Can India really give up Chinese products?

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Jun 19, 2020, 11.18 PM(IST) Edited By: Palki Sharma

India China LAC dispute Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Consider cricket -- nothing less than a religion in India. And Vivo, a Chinese mobile handset maker, is the title sponsor for the Indian Premier League.

There is public anger against the martyrdom of Indian soldiers at the LAC along China. It is turning into a nationwide call to boycott Chinese products.

But the question now arises -- can the reality live up to the rhetoric? 

Consider cricket -- nothing less than a religion in India. And Vivo, a Chinese mobile handset maker, is the title sponsor for the Indian Premier League.

The title rights for 2018-2022 period are valued at over 280 million dollars, and the Board of Cricket Control in India wants to retain the sponsorship. 

They're bound by contract -- pulling out now will cost money.

But the board says no Chinese company will be involved in stadium construction.

Then we have mobile handset makers. The Chinese control the lion's share of the Indian market.

They dominate 72 per cent of the market in India.

At the same time, India is the world's second largest mobile phone manufacturer -- a fact that the government takes pride in.

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad posted on Twitter: "Under the leadership of pm @narendramodi, india has emerged as the 2nd largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world. in the last 5 years, more than 200 mobile phone manufacturing units have been set up.  #thinkelectronicsthinkindia."

What they don't highlight is India's manufacturing is largely due to the investments made by Chinese companies such as Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo in recent years. 

They employ thousands of Indians in their factories.

Chinese mobile phones are also affordable, and there is no big Indian mobile phone maker that can fill the vacuum.

So boycotting Chinese handsets could backfire.

Some protesters are smashing televisions made by Chinese companies.

Unbeknownst to them, nearly 45 per cent of the Indian smart TV market belongs to the Chinese firms.

Their products are 30 to 50 per cent cheaper.

Also, India’s dependence on China for crucial imports is huge. 

In electronics, it is 45 per cent.

India’s edge in the global pharmaceutical industry is because of cheap imports from China.

Indian drug companies import 65 to 70 per cent of their active pharmaceutical ingredients from China.

Close to 30 per cent of the materials required to make fertilisers is imported from China. 

Now, a trader’s body has called for the boycott of over 3,000 Chinese products. 

The confederation of all India traders says the value of Chinese imports is 70 billion dollars every year.

But the question is -- can India bridge the gap?

The traders’ body itself accepts -- they don't have the sophisticated technology to make the goods in India.

In short, boycott China is going to be easier said than done.

But since one has to begin somewhere, India can start by offering compelling alternatives to Chinese products.