Covid lockdown: Smartphone makers ping government for essentials tag

Bengaluru: Top-selling smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi and Realme are asking the government to classify handsets as an essential commodity which can be delivered to customers through ecommerce platforms amid the 21-day national lockdown in India.

Industry bodies Manufacturers’ Association of Information Technology (MAIT) and India Cellular & Electronics Association (ICEA) have written to the government seeking concessions in the delivery of smartphones among other electronics devices and removal of restrictions on the movement of components for inland and export purposes.

“Smartphones today are probably the most essential items after food and groceries that anybody needs,” Manu Kumar Jain, the managing director-Indian subcontinent at Xiaomi, told ET. “We can increase social distancing and reduce the number of people going out if everyone is using a smartphone.” Jain said India saw sales of over 1 crore devices a month, with close to 30-40% of those purchases made by first-time smartphone users. It would make sense for even a fraction of those people to get access to devices at this point of time.

Xiaomi clarified that it wasn’t just asking the government to allow smartphone sales as a business opportunity, but rather as fulfilling the essential needs of consumers.

Realme chief executive Madhav Sheth said smartphones were essential and a gateway to other services that could be invaluable at this point of time.

The company could make its devices available to customers immediately through online channels and was also requesting the government to allow opening up of some centres to support after-sales service, with all safety precautions being followed, he said.

“We’re seeing a lot of requests on Twitter from people who say their phones have been damaged and need devices because they’re using them as Wi-Fi hotspots and for communications.”

In its letter dated March 27 to the government, MAIT, the apex body of electronic product makers, suggested that ecommerce companies be listed under essential services and enabled to carry out deliveries under a controlled logistics framework.

The ICEA wrote to the government saying that states and district authorities were being overcautious by not allowing inbound or outbound movement of electronics goods, despite the home ministry’s clarification over this. Both bodies said electronics manufacturers were sitting on large inventories meant for export and not allowing movement would jeopardise their ability to fulfil such shipments.

ET has seen the letters written by both MAIT and ICEA.

The ecommerce industry as a collective had also pitched to the government to expand the scope of essentials beyond food, grocery and medical supplies.

Source Article