‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ More Popular? 6 in 10 Indians Shed Habit of Purchasing Made-in-China Items This Year
Six out of 10 Indians reduced their ‘Made in China’ purchases this year, given the geopolitical situation. There has been a dip in demand for China-made fashion, apparel and vehicle accessories among Indians, showed a survey.
According to the survey, conducted by community social media platform LocalCircles, one in four persons found “Indian alternatives” better in terms of price, quality and customer service. But Indians have not completely forfeited Chinese goods as one in three persons surveyed, however, are still using gadgets made in the country, the survey stated.
Indo-China relations have been in the doldrums since the Galwan Valley clash in 2020 and subsequent military standoff in eastern Ladakh. The fresh Chinese incursion in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh has once again brought into focus the already-troubled ties between the neighbouring countries. The central government, too, has banned over 200 Chinese apps, including the highly popular TikTok and mobile phone game PUBG.
This seems to have worked as 59 percent of Indians surveyed do not have any Chinese app on their mobile phone while 29 percent still have one or more.
The survey stated that in 2022, only 3 percent are buying Chinese bags, apparel, accessories as against 11 percent in 2021. In the vehicle accessories category, from 7 percent this time, none of the respondents said they had bought any vehicle accessory manufactured in China so far this year.
In the border clash two years ago, 20 Indian soldiers were killed and there had been a rising sentiment among Indians at large to boycott Chinese products. The Centre also saw it as an opportunity to promote Indian manufacturing under the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative. As seen during festive shopping this year, there has been some shift, albeit only in a few sectors like apparel and vehicle accessories, where quality instead of price has been a deciding factor.
But there is still a continuing demand for Chinese products, mobile phones and apps.
The survey showed that despite some blips, the year-on-year demand for Chinese gadgets has risen from 29 percent to 35 percent in 2021 and now. Similarly, the demand for festive products has risen from 11 percent to 14 percent. There has been a marginal 1 percent increase in consumer electronics and white goods demand from 7 percent to 8 percent, in toys and stationery from 4 percent to 5 percent, and a similar growth in gift items imported from China.
Here is a look at the questions asked in the survey:
What are the reasons behind reducing expenditure on made-in-China products in the last 12 months?
The first question attempted to understand if consumers have reduced their expenditure on China-made products and, if so, why. In response, 58 percent Indians said they had reduced their Chinese purchases due to the current geopolitical situation between the two countries; 26 percent said they found Indian alternatives to be better in terms of price, quality, and customer service; 11 percent opted for better quality Indian products; 8 percent preferred an alternative foreign product due to a combination of factors, including better price, quality and customer service; 8 percent stated that their choice was determined by the fact that they “didn’t find many made-in-China products in the markets, stores or online”; 11 percent said lack of need to buy any product over the past year was a deciding factor.
What are the different categories of made-in-China consumer products that you purchased in the last 12 months?
In response, 35 percent shared that gadgets and electronic goods as well as accessories were the top categories of Chinese products they bought in the last 12 months, followed by 14 percent indicating festive celebration articles such as lighting, lamps among others; 8 percent had shopped for consumer electronic products and another 8 percent for home furnishing products. With health concerns over quality of paints and other material used, Chinese toys and stationery were purchased by only 5 percent as well as Chinese gift articles also finding favour with 5 percent respondents and their families. In addition, 11 percent said they had bought other Chinese products.
How many Chinese apps do you have installed on your mobile phone, which are related to eCommerce, device management, gaming, utilities like photo editor, audio/video editor, scanner or social networking?
This was asked to quantify the use of Chinese mobile apps among Indian users. Out of 12,601 respondents, 29 percent said they had one or more apps. A breakdown of data shows 22 percent have one or two Chinese apps on their mobile phone, 4 percent have three to four apps and another 3 percent have five or more. However, a big chunk of 59 percent are not using any Chinese app while 12 percent are unsure if they are using them at all.
India-made goods yet to find their footing
The idea that the quality and customer services of India-made products are competitive to China-made products is yet to gain firm footing as the trade deficit between India and China widens. It has touched US $51.5 billion during April-October this fiscal as against US $73.31 billion during the 2021-22 fiscal, and US $44.03 billion in 2020-21, as per data provided by commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.
India’s imports during April-October this fiscal stood at US $60.27 billion, while exports aggregated US $8.77 billion. Most of the goods imported from China are capital goods, intermediate goods and raw materials, and are used for meeting the demand of fast-expanding sectors like electronics, telecommunications and power, Goyal said.
Other imports from China are animal or vegetable fats, ores, slag and ash, mineral fuels, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, fertilisers, tanning or dyeing extracts, miscellaneous chemical products, plastic and articles, paper and paperboard, cotton, textile fabrics, footwear, glass and glassware, iron and steel, copper, furniture, among others, as per government data.
Chinese apps still in use
Despite a ban on numerous Chinese mobile phone apps, 29 percent Indian smartphone users still have one or two of these apps. Government warnings about data security risk have also not had much of an impact and this is a rising concern since many apps are hugely popular among young mobile users.
In June 2020, India took down TikTok and 59 other apps. A month later, mirror apps were taken down as they were functioning despite the ban. In September 2020, the government banned 118 more mobile apps, including gaming platform PUBG, for “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users data in an unauthorised manner”.
In February this year, India banned 54 more Chinese apps over privacy, security and espionage concerns claiming that they were clones of previously banned apps. These include Beauty Camera, Equalizer, Music Player, Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade, Tencent Xriver, and Conqueror Online II. They have been alleged to misuse and transmit real-time data to servers located in a hostile country, the electronics and IT ministry said in a statement announcing the decision.
After an extensive study by LocalCircles earlier this year on the menace of instant loan apps, primarily run by Chinese entities in India, Reserve Bank of India tightened norms for the use of digital loan apps.
What is the larger question after all?
But the larger question is if the tide is shifting in favour of Indian manufacturing and manpower capability. Taiwan-based Foxconn, which has its largest iPhone plant in China, recently lowered its forecast of premium iPhone 14 models shipment from that country even as the company is reported to be increasing its workforce at its plant in India.
This reflects well both on the Centre’s push to boost manufacturing and market demand within the country for quality products. India, however, must find a way so its own citizens and others purchase India-made counterparts of everyday common Chinese goods and items. Given that Chinese imports are growing, a lot of it seems to be business-to-business versus business-to-consumer.
As India invites corporations, both multinational and Indian, to make in India or make much more in India, it must do all possible for businesses so they can set up, operate and produce as efficiently and quickly as possible.
The current geopolitical equation between the two countries and the Galwan clash in June 2020 as well as the faceoff along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh, is likely to lead to more Indians to stay away from China-made products. But will this have a lasting impact? Only time will tell.
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