Dr. Agustín Indaco, an assistant teaching professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, speaks about what the Qatar Quality Mark means for manufacturers and consumers
During the first few weeks after the Qatari Quality Mark was launched, local companies from various sectors rushed to apply for it, providing information about their products, facilities, warehouses, human resources, and other details that may entitle them to obtain the badge.
And it’s clear why they would, when this mark represents their passport to go international while also strengthening their competitiveness in the local market, and is a way of gaining consumer trust at a time when the Qatari market has opened up to new international products – as well as giving them a competitive edge when it comes to local tenders.
But how will the benefits of this step be reflected within the Qatari economy in general? Is its introduction overdue, especially that Qatar has already managed to position itself globally in fields such as foreign policy, international development, education, sports, and oil and gas related industries? And what are the challenges that the Qatari Quality Mark presents for emerging companies and startups, compared to larger companies that are able to obtain it?
Dr. Agustín Indaco, an assistant teaching professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar – a Qatar Foundation partner university – explains: “A quality mark indicates that a country has set up certain standards and regulations, which specific companies and products aiming to obtain it must meet.
“As soon as a quality mark is announced in any country, companies often seek to obtain it, to ensure they follow the rules and regulations set by that country. Each country can set its own quality mark standards, whether more lenient or more strict, and some countries focus on certain standards more than others.
People usually trust certain products, and so when companies obtain the Qatari Quality Mark, it helps them to attract new customers faster and gain their trust without the need for large commercial campaigns
“For example, certain countries may focus on environmental standards, while others focus on those that will enhance their competitiveness in international markets across different sectors. This applies to the quality mark model in Qatar, where quality checks are in line with international standards. It depends on the priorities of each country and what it aspires to achieve through its quality mark.”
In the first phase, Qatar will focus on national products manufactured in Qatari factories, and in the second phase, the focus will be on countries around the world which are seeking to obtain the Qatari Quality Mark. Those wishing to obtain this mark must submit a technical profile to the Qatar General Organization for Standards and Metrology, to prove they meet its standards – from product specifications, labor, and production processes, to employee training and certificates, workflow, and other quality certificates they have received. They also need to meet a number of international requirements and regulations if they are to be granted the mark, with a renewable two-year license.
Today, many makers of local products in Qatar are looking to expand beyond the country after fulfilling local market demand and contributing to the Qatari economy in the wake of the blockade of the nation and the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. And regarding the benefits of the quality mark, Dr. Indaco says: “For the producing company, setting specific quality standards helps the company to abide by these standards and gain brand recognition.
The launch of the Qatari Quality Mark supports our ongoing mission to educate and develop creative minds, and to inspire and encourage our students to innovate and implement projects that rely on high quality
“As for the consumer, this mark is a symbol of recognized, proven high-quality products that meet all national standards.”
While the mark had been mooted for about two years, Dr. Indaco believes the importance of it being introduced now is not primarily about the timing, but rather about implementing standards and reviewing products on a regular basis, ensuring companies adhere to quality standards, building and sustaining consumer trust in this mark, and encouraging companies not just to obtain it, but to permanently maintain it.
“People usually trust certain products, and so when companies obtain the Qatari Quality Mark, it helps them to attract new customers faster and gain their trust without the need for large commercial campaigns,” says Dr. Indaco. “And it means that their products are trustworthy.”
As for what a quality mark means for startups and SMEs, Dr. Indaco said: “The Qatari Quality Mark contributes to accelerating the work of high-quality startups, by setting specific and clear standards for these companies to abide by from the start.”
This mark will help us guide discussions toward achieving certain goals and develop our students’ skills so that we help them acquire the ability to accelerate the work of their emerging companies in the future
He believes that the biggest challenge will be for medium-sized companies, which must carefully choose the market they are targeting, whether by applying to compete with high-quality companies or by retreating into what they may see as a more competitive a market based around low price, regardless of quality.
But he says that as well as allowing companies to gain a competitive advantage, the mark will encourage innovation and creativity among startups, and in this way it reflects the values Qatar Foundation seeks to instill in its students.
“The launch of the Qatari Quality Mark supports our ongoing mission to educate and develop creative minds, and to inspire and encourage our students to innovate and implement projects that rely on high quality,” said Dr. Indaco.
“This step will allow us to determine what projects meet national standards that we can include as models for study in our educational curricula, as discussions are ongoing with students about the specifications that distinguish the product. With the Qatari Quality Mark, standards in the local market became clearer.
“At Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, we look to discuss business concepts within a local context, so this mark will help us guide discussions toward achieving certain goals and develop our students’ skills so that we help them acquire the ability to accelerate the work of their emerging companies in the future – and be deemed worthy of obtaining the Qatari Quality Mark.”