Late import permits amid India-China standoff to hit festive TV demand

The unavailability of import licenses for high-end television sets and blocking of foreign goods into the country, especially those from China, may derail crucial festive plans.

Companies like Xiaomi, LG, Sony, TCL, Vu and Samsung have no immediate plans to set up fresh production lines in India for big-screen premium models and most have instead applied for import licences. However, there isn’t much clarity so far about when they will get them — meaning TV sets of 80 inches and above could be missing from both offline and online stores during the sale season that will begin September-end, fear industry executives.

“We are awaiting a response on our licence application but we also want to ensure that our demand flow isn’t impacted because of non-availability of the license,” TCL India general manager Mike Chen told Express. He added that the company has already placed an order for 5 lakh units and has put together three local factory partnerships following the recent imposition of import curbs in order to meet the festive season demand.

Another company executive added that if the licenses aren’t in place by mid-August, inventory planning will be impacted and the festive season will be a washout.

Currently, TV is one of the larger segments under the entire domain of Appliance and Consumer Electronics, accounting for 1.7 crore units, with an estimated worth of almost Rs. 25,000 crore. Televisions worth Rs 600-700 crore are imported into India every month. Official data shows that as much as $ 781 million worth of TVs were imported in 2019-20. Of this, $428 million was from Vietnam and $ 293 million was from China.

New brands will be hit harder

On July 30, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), an arm of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, had issued a notification placing imported colour TV sets from ‘free’ to ‘restricted’ category.

The focus on reducing imports is part of an exercise to push for self-reliance and boost domestic manufacturing. In the case of TV sets, however, about 70-80 per cent of the components that go into making them are still imported, and the move will only ensure that assembling of these components is done here in India, say sector executives.

While many of the larger television brands were already assembling many models in India, newer brands are reliant on imports and may find the going especially difficult as there’s going to be an additional layer of compliance to be fulfilled to procure import license, which could be onerous and would be possible only for players demonstrating value addition or for products for which do not have in-house capacity or expertise. “For a self-reliant India, we need to have a complete ecosystem of value addition. We need to have components and panel display manufacturing in India. Currently, India does not have an alternative other than China,” said Avneet Singh Marwah, CEO, Super Plastronics – the exclusive brand licensee of Thomson and Kodak range of TVs in India.

TVs worth crores stuck at ports

Meanwhile, the Centre has also restricted entry through designated ports to monitor imports ever since the China-India border standoff. This has led to at least 21,700 TV sets of 75 inches and above stuck at various ports, pending DGFT clearance.

“About Rs 500-600 crore worth of goods may be stuck in various ports and consignments currently in high seas which can lead to piling up of goods in transit, said ICEA Chairman Pankaj Mohindroo, urging that the import restrictions should only apply for future imports after the clearance of goods in transits.

That apart, there is also a shortage of 43-55 inch TV sets in the markets due to shortage of components such as panels.-The  New Indian Express

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