India’s handset manufacturers are facing an even more uncertain time since the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision last weekend that non-essentials cannot be sold online during the nationwide lockdown. ‘Non-essentials’ in this case includes smartphones.
It’s a reversal of an earlier decision that had appeared to clear the way for handsets to be sold via platforms such as Flipkart, Amazon and Mi.com, and follows objections from the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT). CAIT wrote to the prime minister saying that permission to e-commerce firms to trade non-essential goods was discriminatory and did not allow a level playing field.
A number of smartphone manufacturers had previously asked the government to classify handsets as an essential commodity which could be delivered to customers through ecommerce platforms amid the national lockdown in India.
An apparently positive response had encouraged some manufacturers to start taking orders for sales starting 20 April. Handset manufacturers are also reportedly engaging with regional local authorities on the possibility of restarting production.
With or without a manufacturing restart, some Indian media outlets estimate that the market has as much as five weeks of smartphone inventory piling up.
And online retail is not the only outlet hoping to resume the sale of smartphones soon. Offline phone retailers have asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to allow the reopening of stores between specified times on specific days of the week and with limited staff. They also hope to recommence home delivery of orders within specified areas from 20 April, along with repair and service activity.
Some cities have reportedly allowed such services to recommence, albeit with restrictions.