India - Country Commercial Guide
Standards for Trade

Describes standards, identifies the national standards, accreditation bodies, and lists the national testing organization(s) and conformity assessment bodies.

Last published date: 2021-10-23

Overview 

India historically made efforts to align its national standards with international norms, and most Indian standards are harmonized with International Standards Organization (ISO) standards.  Nevertheless, there is current pressure within India to devise Indian Standards, which will create barriers to trade and pose challenges to U.S. exporters in certain sectors.  India frequently fails to notify the WTO of new standards, and to allow time for discussion with its trading partners prior to implementation. 

Because of pressure from consumer rights groups, NGOs, and environmental activists, there is a growing emphasis on product standards in India in various industry sectors.  The proactive role of Department of Consumer Affairs and Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) under the Mission ‘One Nation One Standard’ have also contributed to an increased awareness and emphasis on product standards in India.

Standards 

In India, voluntary standards are exclusively developed by BIS.  BIS was originally established under the Bureau of Indian Standards Act of 1986 and is responsible for the development and formulation of standards.  In March 2016, the government of India passed a revised bill to replace the 30-year-old BIS Act.  The bill established BIS as a national body and empowered the central government to authorize any other agency having necessary accreditation for conformity assessment against Indian standards.  

BIS is comprised of representatives of industry, consumer organizations, scientific and research bodies, professional organizations, technical institutions, Indian government ministries, and members of parliament.  BIS is also involved with product certification, quality system certifications and testing, and consumer affairs. 

The Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) has designated BIS as the National WTO-TBT Enquiry Point in accordance with its obligations to the agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade of the WTO.  According to the agreement, BIS, in tandem with MOCI, issues notifications on proposed technical regulations and certification systems in India to the WTO.  BIS’s Technical Information Services Center responds to domestic and foreign requests for information about Indian standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment rules.  U.S. companies that wish to make comments on any notifications can obtain copies of the text from BIS from the WTO-TBT Enquiry Point, Technical Information Services Center in BIS.  BIS communicates comments to the Ministry of Commerce. 

BIS is the only organization in India authorized to operate quality certification plans under an Act of Parliament.  It serves as the official member and sets policy for Indian participation in the ISO and International Electro Technical Commission (IEC). 

In addition, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, as a statutory body for implementing and regulating food standards. 

NIST Notify U.S. Service 

Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are required under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) to notify to the WTO of proposed technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures that could affect trade.  Notify U.S.  is a free, web-based e-mail registration service that captures and makes available for review and comment key information on draft regulations and conformity assessment procedures.  Users receive customized e-mail alerts when new notifications are added by selected countries and industry sectors of interest and can request full texts of regulations.  This service and its associated website are managed and operated by the USA WTO TBT Inquiry Point housed within the National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. 

Testing, inspection, and certification 

A list of testing organizations providing conformity testing against relevant Indian standards is available from the BIS website.  

In association with technical GOI agencies and NGOs, BIS periodically inspects products under mandatory certification.  A provision exists for sub-contracting certification surveillance activities to relevant competent agencies in specific areas.  Certain types of steel, rubber, and electronic products presently fall under such surveillance agreements. 

BIS’s product standards are essentially voluntary in nature, but after the removal of quantitative restrictions (QRs) on imports by India in 2000, the GOI, to provide protection to domestic producers in certain sectors, promulgated regulations dictating that imports of certain products are subject to mandatory compliance with specified Indian quality standards.  For compliance, all exporters/manufacturers of such products are required to register with and obtain certification from the Bureau of Indian Standards before exporting such goods to India. 

According to BIS guidelines, products under compulsory certification fall into three schemes:  The ISI Mark Scheme, comprised of 374 items; the Grant of Certificate of Conformity Scheme, comprised of two items; and the Registration Scheme, comprised of 77 items. More information is available through the BIS website under the Products Under Compulsory Certification section.

These products generally must be tested and certified by BIS in India.  BIS has a system for foreign companies to receive automatic certification for products not manufactured in India.  The system is based on a self-certification, under which a foreign manufacturer is permitted to apply the standards mark on the product after ascertaining its conformity to the respective Indian Standard.  At the foreign manufacturer’s expense, BIS inspectors travel to the manufacturer’s country to inspect their production facility to pre-certify the company and its production system, and then authorize subsequent monitoring and compliance by an independent inspector to ensure that the company maintains the specified standards.  These inspections are currently on hiatus due to pandemic travel restrictions.  Please contact Naveen Rai if you are facing challenges to exporting due to the lack of BIS certification for your products. Information on the application procedure for BIS Product Certification Plan for foreign companies is available through the BIS website.

Exporters/ manufacturers of products under Foreign Manufacturers Certification Scheme (FMCS) are required to maintain presence in India. This requirement does not apply if the foreign manufacturer nominates an authorized India representative (AIR), who agrees to be responsible for compliance with the provisions of BIS on behalf of the manufacturer, as per an agreement signed between the manufacturer and BIS. Under separate arrangements some products are placed under special certification plans of lot or batch inspections carried out by BIS inspecting officers.  As an example, most gas cylinders, deep well hand pumps, and valves are certified through such plans. 

The Food Safety and Standard Authority of India issues food import clearance certificates for all food articles.

The National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), established in 1985, is a constituent Board of Quality Council of India.  NABL provides accreditation for testing and calibration laboratories to government, industry associations, and industry.  To date, it has accredited more than 6100 testing and calibration laboratories. 

For international mutual acceptance of test results to be compliant with the WTO/Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) regulations, NABL is a member of international organizations such as International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC) and the Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (APLAC).  NABL is a signatory to ILAC as well as APLAC Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA), based on mutual evaluation and acceptance of other MRA Partner laboratory accreditation systems. 

Indian manufacturing companies are investing in standards accreditation.  The number of plants in India with ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 accreditation increased from a negligible figure in the early nineties to many thousands today. 

Publication of Technical Regulations 

All BIS Act, Rules, Regulations and Indian Standards information is now available on the Bureau of Indian Standards website. 

In order to meet its commitment under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, in 2007, the government of India implemented the “Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Rules”, known as the Customs Rules on IPR.  The purpose of these rules is to prevent counterfeiting and infringing goods from being imported into India.  The Customs Rules on IPR provide rights holders the opportunity to record their IPR (e.g., trademarks, designs, copyrights, patents and geographical indications) online through the Indian Customs IPR Recordation Portal.  The portal helps Customs with enforcement actions related to trade in counterfeit or infringing goods.  The rules were amended in 2018 to remove rights holders’ ability to record their patent-related rights and notify the customs authorities of the goods allegedly infringing their patent rights.