The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), one of the apex trade associations of India in association with ITC Sunfeast concluded the third edition of its Wisdom Series lecture titled ‘Role of Consumer Voice’ on the theme of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat – Vocal for Local – Moving towards Self-Reliant India’. The event saw an expert panel consisting of Prof. Bejon Kumar Misra, International Consumer Policy expert, Shri Praveen Khandelwal, National Secretary General, Confederation of All India Traders and Mr Anil Rajput, Chairman, ASSOCHAM FMCG Brand Promotion and Protection Council holding an insightful discussion on retail chain utilisation, quality control of products and role of small and medium-sized enterprises to promote local MSMEs and industries to achieve a self-reliant India.
Highlighting the crucial role played by retail traders in pushing the agenda of Vocal for Local, Mr. Praveen Khandelwal said, “Traders can play a major role here as India’s 130 crore population have the first contact with the trader. For any kind of requirement, they approach a trader first. We have more than 7 crore traders and they can play a crucial role in this aspect. Every trader in the country can be a brand ambassador for Vocal for Local and Aatmanirbhar Bharat. This can be a great contact point for launching a vicious campaign as to why we need Vocal for Local and Aatmanirbhar Bharat as there are several in this country who do not know the real value of buying local.”
He further added on how liberating traders from license raj can propel consumption, “Today if you want to start a business or manufacture a product, then you need 28 types of licenses. How can manufacturers plan to produce if they have to get 28 licenses? Most of these licenses are redundant and they have been existing since the pre-Independence era. The producing sector should be liberated to the extent that it becomes easy for the sector to concentrate on producing more and not put their mind on how to reduce costs. They need to be given freedom from the command of multiple authorities.”
Furthering the discussion by focusing on how small traders in the value chain can be amply used to realise the goal of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Mr. Bejon Kumar Misra said, “There should be an inventory of the existing industries we have, their capacities, their core competencies and what are the other applications of their skills. Then we need to have an inventory list of products that are being imported but can also be manufactured domestically. Once these two lists are matched and steps like incentivising small scale manufacturers, linking of medium-scale manufacturers to large-scale manufacturers by becoming an ancillary part of them in terms of outsourcing and sub-contracting are taken then am sure that we will be able to utilise a lot of unexplored capacities. In order to utilise the full potential of small manufacturers, they need to be helped which means our internal procurement system, be it government or private, must develop a good supply chain.”
Both the experts agreed that there needs to be a standardization of manufactured products to encourage domestic and global consumption. Mr. Bejon Misra in this regard said, “The cornerstone of Aatmanirbhar Bharat is quality. We must bring in standards and regulations that assure the consumer of quality and safety. If we want to become a manufacturing hub then we need to bring in the best quality of the world in the goods manufactured in India. If we can produce the best quality domestically, then we will not only capture the Indian consumer but also the global consumer. The government must incentivise local manufacturers not just through subsidies but by upgrading their technology, knowledge and incentivising good manufacturing and distribution practices.”
Mr Anil Rajput, Chairman, ASSOCHAM FMCG Brand Promotion and Protection Council while moderating the discussion presented insightful questions before the panellists and highlighted the role of consumers in promoting domestic consumption. “The recent pandemic has brought many changes in consumer behaviour and their pattern. While shopping malls and multiplexes were closed, small grocery shop and vegetable and fruit vendors delivered essential items at the doorstep of every citizen’s houses. This led to citizens opting for small grocery stores and vendors selling goods near their living area and saw many businesses reinvent their products, services and distribution channel. This shows that consumers have a very important role to play to make the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat successful by promoting local products and increasing use of Indian products. This is an opportunity for local brands to establish themselves well in local markets and then promulgate at national and international levels.”