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Companies, especially those in the fast-moving consumer goods, automobiles, electronics and durables segments, have long devoted attention to the looks of products. Increasingly, these companies are considering getting their designs certified by a competent authority.
While this is a common practice abroad, companies in India, have largely depended on their own internal assessment or a foreign certifying body, owing to the lack of a domestic certifying authority.
Last year, to fill this gap, the commerce ministry had launched the India Design Mark, or I-mark, under the aegis of the India Design Council, a special cell set up to promote design standards in the country. The first phase saw 31 of the 70 applications being certified. Applications were received from Maruti Suzuki, Godrej & Boyce, Wipro Consumer Care & Lighting, Honda Motorcycle & Scooters (HMSI), Crompton Greaves, etc. The second phase, applications for which are being invited now, is likely to record about 150 applications.
“Our assessment is based on the number of online registrations we’ve received so far,” says Hrridaysh Deshpande, administrator, India Design Mark. So far, about 400 online applications have been received, compared with about 300 last year. The India Design Council charges a fee for usage of the I-mark logo. This kicks in a year after the certification, Deshpande says.
He adds online registrations are important because without these, companies can’t apply for design certifications. “It is an absolute must; it gives us a sense of how serious the company is, in terms of benchmarking its products,” he says.
This year, applications have been received from companies spanning sectors such as manufacturing, automobiles, consumer durables and furniture. Godrej & Boyce and Wipro Consumer Care, which have applied this year as well, say they are keen to build on the momentum achieved with last year’s certification. “The parameters include not only the aesthetics of the product, but also metrics such as whether the product is designed in-house, is it eco-friendly, and so on. This is useful because it helps you raise the bar while designing products. You will obviously keep these factors in mind,” says Parag Kulkarni, senior vice-president & business head, commercial lighting & furniture business, Wipro Consumer Care & Lighting.
Anil Mathur, chief operating officer, Godrej Interio, a division of Godrej & Boyce, which received the I-mark for three of its products last year, says, “As acceptability of the standard grows, especially in foreign markets, companies would gain the confidence to consider such products for export markets, too.”
Currently, most companies bank on foreign standards while considering products for exports. Experts say while this practice is unlikely to change, domestic yardsticks would be useful, primarily because these would boost local design and manufacturing. “Standards such as these would help catapult India as a global manufacturer of quality products,” says Keita Muramatsu, president & chief executive, HMSI.
Experts say certification of designs is important because for long, India has been seen as a low-cost manufacturing hub, not necessarily a maker of great products. Such an initiative could aid this shift, they add.
Officials in the commerce ministry say India Design Council is considering benchmarking the I-mark with the norms followed by countries such as Japan. The council is working with the Japan Institute of Design Promotion to decide the standards and judging criteria for the second phase of certification.