Suresh Sugavanam, former Chairman of the India Regional Steering Committee, shares his thoughts on TIC Council's journey in India, the challenges overcome by the TIC sector, and all the achievements of these past years.
Suresh, you have been working with TIC Council since its foundation, and you have also been the first Chairman of TIC Council India. Looking back at when and where you started, which opportunities did you see in the region for TIC Council, and what are the main challenges that you had to face?
Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts. Most of our TIC Council members have been operating in India for many decades. When I joined the industry, as the Managing Director of UL Solutions in 2013, I discovered that our industry lacked visibility and impact in several government and regulatory forums. We, therefore, saw an opportunity to bring our members together, align on topics, and work towards getting a seat at the table from where we could shape the quality and conformity assessment ecosystem in the country. I am super thankful for the partnership with Hanane Taidi, Director General, TIC Council, and our global Steering Committee that encouraged us every step of the way.
As we started to form, we encountered several challenges, e.g. (a) the administrative processes involved in establishing and operating as an industry body in India, (b) getting our name out to the relevant stakeholders (government, regulatory, industry), (c) establishing credibility through the content and the value-add we provide, and (d) overcoming the perception that we are a small group of international/non-Indian TIC companies.
During these years, how has TIC Council changed?
TIC Council’s mission, along with our member companies, remains the same – to protect the public, enable innovation, empower trust, and facilitate trade, all while promoting best practices in safety, quality, health, ethics and sustainability.
Since our formation in India, we have managed to increase visibility and establish credibility with all the relevant policymakers and industry working groups. We would also like to thank the Quality Council of India for the partnership and nominating our representation at the National Accreditation Boards for Labs and Certification Bodies (NABL and NABCB). Our collective voices are influencing several areas from operational, such as lab accreditation and functioning, to strategic, including cybersecurity and medical devices rules/regulation.
We have also added several members in India, and formalised our industry and sectoral committees that deliberate and share TIC Council’s position on topics relevant to India. Adding Dr. Aparna Dhawan as the Executive Director has been an essential catalyst in furthering our mission in India.
Globally, we saw the formation of TIC Council in 2018, and have seen the industry body engage with various stakeholders, while continuously expanding its footprint and presence globally. This has been possible because of a steady and consistent leadership in the Secretariat and the Global Board.
TIC Council is present worldwide to cover every region’s necessities and peculiarities. At present times, what are the key policy issues in India, and how can TIC Council address them?
The Conformity Assessment landscape in India has been evolving rapidly over the last decade. We have a National Standards Strategy that provides an anchor to shape regulatory schemes. A few schemes, such as the Compulsory Registration Scheme, were brought-in to mandate testing for several products across industries. Regulations in the medical devices and telecom industry need to - and continue to - expand. New laws in cybersecurity, data protection, electric vehicles and hydrogen are on the anvil; there is an increased awareness of the complexities of defining rules for ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and energy transition. Overall, the Ministry of Commerce, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), and several other government bodies are working relentlessly to further manufacturing competitiveness and improve the Indian industry’s status worldwide. While defining policy, they try to balance several aspects, such as furthering innovation, promoting industry and trade, and guaranteeing conformance and a level playing field while ensuring that all of these do not add significant cost to the end consumer. We believe that the ecosystem is ripe with the presence of relevant players, increasing awareness of quality and conformity assessment, and a realisation that private players have a role to play.
TIC Council's members have decades of experience in shaping and running conformity assessment schemes in all the areas mentioned above. We have seen such schemes evolve across regimes in Europe, Americas and Asia-Pacific. We have a meaningful contribution to make in defining and executing on the rules – in line with our mission – in India.
Digitalisation is one of TIC Council main policy areas. Looking at the future, how is digitalisation going to change the Indian region? What role is the TIC sector going to play in this change?
India has already accelerated on the path to digitalisation. Jandhan-Aadhar-Mobile, together with India Stack, have created an extremely strong base for all sorts of products and services. The adoption of Unified Payment Interface (UPI) has made India the country with the largest volume of real-time digital payments in the world. These fundamental building blocks, together with new ones like Open Network Digital Commerce (ONDC) have enabled India as a single market, creating well-documented opportunities. At the same time, on the industry side, critical infrastructure, such as grid, telecom, finance and banking, smart cities, and smart buildings, are in the process of getting more and more digitised.
Combine all this with the impending 5G rollout. With new technology though comes new risks, including cybersecurity, data/information security, social-engineering-based digital crimes, (potential) identity theft, and vulnerable critical infrastructure (that could be hacked/controlled remotely, even from outside the country).
The TIC sector has enough and more experience in shaping secure digital ecosystems across countries. Learnings from those experiences, adapting them to the Indian context, and working with the government, regulators, industry, and consumer forums in India is critical work that is ongoing. Could we move more quickly? Of course! And yet, creating guardrails for rapidly evolving and constantly moving targets, while taking all stakeholders along is a challenge.
We, as TIC Council, remain committed to our mission – protect the public, support innovation, and facilitate trade, while promoting best practices in safety, quality, health, ethics, and sustainability.