Product quality vs market access

Product quality vs market access

Md. Joynal Abdin

The Financial Express on September 8, 2015

The Economic Census 2013 identified over eight million cottage, micro, small, medium, large, permanent / seasonal, rural and urban, manufacturing and service-oriented enterprises in Bangladesh. These enterprises produce thousands of products and services under 225 categories. Business leaders say there are 30 million entrepreneurs / businessmen in Bangladesh. This means about 20 per cent of the total population are somehow dependent on entrepreneurial activities / businesses. About 87 per cent of total jobs are generated by these private sector enterprises. These are also playing vital roles in terms of investment, remittance earning, foreign currency earnings, employment generation as well as poverty alleviation in Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi products are increasing its share in the world market every day. The economy is going to be transformed into an industrialised one from traditional agricultural economy. But the country is far lagging behind in standardisation of its products. Standards certification provides confidence that the product / service is up to a certain quality, conforms to international norms, is safe for consumption or use. It provides acceptance about product’s quality, reliability and consistency.

The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has brought 155 products produced in the country for mandatory certification before their distribution in the market. About 64 food items have to procure mandatory certification before marketing. Among others, about 40 chemical items, 11 jute and textiles items, 25 electrical and electronics items, and 15 engineering items are there in the mandatory certification list. The BSTI has brought 39 imported items in the mandatory list of certification before customs clearance from the port.

All governments are imposing quality requirement on every product to enter foreign countries. There are a few countries which focus on private standards which are even more stringent than those of the government ones. Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have to conform to respective standards before entering export markets with their products. Therefore, it is the right time to focus on achieving standards certification of respective products from local as well as international certification authorities to get market access both at home and abroad.  Achieving customers’ acceptance and satisfaction should be the main focus of our entrepreneurs rather than focusing on minimum requirement imposed by the government.

Arguments could be raised that getting standard certification will increase production cost of the products or services and that higher production cost could reduce our competitiveness at home and abroad. Additional investment may be required to maintain certain standards in production process, and additional manpower could be required to maintain the quality etc. But several researches conducted by local and international bodies prove that initial cost for standardisation could be seen as additional expenditure but in long run standards provide cost savings by optimising operations, enhanced customer satisfaction and easy access to new markets.

There are no international standards that can allow one to get market access to everywhere in the world. But a single product needs to conform to several standards and get a series of certification to enter different countries. For example, electrical and electronic products need BSTI certification for marketing in Bangladesh. The same products require CE mark to enter EU countries, CCC mark in China, UL mark in USA, GOST mark in Russia, and ISI mark in the Indian market. Therefore, Bangladeshi businessmen should target export market of their products and achieve respective marks / certification for entering a particular country.

On the other hand, there are a few international standards are honoured by many countries. For example,

  1. ISO 9000 – Quality management to make sure  products and services meet customers’ needs with this family of standards,
  2. ISO 14000 – Environmental management to improve environmental performance with this family of standards,
  3. ISO 3166 – Country codes to avoid confusion when referring to countries and their subdivisions with this standard,
  4. ISO 22000 – Food safety management to inspire confidence in food products with this family of standards,
  5. ISO 26000 – Social responsibility to help an organisation to operate in a socially responsible way with this standard,
  6. ISO 50001 – Energy management to make energy savings and help make organisation more efficient with this standard,
  7. ISO 31000 – Risk management to manage risks that could be negative for a company’s performance with this standard,
  8. ISO 4217 – Currency codes to avoid confusion when referring to world currencies with this standard,
  9. ISO 639 – Language codes to describe languages in an internationally accepted way with this standard,
  10. ISO 20121 – Sustainable events to manage the social, economic and environmental impacts of your event with this standard,
  11. ISO 27001 – Information security to ensure an organisation’s information is secure with this family of standards, and
  12. ISO 45001 – Occupational Health and Safety to reduce workplace risks and create safer working environments, etc. are widely popular international certification honoured by many countries.

Now is the time for Bangladeshi businessmen to be aware of the need for maintaining international standards for producing products and gaining international brand image. Relevant government agencies have to be friendlier to facilitate certification rather than regulating or policing and harassing entrepreneurs. If not, it may be impossible for the country’s products to survive in tomorrow’s world of quality and security in every aspect.

Finally, we should remember that a same standard Japanese or German product is more widely accepted by the consumers than that of China. Therefore, Bangladeshi entrepreneurs should follow Japan or Germany rather than China in terms of product’s quality and market reputation.

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Published by

Md. Joynal Abdin

Development Researcher, Columnist and Author

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