CONSUMER– An often ignored term which refers to one of the principle elements that drive any economy. A more refined and respected word is ‘Client’ which many MNCs and businesses use, as it has a classier feel. All of us are consumers or ‘clients’ to some business or the other in our daily lives. Right from the very paste that is used to brush teeth to the electricity, water supply, transport services, food, apartment etc: all are services that are offered to us by some particular entity/organization that is proficient in the respective field. Service providers and clients are like yin and yang. Each cannot exist without the other. In such a setup, ideally, neither should be allowed to take an upper hand. Practically, it seldom turns out to be true. Consumers are usually at the receiving end.
Let me quote some examples from different sectors to demonstrate this.
1. Consider a simple sauce sachet that is available at literally every retail store. The purpose of this is to carry it along and use it with ease while on a trip.
Ideal scenario: Cut open the sachet; spread ketchup on your sandwich and enjoy your ‘meal’.
Practical scenario: Attempt to open the sachet. Irregular, unintentional cuts made; leading to vulgar disorientation of sauce across the plate and hands; attracting vicious scorns from bystanders.
Root Cause: Vertical perforations made on the sachet instead of horizontal perforations; which force the innocent consumer into opening the sachet length-wise; thereby leading to a mishap.
Result: Consumer makes a fool of himself!
Solution: Perforate the sachet width-wise.
2. The same analogy can be extended to biscuit packets that are in stores. Leading FMCG giants Brittania and Sunfeast usually have a plastic lining/mould, wrapped with plastics to ‘protect’ their biscuits. The intention is to be appreciated. But the result doesn’t quite turn out to be good. Once again, the perforations made are such that the packet opens up to a side that is exactly opposite to the open end of the biscuits!
Solution: Swap the directions of the alignment of the plastic lining.
3. Most of us can’t do without music. It is unethical to be listening to your favourite song in a public place; and God bless the invention called the earphone. There are a whole set of products ranging from about 150-500INR, including the neckphone, Bluetooth headset and the likes. Let me target the in-ear headphones that are quite popular amongst the long travelling consumers. “Sony is one of the pioneers in technology with a plethora of products in every domain in the electronics industry.” I openly challenge this statement. From my experience and knowledge, barring the audio output devices and cameras, Sony products fall way below the line when it comes to quality. Oh! I forgot the Blu-Ray disc! Sony deserves some applause for the popularity of the BluRay. There are some movies which deserve to be seen on High Definition video and Kudos to Sony and gang for making it a reality. Be it the immortal pirate Jack Sparrow immortalized by Jonny Depp or the masterpiece ‘The Dark Knight’ [I just can’t stop talking about this movie at every given opportunity, can I?]; BluRay makes each frame bigger and better every second!
So much for the digression. Let me get back to the point. Sony, supposedly the world’s leading electronics manufacturer, makes sub standard earphones whose electrical junctions giveaway at even a small pressure. And it is 200INR flushed down the drain. The shelf life of a Sony earphone is about 3-6 months with decent usage. The Nokia earphones keep popping out of my ear at the slightest movement. Even if they manage to stay on, the never-ending wire length goes all around the place making me look like a line-follower robot! Adding to the agony are the stupid headphone jacks that are unique to every model and every manufacturer. For example, my Nokia phone has a jack that is not compatible with the standard earphones available. Why do we need a “standard” 3.5mm headphone jack then?
Solution: Have a community for Audio/Video devices manufacturers. Prepare a dossier and use only 3.5mm jacks in all AV devices. Have a retractable wire like the ones used in measuring tape so that only the required length is used.
4. Coming to another essential aspect of life – Healthcare. India is one of the most economical countries in healthcare on the global scenario. India also boasts of the maximum hypertensive and diabetic citizens in Asia! While pricing of medicines is to cater to the masses, packaging is also equally important. People who are most hit are the senior citizens. These strips seem to be engineered to take the maximum possible load that may practically be non-viable! It pains me to see my grandmother struggle to pluck out a tablet from an impenetrable, indestructible strip of medicine. There are atleast 5 different tablets that need to be taken every day and this exercise is a daunting event of its own.
Solution: Check the feasibility and have a plastic bottle instead.
The consumer has been impoverished in today’s world.These are only a few examples and I’m sure each one of us will have many more to add to this list. There is an adage which says that the simplest things are often the hardest to do. We owe our service providers for making us understand and assimilate this saying. Consumer courts are only for those who are victims of sale of sub-standard products. I do not know the category the above mentioned products come under.
Why complicate things so much that the very purpose of using that product is defeated? Am I being too obsessively compulsive about the quality I expect from different service providers? OR are they taking us consumers for granted? The fact happens to be that most of us aren’t even bothered about this simple stuff that is integral in our lives. We take anything that is thrown at us and go with the fad. I agree that there is immense competition in most sectors, but is there enough innovation happening? Awareness will take time. Till then, I will bide my time waiting for the day when customer truly is the king!