In India, the implementation of Quality Control Orders (QCOs) has ushered in a new era of product quality, safety, and standardisation across various industries. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are at the heart of these sectors, and their experiences shed light on the challenges and opportunities that QCOs bring.
These regulations have spurred innovation and improved competitiveness. SMEs often face resource constraints when adhering to QCOs, but government initiatives offer support and incentives. Despite the challenges, QCOs enhance consumer confidence and expand the market reach of Indian businesses.
Enhancing quality through technology adoption
In industries such as handicrafts and fashion, where craftsmanship and design are paramount, SMEs are leveraging technology to improve product quality. Technology helps streamline production processes, source materials efficiently, and adhere to QCOs.
Palash Agrawal, Founder and Director of Vedas Exports, highlights how technology has transformed their approach to quality. He says, “The importance of quality control becomes evident when discussing handicrafts or handmade products. In the past, when products were crafted by hand, their quality might not have been exceptionally high. However, this is precisely where small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a crucial role by leveraging technology to enhance the quality and design of such items.”
Balancing trust, quality and affordability
For many businesses, compliance with QCOs has become a market differentiator. Brands that adhere to these standards can position themselves as trustworthy, which in turn drives growth and competitiveness.
As Vikash Kumar Gupta, CEO of Stovekraft, emphasises, “Ever since QCOs have been rolled out, they have influenced the overall landscape of the kitchen appliances industry in India in myriad ways. One of the most immediate impacts of QCOs has been the improvement in the quality of products manufactured by kitchen appliance makers. QCOs mandate these manufacturers to adhere to specific quality benchmarks.”
One common challenge across SMEs is the need to balance quality improvements with affordability. While QCOs raise quality standards, they may also increase production costs. SMEs must maintain this delicate balance to remain competitive in the market.
Harshwardhan Patwardhan, CEO of Chappers, encourages businesses to view QCOs as a catalyst for positive change. He points out, “QCOs should not be seen as a barrier and taken positively as the government is trying to improve the overall professionalism of the footwear industry. If they’re taken in the right spirit, our overall quality standards will definitely go up, and eventually, the customers will get used to the slightly higher prices.”
Start-ups: Quality and compliance
Start-ups view government-enforced quality control measures as foundations for lasting success. These regulations provide a level playing field, foster trust among consumers and investors, and promote long-term sustainability and growth.
Manas Pal, Co-Founder of PedalStart says, “Quality control measures provide start-ups with a level playing field, fostering trust among consumers and partners. When government standards are in place, start-ups are encouraged to prioritise excellence in their products and services.”
Financial constraints pose a significant hurdle for SMEs looking to comply with QCOs. These businesses often lack the resources for large-scale quality enhancements. Government support, grants, and financial incentives can help alleviate this challenge.
Collaborative efforts between government agencies and industry associations can go a long way in addressing these issues by bridging the gap between quality regulations and start-ups’ capacities. By offering tailored guidance, financial backing, and capacity-building programmes, these entities can empower start-ups to meet and exceed quality control standards.
Authentication solutions: Bolstering security
Authentication solutions and technology adoption contribute to national security and trust. SMEs actively participate in this process, accelerating the adoption of technologies that enhance safety and security.
Nakul Pasricha, President of the Authentication Solutions Providers’ Association (ASPA), asserts, “Trusted brands that invest significantly in developing high-quality products value the recognition of quality standards and a clean marketplace where they can compete with other reputable brands without worrying about competition from inferior, sub-standard, or counterfeit products.”
Recycling industry: Welcoming measures with recommendations
The recycling industry applauds quality control measures but suggests their careful implementation. Their recommendations include periodic certifications, accessible testing facilities, and collaborations between government bodies, industry associations, and SMEs.
Sanjay Mehta, President of the Material Recycling Association of India (MRAI), emphasising the importance of proper implementation, says, “We urge the BIS authorities to consider several points while implementing the QCO or BIS certification, including periodic certifications and ensuring that sufficient labs exist with world-class testing equipment.”
Quality control in metals industry
The sourcing and procurement of raw materials in the metals industry has seen a significant shift towards prioritising quality control measures, feels Lalit Beriwala, Director of Shyam Steel Industries and Senior Vice President – Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Stricter standards are now in place to ensure the acquisition of only high-quality materials. However, the limited availability of quality raw materials and the increased demand for them have resulted in higher costs and subsequent price hikes,” he explains.
Quality control inspections and audits present inherent challenges for the metals industry, particularly in terms of production timelines, he points out.
“The extended number of inspections and their duration may lead to delays in the manufacturing process quite substantially. Be that as it may, these inspections have a critical role in ensuring consistency in product quality where excellence remains the predominant factor,” he adds.
Despite these challenges, the metals industry recognises the indispensable role of quality control measures. Their commitment to maintaining the highest standards of quality underscores the industry’s dedication towards delivering superior products to meet the rising expectations of customers.
To support small and medium-sized metal manufacturers in meeting quality standards affordably, the following strategies are employed:
Local Sourcing: Prioritising procurement from local suppliers or production facilities reduces transportation costs and fosters stronger supplier relationships, enhancing quality control.
Collaborative Procurement: Small and medium-sized companies combine their purchasing demands, negotiating favourable terms with suppliers to access high-quality materials at competitive prices.
Lean Manufacturing: Emphasising waste reduction and efficiency improvement throughout production optimises workflows, lowers inventory, and enhances productivity, resulting in cost savings while maintaining high quality.
Recommendations for a quality-focused future
To promote the adoption of quality control measures and support SMEs in their compliance efforts, several key recommendations emerge:
Government Support: Governments can provide financial incentives, tax breaks and grants to offset quality control implementation costs for SMEs.
Industry Collaboration: SMEs can collaborate to share resources, knowledge and best practices for quality control.
Access to Training: Training programmes on quality control and compliance should be made accessible to SMEs.
Consumer Education: Educating consumers about the importance of quality control and safety can justify pricing and build trust.
Sustainable Practices: Encouraging sustainable and eco-friendly production can align with quality control requirements.
Financial Assistance: Access to affordable loans or grants for quality control improvements can ease the financial burden on SMEs.
Balancing quality control, affordability and sustainability is a complex challenge, but with the right support mechanisms and industry collaborations, SMEs can successfully meet these requirements while thriving in the market. As the government continues to champion quality control, it creates a path towards a future where Indian products make a mark for their quality, safety, and innovation, bolstering consumer trust and fostering competitiveness. On this journey, our SMEs will be the exemplars of quality and innovation, driving India’s economic growth and enhancing its global reputation.