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Amit Chopra
Amit Chopra
MD, Shoes & Accessories

Sole Searching: India’s BIS Quality Crackdown – Who is Eligible & How to Apply

India’s quest for global economic prominence is significantly boosted with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) collaborating with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to enforce stringent quality control measures. These measures, encapsulated in Quality Control Orders (QCOs), mandate BIS certification for over 450 products spanning various sectors, prominently including the footwear industry. As per the announcement by the Union Ministry of Commerce, manufacturers in this sector have until Aug 1, 2024, to obtain BIS certification.

With more than 450 products falling under BIS supervision, manufacturers undergo meticulous scrutiny, including onsite inspections by BIS experts, leading to the coveted ISI mark issuance. Under BIS jurisdiction, the footwear sector undergoes rigorous certification processes to uphold high-quality standards.

The government’s initiative to enforce BIS certification aims to stem the influx of substandard footwear, primarily from countries like China, while promoting domestic production. However, industry insiders express concerns over the potential financial burden posed by testing requirements. Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, in consultation with the Bureau of Indian Standards, has issued an Order mandating the compulsory use of the Standard Mark effective from August 1, 2024, deeming it necessary in the public interest.

The Application Process

The process for obtaining BIS certification involves applying, factory visits by BIS scientists, and eventual issuance of licenses with the ISI mark. While the move aims to curb the import of substandard footwear and boost domestic manufacturing, industry insiders express concerns about increased testing costs and logistical challenges, particularly for manufacturers outside India. However, authorities have shown flexibility and efficiency in processing applications and conducting inspections to accommodate a large number of products now under BIS certification

Applying for Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) licenses entails several steps and requirements. Here’s a breakdown of the process:

  1. Application Submission: Interested parties must submit separate applications to BIS for each product or Indian Standard they seek certification for. Along with the application, an application fee must be paid.
  2. Indian Representation: For entities outside India, either a local office with Reserve Bank of India permission or a legally appointed agent located in India must be nominated to ensure compliance with BIS regulations.
  3. Compliance Declaration: Foreign manufacturers must nominate an agent in India who consents to adhere to BIS regulations on behalf of the manufacturer.
  4. Preliminary Audit: Applicants undergo a preliminary audit conducted by a BIS auditor at their manufacturing premises. The applicant bears the cost of this audit, including expenses related to the BIS officer’s travel, stay, and per diem.
  5. Audit Focus Areas: The audit assesses the applicant’s compliance with Indian Standards, facilities, and processes, as well as their ability to meet the requirements of the Standard during factory inspections.
  6. Sample Testing: Samples are drawn from the applicant’s production for independent testing at laboratories identified by BIS. The applicant covers the cost of sample testing, with BIS having discretion in choosing the laboratory.
  7. Annual Fees: Licensees are required to pay annual fees, including license fees and minimum marking fees, based on the production covered under the Standard Mark during the year.
  8. Compliance Assurance: License holders must ensure due compliance with the terms and conditions of the license, including providing samples for market surveillance as requested by BIS.
  9. Renewal Process: License holders must renew their licenses at least one month before expiration, paying applicable fees and providing a certified production statement.

Overall, the process aims to ensure that products meet Indian Standards, with compliance verified through audits, testing, and ongoing monitoring.

Footwear Categories Under BIS

The Order stipulates that goods such as Leather Safety Boots and Shoes, Canvas Shoes with Rubber Soles, Canvas Boots with Rubber Soles, Safety Boots for Miners, Leather Safety Footwear with Direct Molded Rubber Soles, Leather Safety and Protective Footwear with Direct Molded Polymeric Sole, Sports Footwear, High Ankle Tactical Boots with PU-Rubber Sole, Anti-Riot Shoes, and Shoes for Services and General Purpose must adhere to corresponding Indian Standards and bear the Standard Mark under a license from the Bureau. This is by Scheme-I of Schedule-II of the Bureau of Indian Standards (Conformity Assessment) Regulations, 2018.

Exceptions to the Order Exceptions to this Order include goods intended for export and micro and small manufacturing units as defined in section 7 of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006 (27 of 2006), as amended from time to time.

Moreover, manufacturers certified by the Bureau or those who have applied for certification before the commencement of this Order, as per sub-section (4) of section 18 of the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 2016 (11 of 2016), will be permitted to sell, display, or offer to sell their old stock of footwear products without the Bureau of Indian Standards Mark manufactured or imported before such commencement until June 30, 2025.

Footwear (Quality Control) Order, 2020
BIS Quality Control Orders (QCO) have mandated certification for leather shoes since July, while sports shoes, sandals, and slippers have been included since January 2024. According to QCO norms, factories producing these items and specified components like rubber or PVC soles require BIS certification for import and sale.

Chief executives of five leading brands, preferring anonymity, reveal that BIS has not certified factories in China and Vietnam, major sources of imported shoes for India. BIS officials reportedly hesitate to certify factories in Southeast Asian markets like Thailand and Indonesia, fearing Chinese ownership akin to that in Vietnam.

Despite higher costs, government officials suggest importing from Europe or promoting domestic manufacturing. However, this advice poses challenges for brands heavily reliant on imported footwear expertise. The overarching goal is to reduce imports of low-quality footwear from China by incentivising domestic production. International brands have urged the government to certify supplier factories in Indonesia and Vietnam to sustain imports. Yet, due to the delay, leading sports brands anticipate impacts beyond their current stock. In contrast, some luxury brands import their entire lineup, mainly from Vietnam, China, and Southeast Asia.

Eligibilty & Licenses
Starting from January 1, 2021, the government has included footwear in the list of products requiring mandatory compliance with safety standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
Who is eligible to apply?
Any entity, whether based in India or abroad, engaged in manufacturing or assembling can seek a BIS certificate. The application can be done online through the BIS portal or by downloading the form, completing it with the necessary documents, and submitting it along with the prescribed fee.How does BIS issue licenses?
BIS conducts visits to the manufacturing facilities of applicants to assess their infrastructure, quality control measures, and testing capabilities. To verify compliance with relevant standards, BIS may conduct third-party laboratory testing either on-site or at accredited labs.How long does it take to get the BIS license issued?
The timeline for obtaining BIS Certification for imports varies depending on several factors, including the type of product, the complexity of the manufacturing process, and the completeness of the documentation submitted. Generally, the BIS Certification takes approximately 3-4 months.

Post-license monitoring
To ensure ongoing adherence to safety and quality standards, BIS conducts surprise factory inspections. It is mandated that footwear must bear the ISI mark, and sellers must ensure they only procure and sell products from licensed manufacturers.

Challenges in the Footwear Sector

Despite efforts to streamline the process, challenges persist, especially in the footwear sector, which has been grappling with increased GST rates and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited availability of BIS laboratories further complicates the certification process, necessitating pre-testing in certified laboratories before manufacturers can obtain BIS certification. Despite apprehensions, BIS authorities assure a streamlined certification process, demonstrating efficiency and responsiveness in handling certification applications. Nevertheless, challenges persist, particularly for manufacturers outside India, necessitating meticulous coordination and resource allocation.

Imported luxury shoe brands encounter hurdles due to delayed BIS approval for their sourcing units, potentially impacting the availability of new spring-summer season launches and causing premium footwear to vanish from retail shelves in the coming months. BIS certification for factories in China and Vietnam, crucial for allowing imports from these countries, is still pending.

Sustainability: BIS Footwear is committed to sustainability, implementing measures to reduce its environmental impacts, such as minimising energy consumption and waste generation, and increasing renewable energy sources.

Ethical Sourcing: BIS Footwear ensures ethical sourcing practices among its suppliers through a strict code of conduct and regular audits to ensure compliance.

Customer Satisfaction: BIS Footwear prioritises customer satisfaction with a robust quality control system, responsive customer service, and a hassle-free return policy.

The footwear industry in India holds significant growth potential, projected to expand at a rate of 11-12%. The government is establishing clusters and special zones with incentives to attract investment in the sector. Concerns may arise within the rubber and polymeric materials industry due to the BIS Act, including resistance to change, increased compliance costs, and potential disruptions to supply chains. Manufacturers may face challenges in meeting new quality standards, necessitating investments in equipment and processes.

Additionally, some may resist the Act due to concerns over supply chain disruptions and perceived regulatory overreach, potentially stiȄ ing innovation. Despite these challenges, the BIS Act aims to enhance product quality and safety

In conclusion, the rollout of new footwear standards by BIS signifies a significant milestone in India’s pursuit of global competitiveness and consumer protection. By prioritising quality and standardisation, India aims to position itself as a frontrunner in the global footwear market, thereby driving economic growth and industry innovation.

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