Standards are meant to ensure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. More often than not, there are multiple ways in which standards can be met, depending on the context and external conditions. That’s why it’s important to localize international quality standards, ensuring the standard is achieved but taking into account local conditions.
I was speaking to the MD of a Kenyan company that issues food safety certificates in a number of African countries, and she shared with me the story of how her company started.
Agribusiness companies were bringing in auditors from the UK or from South Africa to issue the certificates. The founder of her company saw here a business opportunity – not only because it was expensive to bring the auditors from abroad but mainly because those auditors lacked the requisite local knowledge that would allow them to adapt the international standards to the local context.
For example (albeit a mundane one): when inspectors asked to look at the toilets, they didn’t find what they expected: instead, they found a latrine. But if located in the proper place, and with the right conditions, this latrine might meet the requirements for the certification.
This company saw a business opportunity in helping local companies adapt to meet the international requirements but taking into account local conditions. Have you faced any other situation in which international standards require local adaptation?
This is one more example of how familiarity with local conditions helps to create successful business models.