There was once a time when consumerism was unheard of India. Citizens as consumers had no voice, due to lack of awareness about consumer laws that could protect them.
Back then, and fresh from gaining their newly found independence from British colonial rule, Indian leaders were busy building a democratic government. The concept of consumerism was hardly a matter that required immediate addressing.
Buyers merely had to follow the rule of caveat emptor or “buyer beware” when making purchases. Often times, they were treated to unfair merchant practices that included selling of items with inferior quality, of adulterated food, fake drugs, exorbitant prices, poor services and even hazardous products. Consumers who dared complain only got into arguments, as vendors merely responded with rudeness regardless of the legitimacy of reasons.
Still, the great Mahatma Gandhi, prime mover of Indian independence, who despite not accepting any government position, called the attention of other leaders to the plight of the “poor consumers.” He urged them to focus their attention on consumers whom he described as the most important visitor in all premises. Gandhi stressed that consumers are not dependent on what establishments had to offer, nor be treated as an interruption to their work. Instead, they must be regarded as the main purpose of their endeavors.
Yet Mahatma Gandhi’s words fell on deaf ears. It remained for a long time that consumers had to take responsibility for themselves when buying commodities. If one was not satisfied with a product brand, or with the food or services provided by a shop, it is up to the buyer to avoid or to stop buying the brand or in patronizing an establishment.
It took many years and adverse conditions before movements came about to advance the welfare of consumers. In the 1960s, unfair trade practices led to hoarding, causing widespread food shortages across Indian states, which also spawned black marketing. At first consumer movements involved mostly trading exhibits and of writing editorials, but hardly resulted to government actions in addressing consumerism.
Nonetheless, civic organizations formed during the 70s took bolder steps in carrying out missions of protecting consumers against unfair and unethical trade practices. Since there was no legal system in place, the years thereon saw an upsurge of consumer groups that took it upon themselves to address rampant exploitations in the marketplace. The groups became a social force that came to affect business operations. Organized efforts had created pressures that constrained sellers and business firms to pay attention to calls for cessation of malpractices.
Finally, by the 1980s, the movement to protect consumers throughout the nation succeeded in instilling the importance of consumerism to all. Lawmakers in different levels were finally taking action, and eventually, the federal government of India enacted the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.
How Globalization Helped Boost Consumerism in India
The advent of globalization helped boost consumerism in India. Local businesses now have to face worldwide competition, as eCommerce became a force with which they have to contend. Options for consumer purchases were no longer confined to what local manufacturers had to offer, as many Indian citizens discovered the benefits of shopping online.
However, caution must still be observed since not all online sellers are governed by the Distance Selling Regulations imposed by the country in which online sellers are registered. One of the most popular online stores that offer the widest variety of consumer products is the Amazon online store. This online establishment obviously caters to a large sector of the Indian population, since it annually holds the Amazon Great Indian Sale, an event much awaited by Amazon’s registered Indian members.
It may have taken a long time for consumerism to fully evolve in India, but what is important is that it did and that related legal systems</strong are now in place.