Do you know that over two-third of milk and milk products available in the market do not meet the standards laid down by the authorities?
India is known as the country of festivals. With our diverse culture and languages we celebrate numerous festivals, across states. We relish on sweets, and one important constituent of sweets is (adulterated) milk. Detergent, caustic soda, glucose, white paint, melamine and even urea are used for adulteration of milk. Khoya and Chhena, commonly used for the preparation of traditional festival sweets are made from this milk and further contaminated with starch and finally decorated with toxic aluminum foil, instead of pure silver, endangering the lives of millions.
Milk is also fed to infants and small children. Besides sweets, milk is also used for making curd, cream, Lassi, Chhachh, butter, ghee and many more products that are consumed by Indian in abundance, in their everyday life. According to market estimates, the demand for fluid milk is substantially higher than the production. To fill this gap, milk suppliers and companies resort to unethical practices. One can imagine the kind of impact the sub-standard milk may have on the health of people, threatening young lives and future generations.
Is adulteration limited only to milk? Unfortunately not!
Fake, counterfeit, substandard, you name it and we have mastered it, for across categories of products, in India.
I have some uncomfortable questions.
Why is India alleged to be a global manufacturing hub for fake and counterfeit products? Do fake, counterfeit and sub-standard products form a big portion of India’s domestic drug & food market and is it growing at an alarming pace? Is almost one third of India’s economy accounted for, by fake products?
Wonder if we have answers to such embarrassing questions or if someone ever bothered to find out the answers.
One such soul, who dedicated his life to addressing the fake menace is Suresh Sati 63 years old rustic from a small hamlet in Uttarakhand. As a crusader, he is passionately committed to take on fake, counterfeit and substandard products in India and abroad. He has been fighting the lone battle for more than four decades.
It pains him that the fakes have not spared even our kitchens. Household spices, tea leaves, coffee powder, edible oil & ghee, food grain & flour, sauces, juices, ice-cream and sweets are the most chosen food items that are adulterated.
How do these food products impact the health of Indian citizens?
For instance, the cancer cases in India had risen by over 324% during 2017-18, as per National Health profile, 2019 data. As per the WHO’s World Cancer Report, one in 10 Indian will suffer from cancer in their lifetime. Fake food, medicine, toys and other products may be one of the major contributors.
The other big concern is the manufacturing and easy availability of fake medicines to innocent and unsuspecting consumers. As per ASSOCHAM’s (Fake & Counterfeit Drug in India – Blooming Biz) Report, about 25% of pharmaceuticals in India are fake, counterfeits and sub-standard. Shockingly, the fakes are valuedat US$ 4 billion of the estimated US$ 14 -17 billion, domestic drug market.
Suresh likes to draw attention to news that largely got unnoticed. More than 10 people have died at India’s premier medical facility, AIIMS, New Delhi, due to AMR.
As the world struggles to handle the COVID pandemic (which is on decline as various vaccines are making their debut, across the world), we are facing an even bigger threat in AMR (Antimicrobial resistance), which unlike Covid, is totally an un-treatable disease. Is AMR the next big Killer?
AMR is believed to be precipitated by usage of fake drugs, especially antibiotics.
Besides impacting the health of people, fake products also have a strong adverse impact on the health of Indian economy.
Even as the FMCG Sector loses approx 15% of its revenue, overall Indian corporates lose about 30% of their business to fake, counterfeit and sub-standard products.
This also leads to substantial loss to exchequer and has harmful impact on consumers, who tend to lose trust in the brand ethos of even most trusted companies.
Our nation is fighting this menace for 5 decades and as per ASPA, the annual loss of revenue to the Indian exchequer is estimated at Rs 1 Lakh Crore (USD $13 b).
The fake menace is spreading tentacles from Delhi & other big cities (which still is a dominant market) to small towns like Patna, Indore, Raipur, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Nagpur, Baddi, Mumbai, Assam, Siliguri and many others.
Is there no solution?
One needs the likes of Suresh Sati to rise to the occasion.
Having spent four decades with 1600 investigations and over 500 raids to his credit, the ace investigator Suresh had a huge change of heart when he came across one of the most painful incidents of his life. This was a turning point for him.
Once, while in Patna a few years ago, Suresh saw a lady cry hoarse as her husband, a labourer had just passed away in a hospital. Holding on to her three small children, she was wailing that she had sold her mangalsutra to buy medicine for her husband and hospital people had killed him. Suresh noticed a polythene bag she carried with leftover fruits and some medicines that were fake.
Suresh shares agonisingly, “This broke my heart. I was distraught with the helplessness of the whole thing. Petty greed of a fake medicine manufacturer had ruined a family of four, with the only break-winner of the family losing battle to such crime. There and then, I resolved to set up a social organisation that will address this menace, so that no one in future will have to suffer such fate.”
The turning point made Suresh Sati launch what is called The Fake Free India (FFI) with a clear vision – to see a fake free society and a healthy and prosperous world.
Suresh partnered with an equally passionate Pravash Mishra, a branding veteran from Odisha, who has made a living in Delhi by offering amazing creative solutions on top of the corporate and Public Sector Clients and in social work. They set up FFI as a non-profit organization committed to ignite awareness amongst masses and other stakeholders with an objective of eliminating fake and counterfeit products.
Subsequently, Sujit Kispotta and Arun Arora, both with strong corporate backgrounds in marketing and communications quit their comfortable corporate jobs and joined the bandwagon, out of their strong passion to serve the society.
With their passion and determination, the foursome together aspire to make India, the first fake free nation, globally.
Suresh puts it emotionally, “We are missionaries with the mission of spreading awareness to combat the impact of fake products, leading to Healthy People, Strong Economy, a Credible Nation and Prosperous World”
In the first phase, the FFI has chosen to focus on areas that impact the health, safety and life of people and India’s economy. This includes Medicines and Drugs, Milk and Dairy products, Grocery and Gourmet Foods, Baby Care products, Toys, Agriculture products – seeds, pesticides and fertilizers, Health and Personal Care products and Safety linked Automotive spare parts.
In the next phase, FFI will also venture into the areas of Home, Kitchen Appliances, Electrical products, Cosmetic / Beauty products, Tobacco and Alcohol, Education Books and Intellectual Properties (Entertainment, Literature and Software etc.).
FFI is inducting young students at schools and colleges, as Pravash Mishra echoes, “Today’s youth needs to be educated on the impact of fakes, so that they can be the flag bearers of this noble campaign, tomorrow.”
FFI Warriors are a bunch of volunteers from various age groups, all ignited with passion to eradicate fakes.
The organisation also plans to align and work with all like-minded stakeholders from govt and non-govt bodies, who have a common vision, mission and passion.
With 40 years experience in addressing the fake menace, FFI offers a reservoir of information on the entire fake supply-chain, across the country. It is proud of its huge network of associates and whistle-blowers who report to FFI, on a real-time basis.
“FFI is proud to provide advisory and customized solutions to corporates, authorities and the government. We can design and implement campaigns for consumers, authorities, regulators, trade bodies and the government. We also propose to conduct Training and Awareness campaigns (on print, AV and Social media platforms) and provide media & advocacy support”, shares Sujit Kispotta.
FFI works on Pentacle Transformational Methodology (PTM) in its mission to substantially reduce fakes at the grassroots levels, over the next few years. It proposes to take Policy Advocacy and Research initiatives, use Media and Social Media Engagement, Corporate and Brand Engagement, Intelligence Gathering & Sharing to finally achieve Consumer Empowerment, through Awareness Building.
FFI strongly believes that besides the role being played by policy makers, stakeholders, judiciary, legal groundskeepers and media, every Indian has a role to play, to make India a fake free nation.
Similarly Corporates, who are quite active on their CSR front, if they also devote some energies to address the issue of fake products, this will help safeguard their consumers and uphold and enhance their brand reputation.
“FFI is determined to offer a common strong and credible platform that will bring all stakeholders together to fight against fake and counterfeit, to make India a fake free, healthy and prosperous nation.” Arun Arora concludes.
Sources and references to the information used in the article, above:
a. The Economic Times
b. CSR Vision
f. WHO World Cancer Report
g. The Times of India
h. ASSOCHAM (Fake & Counterfeit Drugs in India – Blooming Biz) Report
i. FICCI Report
j. ET Brand Equity quoting KPMG & FICCI Report