You walk into a store to buy something. The product labels have some details, such the manufacturing date, the expiry date (if it’s a consumable) and perhaps a batch number along with the price. Next to it is a barcode, which we never really bother with, do we? Now you should, because the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) standards mean these barcodes hold more information about the product you hold up, than you could have ever imagined. GS1, a non-profit organization that develops these standards for implementation globally, is focusing on India now. GS1 India is pushing for the adoption and implementation of these standards for products sold in India, which could have a big impact on the retail sector in the country.
GS1 India is is a body set up by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, industry bodies including FICCI, ASSOCHAM, CII as well as FIEO, IMC, APEDA, Spices Board, IIP and BIS to to push for the use of global GS1 standards across retail and supply chains.
“GS1 standards are global standards that enable businesses to uniquely identify, accurately capture and seamlessly share information on products, logistics units, locations, entities, documents and services across supply and demand chains,” says Ravi Mathur, CEO at GS1 India. But how exactly does this work? The GTIN is a unique identifier for every single product that is manufactured. Not only is each manufactured product given a unique identifier, even manufacturing batches as well as packaging levels are given these identifiers.
What all information do these barcodes capture for access later? Simply put, these barcodes link back all the information about the product all through the chain—when it was manufactured, the batch it was manufactured in, the date, the time, its packaging details, shipment details, present location in a warehouse or store etc. “The National repository of information on retailed products is known as DataKart. Currently, it hosts information on approx. 80 lakh consumer products from approx. 14,000 companies,” says Mathur. These details, at the scan of a barcode, are quite relevant particularly for tracking perishable consumables such as eatables, as well as important for brands and retailers when they need to do stock taking or track a product recall, for instance.
As a consumer, the GS1 standards will mean you will get all the information about a product you are buying, right on your smartphone. The Smart Consumer app (free for Android and iOS) by the Department of Consumer Affairs and GS1 India, lets you use your phone to scan the barcode of any product you are about to buy to see the details for that product. This will include the name and address of the manufacturer, the basic product information, the barcode number, the MRP details (useful in case the shopkeeper is trying to fleece you), the HSN codes, the FSSAI license number and food type details and the BIS certification details. The caveat here is that the barcode you are scanning has to be among the 80 lakh consumer products (and the number is increasing by the day) that are currently a part of the database. For instance, we scanned the barcode of a bottle of a Veen Still mineral water bottle and got all the details but drew a blank with the barcode of the Nestle India manufactured Nan Excella Pro baby food box. It is imperative that product manufacturers share the details with the Data Kart database, for the Smart Consumer app to be able to share that information with consumers.
The fact that consumers can directly share feedback with product manufacturers via the Smart Consumer app, just adds another dimension to the experience.
But, is there a fear that implementing the GS1 standards will drive up costs for manufacturers and retailers? “Not at all. On the contrary, through the use of GS1 standards, manufacturers/business earn greater benefits in terms of faster and accurate billing, provides seamless shopping experience across shopping channels, empower consumers to make informed purchase decisions, help manufacturers comply with various retail and Regulatory requirements, and hence, enhance their businesses,” says Mathur.
The GS1 standards clearly add some extremely relevant elements which will come in really handy for shoppers when they head out to shop. The power on the fingertips of consumers is always a very useful thing to have.