Online and offline retailers say the growing rhetoric on social media to boycott Chinese goods is unlikely to sway consumer behaviour. However, that isn’t stopping leading online marketplaces Flipkart and Amazon from promoting ‘Made in India’ products.
Sellers told ET that the tight-fisted consumer does not have much choice when it comes to buying a product, especially smartphones. Consumers will continue to pick up Chinese-made products that offer value for money, especially when there’s a squeeze on discretionary spending.
“One out of 10 customers does not want Chinese handsets. We do not expect demand for a Chinese make to fall because they fit the customers’ budgets,” said a retail executive who did not want to be identified. “Covid-19 has tightened the average spends. When maximum demand for smartphones is under Rs 15,000 a piece, who can compete with Chinese products?”
The furore against Chinese products was triggered after the Covid-19 outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, and was fanned further more recently by the face-off between the Indian and Chinese armies in Ladakh. Even educator Sonam Wangchuk from Ladakh has appealing for a boycott of Chinese goods.
While India’s e-commerce executives reported that they haven’t seen any effect on buying patterns, Flipkart and Amazon have been promoting locally made products.
A Flipkart advertisement promotes brands such as Raymond, Libas and Hidesign. Amazon has a ‘Go vocal for local’ section that lists products from small businesses, artisans and startups.
“We have been tracking buying trends very closely over the past month, but this (boycotting Chinese products) hasn’t shown up yet. It probably never will because in most cases, it’s extremely hard to know from where a product has been sourced based on seller listings,” said a senior executive of an e-commerce marketplace.
Flipkart and Amazon did not respond to ET’s queries until press time. A Snapdeal spokesperson said the company was focused on bringing Indian manufacturers, small sellers and bazaars online, without commenting on changes in consumer-buying patterns.
Not all are convinced that the anti-China campaign will fail.
The Confederation of All India Traders told ET that it plans to start a nationwide campaign from June 10 against 3,000 categories of imported goods made in China.
“We have 40,000 trade associations and will tell about 10,000 importers not to bring in Chinese products,” said CAIT secretary general Praveen Khandelwal.
According to experts, there have been instances of Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal being asked to disclose the country of origin on every listed product. Some even asked for a search option to display only products made in India.
Executives of online platforms brushed aside the prospects of such classifications as unfeasible and said they were not in the business of certifying whether a product is made in India or not. The platform’s role is to connect buyers and sellers – all disclosures are the seller’s responsibility, the executives clarified.
Flipkart, too, became a target, with the investment from China’s Tencent putting it on a list of platforms to boycott. However, other social network users pointed out that US retailer Walmart owns a majority stake in Flipkart now.
A company executive who spoke on condition of anonymity said there have been no negative effects from the social media posts that wrongly categorised Flipkart as a Chinese company.- Business Telegraph