made in India. License Raj, socialist policies, corruption, visionless education policies and system played its part in ensuring India becoming a poor/developing nation with low self confidence.
Swadeshi is not just about products. It starts with the mindset and leadership. Since 2014 we are awakening to our power as Indians. The India of today is a vastly different nation. We do have many more miles to traverse. We are well on our way to being Atmanirbhar Bharat. Some foundational changes are imperative to power India.
A nation of 1.40 billion + people , a stable democracy – makes us an enormously attractive market to most countries and companies on the planet. Our large market must be primarily served by Indian companies making products in India.
The research for the book I am writing on ‘Made in India’ led to interesting insights. While high value items like electronics have Country of Origin on them, there are so many products in offline retail which only have a price sticker. We buy electronic items infrequently. Other household/daily use items are purchased more frequently and widely. E.g. Kitchen accessories, gifts, toys, decor products, stationery items etc. Business in these products runs into lakhs of crores.
Some products have a ‘Marketed By’ with no information on where it was made. Some have “Manufactured and Marketed By’. This could in many cases just mean that the company commissioned the manufacture. But creates the impression of it being ‘Made in India’. Such vagueness may mean the products were made in China (or a genuine confusion on part of the brand on how to write it in the absence of clear guidelines). The products which are from Germany or Italy the Country of Origin/Manufacture is clearly mentioned on the product. This strengthens the conviction that the vagueness is possibly deliberate to mask Chinese origin.
Currently, in offline retail, identifying the Country of Origin on a product is a task for the determined. You have to be fluent in English, have the patriotism of a soldier, the skill of a forensic expert and the speed of a ninja if you wish to complete purchases in a reasonable span of time.
Research for the book led to store visits , looking at packaging in detail, talking to people from different socio economic segments about how they make purchase decisions.
At one point it led me to a question as to how would people who can’t read English make the choice to buy a ‘Made in India’ product ?
As per Census India 2018 report there are 121 languages and 19,500 dialects in India. Packaging content is largely in English (excluding products which are produced and sold in specific regions). There are some products where a leaflet or product manual inside a sealed package may be in several languages. But the external packaging on which the Country of Origin is written has limited space and is often in English. In whichever language the Country of Origin is written there will always be millions of Indians who can’t read it.
This therefore inadvertently excludes millions from making an informed choice while buying.
– People who may not be literate in the language in which the packaging is written
– People who are not literate
– Senior citizens with vision issues who can’t quickly scan a maze of content on the package to locate the Country of Origin.
– Children – today children are making purchases. It could be stationery items or some household item at a local shop.
– Even adults fluent in English cannot scan through the fine print of packaging of 30+ products (monthly shopping) to locate the Country of Origin.
When something isn’t possible or easy then most people could cease making efforts. It is then randomly done or done by few.
People can be Vocal for Local only when they know / can easily and quickly identify where the product was made.
Having a visual symbol and making it mandatory for products of Indian origin will turbocharge the Made in India movement across a wide range of sectors.
The parameters for it are –
– Not used commonly in any other context
– Focus on the shape i.e not color as packaging is sometimes in one color. So the symbol cannot be color based.
The Make in India lion symbol would be ideal as it is fairly widely understood. It would save time and effort. But, it is not present in product packaging as a mandatory element. It is the government’s discretion on which symbol to finalize. They can run a design contest with awards for designs based on the criteria.
In consideration of the fact that at any point crores of packaging material is already printed and in stock + the merchandise that is already in stores / warehouses – the government can set up a target date. E.g all products Made in India from 1 Jan 2023 must feature the symbol. This would be fair and practical.
There must be clear criteria for usage of the symbol. E.g importing a product in bulk and merely packaging or some decorative addition is not ‘Made in India’. Stringent penalties for fraud in Country of Origin are needed.
In addition to a distinctive visual symbol and clear criteria for its usage – there needs to be traceability in the supply chain to identify the Country of Origin of a given product. I.e. a govt dept should be able to audit it and ascertain.
By making a visual symbol and making it mandatory on products of Indian origin – millions of Indians – from children to senior citizens will be able to participate in nation building by choosing to buy products that are Made in India. The visual symbol will inform, inspire and empower Indian citizens to make the choice.
From Karakoram to Kanyakumari every Indian will be able to power India with their purchases.
In the 75th year of our Independence as we celebrate various facets of our nation – we must be vigilant of what it takes to keep India free. Political freedom is of limited value without economic freedom. In this mission every citizen can be empowered to be the soldier who protects and nurtures India.