Deals go missing at electronics hubs as import curbs hit business

Demand for Made In India items has been muted across major electronics hubs despite the rising pitch of the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign, but the import curbs on Chinese goods have hit business like never before.

Visits to Delhi’s Chandni Chowk and Nehru Place electronics hubs as well as Mumbai’s Lamington Road show that consumers are looking for gadgets and gizmos they want at the best price.

Whether the products are made in China or in India is hardly a factor for the buyer, especially during the pandemic, traders and shoppers point out.

As Amit Sharma, who runs a family business at Delhi’s Bhagirath Place, says the only silver lining during the Covid-19 crises is that the anti-Chinese sentiment hasn’t caught up with buyers on the ground when the footfall is already low. While Sharma, 45, and his peers in the market have been anticipating a backlash from consumers after the Galwan Valley crisis and the subsequent government steps, so far they have encountered few violent incidents.

There’s caution in Mumbai’s electronics marketplace at Lamington Road — the impact can be spotted mostly on billboards. While shops proudly display brands such as Samsung, Dell, HP, and IBM, the Chinese names like Lenovo are whispered or tucked lower down the pecking order.

The real problem for businesses and buyers at all these hubs, including Lamington Road and Nehru Place, is that many popular models of laptops, smartphones, and other consumer electronics goods are out of stock due to curbs on import of Chinese goods.

As a result, prices have risen by at least 20 per cent. A shopkeeper at Lamington Road says some have attempted importing from Taiwan, pushing the prices up. At Nehru Place, an ideal destination for deal hunters, a shortage of newer models like the MacBook Air and Pro versions is preventing dealers from offering discounts.

Down South at Chennai’s Ritchie Street, the anti-China sentiment is gradually making inroads into the usually crowded lanes of the popular electronics hub. Started in 1970 and referred to as grey market, Ritchie Street gets 60 per cent of the components and finished goods from China. Accounting for 40 per cent of the branded electronics products sold in Tamil Nadu, the biggest hurdle at this hub now is pricing. According to Vinayagam, a handset dealer at Ritchie Street, domestic sourcing or from countries like Vietnam, Taiwan, and Japan will lead to 20-40 per cent cost increase.

The data from the Department of Commerce shows in 2019-20, of Rs 4.9 trillion worth of imports from China, electronics items made up for 29 per cent (Rs 1.43 trillion). Heavy dependence on Made In China goods is evident. According to All India Mobile Retailers Association, while sale of mobile handsets continues to remain 40 per cent lower in the unlocking phase, from early June, Chinese brands have witnessed only 10 per cent decline.

Mukesh Khubchandani, president, All India Electronics Association, believes one needs to wait for a few months to see the actual impact of the growing anti-China sentiment. However, with prices shooting up and discounts turning impractical due to import barriers, popular electronics markets fear losing their relevance.-Business Standard

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