Ho­mage to the Doyen of the In­dian Con­sumer Move­ment

Consumer Voice - - Obituary -

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.

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