Govt assuages industry concerns on laptop import curbs in high-level meeting


NEW DELHI: The government is learnt to have assured global players in the laptop and IT hardware manufacturing space that there won’t be a ‘license raj’ policy that will be adopted by the government but the move to prohibit non-licensed imports of laptops, tablets and servers et al was aimed at boosting domestic production locally.

According to four people aware of a high-level meeting, minister of state for electronics and information technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, engaged in discussions with representatives from prominent global IT hardware companies such as Apple, Lenovo, Cisco, Samsung, Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, and HPE.

During this meeting, concerns related to the recent notification that imposed constraints on the import of personal computers and other IT hardware goods, along with its subsequent extension until November 1 were addressed and mitigated.

“Imports won’t be stopped in any way, and there was no intention of doing so either. The government is not in favour of using any coercive measures. However, the government wants the PLI to succeed and within that global players are being brought on board,” a senior industry official said on the condition of anonymity as the discussions were not public.

“The government is mindful of global conditions in the personal computers or laptop space, where demand has dropped and supplies are more. Some of the companies already make in India but the capacities need to be expanded, others may have to begin greenfield, And therefore, one size fits all strategy will not be beneficial for all players,” a second executive said, asking not to be named.

A third executive present for the meeting said that each of the companies will be engaging with the government to explain their positions and their plans for local manufacturing, either on their own or through contract manufacturers, such that their positions are allied with the IT hardware PLI scheme.

A fourth executive said that clarifications on several points, such as the system that will be adopted for importing under license, the ports and authorities that will clear the consignments, and the conditions under which the licenses will be provided to comply with the November 1 deadline, will be discussed with the government in the coming months.

“The discussions with the government will also include the ways in which local manufacturing of these consumer products can be incentivised and the scale of local manufacturing that the companies can undertake,” the third executive said.

Queries to the Ministry of Electronics and IT, Apple, Lenovo, Cisco, Samsung, Asus, Acer, Dell and HP and HPE, did not elicit an immediate response.

The meeting came days after India imposed restrictions on laptops, tablets, and servers among other items on 3 August, and a day later extended the deadline for implementing the restrictions till November 1, 2023. The move took the industry by surprise and requests for more time for compliance were made to the government, Mint reported last week.

The government is learnt to have also stated that it intends to reduce its reliance on imports of the products included in the IT hardware PLI schemes, alongside that of consumer products including personal computers, laptops and tablets. In May, the government introduced the revised 17,000 crore PLI scheme for IT hardware to attract laptops, tablets, and other hardware makers to India after its first version with a lower allocation failed to take off. India imports about $8 billion worth of laptops and tablets every year. Mint also reported that 44 companies had already registered for the IT hardware PLI 2.0, and two companies, including HP, had already applied. The deadline for the scheme has also been extended till the month’s end.

Government officials had said that companies would be given time to apply for licenses and that two companies had already applied on the portal introduced by the Director General of Foreign Trade. They added that the government would help in facilitating the clearance of goods in transit and those that may be stuck at ports. They further noted that laptop makers had adequate manufacturing capacities within India and, therefore, it would not lead to a shortage of goods ahead of the start of the festive purchase season or the beginning of college sessions.

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Updated: 09 Aug 2023, 08:37 AM IST

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