New Delhi: Axel Stepken is the chairman of German testing, inspection and certification company TÜV SÜD AG that works with Mondelēz International Inc., Tata Starbucks Ltd, H.J. Heinz Co. and Britannia Industries Ltd in India, where it operates 11 laboratories, mainly to test food and textiles. Stepken talked to Mint about the quality conscious Indian consumer, and the impact of modern trade on quality assurance and packaging. Edited excerpts:

Is the consumer in India highly quality conscious?

I think what we have observed is that the perception of quality not only in India, but in all developing countries in the world, has dramatically increased. Millions of Indians travel each year all over the world; the number of middle class consumers in India has been increasing over the years. All of them don’t understand why they should pay money for bad products here in India, when they can get better quality of products outside India. What we have observed is the dramatic increase in perception of quality…at least in this group.

I think these crises are the worst that can happen to any brand and that is the main reason why the big brands look for assistance from a third party like us. Our role in this whole game is to mitigate risk for the manufacturers and for retailers.

With modern retail set to grow in India, are international retailers present in the country setting similar quality standards for the Indian market as they do elsewhere?

Generally, international retailers have the same approach to quality as they have in other markets.

We then do the testing and inspection of the products which they put on their shelves. We do these for brands, for the private labels they put out; we also then assist them with developing their private brands, so that private brands will have the same quality that consumers expect from other brands.

Has the slowdown in India impacted your investments in the market?

We have 11 labs all over India for testing of textile and food, and if the economic development had continued to be as it had been in the past, I would have said we could consider opening of more labs, but right now we are not so sure.