By Udit Chaudhuri
Time was, when you hired five tailors to stitch wacky smocks; made spicy pickles in your garage; or got costume jewellery, lamp shades etc., made from local craftsmen - and applied the good offices of an uncle or buddy in the West to get you a tidy profit in Dollars! This is no longer the story, what with an ever-widening circle of concerns in the global design scenario…
As more Indian wares go global, researching for homologation is crucial. Design managers need to know the unique requirements of their products in different markets. The knowledge base could be as simple as avoiding a lead-based paint on exported cars and lead-solder in electronics, to as complex as international relations and protocols. FDA, Underwriters, CE and CEMA undertake type-testing and certification to assure that the construction and working of each product meets international safety and requirements of other norms.
What therefore is homologation? Technically, homologation is the grant of an approval by a court, statutory body or government department. Derived from the Greek homologeo meaning ‘to agree’, ‘accreditation’ and ‘type approval’ are similar terms. Such seals of approval assure that a product meets a set of statutory norms or addresses specific concerns; commonly, security, safety, health, ecology, efficiency and economics. Cars introduced for sale in India including BMW and Daimler need homologation by Vehicle R & D Establishment (VRDE). Likewise, all goods going to Europe require a ‘CE’ mark to assure compliance to applicable European Commission directives. Similarly, ‘UL’ and ‘UR’ markings are necessary for American markets.
Safety concerns are the most common. Indian handicrafts need fire-safety certification if exported to the US; FDA and others stipulate several food safety requirements; paper, wood, plastics and rubber are all insulators but their fire-safety must be proved. We make excellent appliances for 230V, 50Hz mains but if exported, must comply with others’ mains. Transport laws in different countries stipulate unique automobile design norms to prevent accidents. Thus, designers need to understand standards, regulations and type-tests for each market.
Additionally, environmental considerations are increasingly important, for their impact on safety and health and the threat of depleting natural resources. CDM and Carbon Trading, Kyoto Protocol, Green Dot certification, ISO 9000 and protocols like Restrictions on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) are a few mandatory compliances.
But the buck does not end here; political and economic concerns, where trade agreements or UN sanctions and embargos seek to control trade have far-reaching consequences. For e.g. Due to India’s unyielding nuclear policies, certain governments stipulated certification for even a screwdriver if shipped to India - that it was not made for nuclear use. This severely impacted our essential tool imports. In another context, to address some countries’ concerns of ethics, our handicraft exports need certification that no child labour has been used in their manufacture.
Obviously, there are questions about the huge cost, delays and thus, the need for such exercises. With elaborate testing facilities, sophisticated techniques and evolving standards in place, the need of the hour demands that Indian designers and manufacturers of products for international markets study all local sensitivities and compliance norms.
Yet, a mainstream question remains unanswered: if a Siemens washing-machine is homologated for Germany, India’s grid conditions, electricity standards, laws, garments, detergents, water quality, climate and wearing habits are altogether another story.
Is homologation really ‘Harmonization’?