By Mr. Anirban Banerjee, Senior Vice President & SBU Head (Batteries & Flashlights), Eveready Industries India Ltd.
In the fiscal year 2023, there was a 14% year-on-year increase in the import of electronic instruments from China. While these products may appear to be a tempting bargain, a closer look reveals a range of concerning issues that are affecting both consumers and the industry as a whole.
In today's dynamic landscape, the significance of flashlights has been amplified by the integration of cutting-edge illumination technology by manufacturers. It is important to note that the organized sector of the market has responded to these trends by offering flashlights with improved features like brighter illumination, longer beam reach, multiple functions, extended durability, and compact designs. These efforts have played a role in driving the market's progress. Globally, the heightened demand of flashlights is poised to unlock an estimated value of USD 2 million in the forecast period ranging from 2022 to 2028, as per the comprehensive findings presented by Credence Research.
However, in recent years, the flashlight market has witnessed a significant shift with an influx of inexpensive Chinese torches flooding the shelves. In the fiscal year 2023, there was a 14% year-on-year increase in the import of electronic instruments from China. While these products may appear to be a tempting bargain, a closer look reveals a range of concerning issues that are affecting both consumers and the industry as a whole. The distressing pattern of the trade imbalance between the two nations becomes clearly visible. The government has now stepped in to investigate unfair practises on a variety of imports from China and other countries as a result of this scenario. Even the Indian torch business has been affected by this. The primary issues include dumping and low-cost imports from China, a lack of standardisation in the flashlight category, and non-compliance by unorganised players with legal metrology norms.
The influx of cheap Chinese imports
The flashlight market in India has traditionally been dominated by established trusted brands that focus on quality, performance, and durability. Flashlights originating from China often come at a fraction of the cost of well-known brands which makes them attractive options for budget-conscious consumers. By making impossible promises and offering their products at steep discounts, the majority of these players take advantage of the lack of awareness of metrology regulations. While branded players are obliged to recycle 60% of the rechargeable batteries used in the products, in the majority of situations unorganised players practice under billing and they do not even accept responsibility for recycling. Consequently, this situation underscores the need for a compliance cost.
While competition is healthy for any industry, the influx of cheap Chinese imports has raised concerns. These flashlights are often produced with cost-cutting measures that compromise quality that leads to issues such as short product lifespans, poor performance, and inadequate safety features.
Violation of legal metrology rules
In many countries, including India, flashlights fall under the purview of legal metrology rules that dictate standards for product labelling, packaging, and quality. In accordance with The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, it is incumbent upon the entity to ensure not only the delivery of information to consumers but also the accuracy and dependability of the information being furnished.
Many of the cheap Chinese torches flooding the market fail to adhere to these rules. They may lack proper labelling, accurate specifications, and compliance with safety standards. This not only misleads consumers but also undermines the efforts of reputable manufacturers who invest in meeting these regulations. Such violations can have far-reaching consequences that leads to eroded consumer trust and causing economic damage to the industry.
No MRP on the packs
Another concerning aspect of the influx of cheap Chinese flashlights is the absence of Maximum Retail Price (MRP) labels on the packaging. The MRP is a legal requirement that ensures transparency in pricing and prevents retailers from charging exorbitant prices. With MRP rates being deliberately omitted, these products can be sold at inflated rates, taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers who are unaware of the standard pricing for similar products.
The absence of MRP labelling not only contributes to an unfair marketplace but also hampers consumer decision-making. Consumers rely on MRP information to gauge the fairness of pricing and make informed choices. The absence of this critical information can lead to confusion and ultimately a less competitive market, favouring those who seek to exploit price discrepancies.
Higher claims vs actual specs
A common marketing tactic employed by some manufacturers of cheap Chinese torches is the use of exaggerated claims regarding product specifications and capabilities. These claims often promise exceptional performance, extraordinary battery life, and unmatched durability at meagre prices. However, when put to the test, these products frequently fall short of the promised specifications. The practice of making higher claims than the actual specifications not only damages consumer trust but also undermines the credibility of the entire flashlight market.
Once characterized by reliable and reputable brands the flashlight market is now grappling with the challenges posed by the influx of cheap Chinese flashlights. These products, while initially appearing to be cost-effective alternatives, raise several concerns including compromised quality, violation of legal metrology rules, absence of MRP labelling, and inflated claims. Unbranded players who use cheap, low-quality Chinese imports are hurting the nation's economy. They advertise their items at incredibly low prices while making false and misleading promises on their packaging and without including any contact information, such as a firm address, email address, or toll-free number, in accordance with the consumer grievance redressal policy. Customers will have problems because they won't be able to voice their complaints even if the product doesn't work properly or has certain flaws. As consumers become more discerning and regulatory bodies tighten their grip on product standards, the industry must address these issues and ensure a marketplace that prioritizes quality, transparency, traceability and consumer satisfaction.