Sunday, August 30, 2009


Enormous strides made in packaging materials and packing technology have helped the industry to protect the contents well and make their products more appealing to the consumer.Though it is a welcome trend, the flip side is that such developments have made it possible for some industry to practice price manipulations to fleece the unsuspecting consumers. One of the most remarkable innovations in packing as far as India is concerned involves miniaturizing the pack size to fit into the pockets of low income consumers. Who can miss the avalanche of 'garlands', hanging in most of the small vending shops, some times the shop owner not even visible behind them! The products, both food and non-food items are sold at prices varying from Rs 1 to Rs 10 per piece. Consumer rarely looks at the quantity of the contents and possibly may not have the wherewithal to do a quick calculation of unit cost because of the varying contents packed by different manufacturers.

Miniaturizing the pack size did increase business for everybody whether in food, pharmaceutical or cosmetics area. Where can one get a biscuit pack or a candy pack or a shampoo sachet at Re 1, except in India?. Who can deny that the availability of 100 ml packs of pasteurized milk by the dairy sector, has put this precious food material within the reach of millions of poor people?. Food industry must be congratulated for its yeomen efforts in helping the common man.

Same cannot be said of the pharmaceutical industry which deals with vital medicines for treating hundreds of ailments affecting humans. There are many examples that can be cited to prove the point about exploitation of human misery by this industry through distorted pricing strategy leaving the consumers high and dry. There is a tablet being prescribed for osteoporosis which costs Rs 40 per piece if the concentration of the active ingredient is 400 mg while same tablet sells at Rs 37.50 if the level is only 200 mg!. Similarly many ointments for external use have adopted the same tactics to fleece the hapless consumer. While a 5 gm squeeze tube of a particular branded ointment for treating fungal infections, costs about Rs 95, the price for a 15 gm version is just Rs 125! What is the message coming out of such actions by the organized industry? Are they promoting more consumption by reducing the price of larger packs? A discerning consumer can only draw the rightful conclusion that the cost of the active ingredient is insignificant and profit margins are astronomical. GOI must frown upon such unethical practices in the interest of the consumers at large.


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