Homage to the Doyen of the Indian Consumer Movement
Prof. Manubhai Shah passed away on 7 May 2016 after a prolonged illness. He was 85.
Prof. Shah had joined Arvind Mills after finishing law school in 1952 and rose to the position of general manager in 1978. He had a promising career in the Ahmedabad-based Arvind Group, where he served in different capacities. In 1978 itself, he set up Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) and registered it as a public charitable trust with a corpus of Rs 250. The Arvind Group supported his consumer-education activities even during service. However, in 1982, Prof. Shah took premature retirement and jumped fulltime into the consumer movement.
A number of public interest cases were filed by CERC during its first decade. These covered a wide range of consumer issues. In 1984, IIM Ahmedabad started a course on ‘Marketing Management and Consumer Movement’ with Prof. LR Bhandari and Prof. Manubhai Shah as instructors. XLRI, Jamshedpur, and BIT, Ranchi, followed suit.
After the amendment of Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act in 1984, CERC filed a complaint before the MRTP Commission regarding Sherie Louise Slimming Centre. It ended in a settlement after they agreed not to make false and misleading claims.
In 1988, IDBI together with ICICI and IFCI sanctioned a sum of Rs 107 lakh to CERC for setting up a comparative consumer products testing laboratory and other supporting facilities. In 1989, Gujarat Institute of Chemical Technology (GICT) granted the use of 10,000 sq. metres of its land. A UNDP grant ensured completion of the new building. Finally, in 1992, CERC moved from Thakorbhai Desai Hall, Ellis Bridge, Ahmedabad, to its new campus at Suraksha Sankool, Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway, Thaltej, Ahmedabad.
Prof. Shah was instrumental in the growth of the organisation in its first two decades. VOICE had a bittersweet relationship with Prof. Shah, who wanted CERC to be the only organisation to do comparative testing in India. This was not agreed to by VOICE and it led to strained relations between the two organisations for a number of years.
In fact, the Trust deed of VOICE, which was registered in 1986, was modelled on the CERC Trust deed. Prof. Shah himself had given a copy of the CERC Trust deed to me some time prior to the registration of VOICE Trust by late Justice VM Tarkunde and Prof. PK Ghosh, with myself as the managing trustee.
In 2006, the CERC Board replaced Prof. Shah. The consumer magazine that Prof. Shah had introduced in January 1998 for consumer education, titled , was sold to the Mumbai-based subsidiary of UK-based in 2013. had entered India in 2009 with the monthly magazine . The publication of was halted in 2014 and the Mumbai-based subsidiary was wound up due to substantial losses. With this, both magazines that were launched to educate Indian consumers disappeared from the market. and were our competitors and we miss them. As Ashim Sanyal, our COO, says: “The presence of competing magazines increased the circle of aware consumers and was good for our long-term mission to educate and protect Indian consumers.”
Prof. Shah was asked many a time as to why he gave up a lucrative job for the consumer movement. He always replied: “I wanted to repay my debt to society, which had given me so much.” His work inspired many others including myself when we set up VOICE in 1983. The team pays homage to Prof. Manubhai Shah and lauds his contributions to the Indian consumer movement. We celebrate him as an institution builder and recognise him as one of the pillars of the movement.