Tuesday, October 21, 2014


One of the oft repeated statements by the marketing pundits is " consumer is the king"! (One wonders why they have left out the queen!) But the cardinal principle involved in making a product and selling it, is that consumer acceptability and patronage can be expected to a reasonable extent. It is also a known thing that a dissatisfied consumer will never buy the same product. The free market gurus propound the theory that when there is competition consumer gets better service. But are these theoretical considerations work in India? Probably not if the following report is an indication.

"Inspite of all these healthy signs and the availability of the latest gadgets concurrently in India and the rest of the world, there is a disconcerting gap in the attitudes of companies selling the same products in these regions. In the West, for example, complaints against goods purchased are given top-most priority and most retail outlets do not have the slightest hesitation in refunding the consumer the amount he has paid for his goods or offering him an exchange in case he is dissatisfied with the product. As a rule, this facility is not easily available to the average Indian. Even though the Department of Consumer Affairs of the Government of India has stated that the mantra of "Goods once sold cannot be returned or exchanged'' is not permitted and amounts to unfair trade practice, most Indian retailers blatantly print this statement at the bottom of their cash memos and adhere to it strictly in practice. Lack of after-sales service and prompt redressal of complaints can lead to immense harassment to the unfortunate consumer who lands up buying a product which has in-built defects. Even though courts have held that a product which malfunctions within a few months of its purchase will be presumed or deemed to have a manufacturing defect, manufacturers continue to give a tough time to the consumer who buys such a product. Customers who have had the misfortune to buy a defective mobile set or a two-wheeler narrate stories of untold misery in getting the manufacturer to even acknowledge their complaints. Even when these issues are taken up by representative consumer bodies, most companies turn a deaf ear to the calls for help. In most Indian hospitals, the medical care may be world class but the post-operative care lags far behind and leaves much to be desired. Similarly, Indian consumers feel that the products they get are world class but the after-sales service is almost non-existent. With international e-tailers like Amazon, E-bay and others vying for the Indian market and news reports stating that the on-line purchase system is making inroads into the marketing and sales of goods, the problem is likely to further intensify.  It would be far easier for the consumer to fight with a face he sees in his store than an unknown post box address in Gurgaon or Noida, with call centres giving mechanical answers and unfulfilled promises of succourLack of laws and regulations to discipline errant manufacturers and retailers is the other major hurdle for the consumer to succeed in his attempt at getting justice in such cases". 

In that land of free enterprise, viz the US, a consumer is really a king or a queen when it comes to product servicing. any dissatisfied consumer can invariably return the product within 30 days of purchase for a full refund and this makes the purchasing decision easy for millions of consumers which may be the reason why American market place is vibrant and a consumer delight. Product servicing in India is at best a laggard affair involving hours or days of chasing the manufacturer or the retailer to get the grievances addressed satisfactorily! With the FDI in retailing now allowed in the country there are both domestic and foreign players who have set up their shops with glittering super markets and Malls, copying the picture that exists in western countries. Unfortunately these big players are the ones who do not entertain product return while the mom and pop shop near by invariably accepts returns! Why Government regulators are not taking action on these big players is a mystery.


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