On Thursday, India announced restrictions on the import of laptops, tablets, other personal computers, and servers with immediate effect. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry also announced that it will require licenses for imports in a move that analysts say appears to be designed to support domestic manufacturing efforts.
A government notification stated that the import of laptops, tablets, all-in-one personal computers, ultra tiny form factor PCs, and servers that fall under HSN 8741 shall be “restricted,” adding that the import will be permitted in exchange for a valid license for restricted imports. Additionally, passengers who have the aforementioned devices in their luggage will not be subject to the ban.
The action, which comes after a similar restriction on imports of smart TVs years ago, is likely to support local production, although New Delhi made no mention of why it was being taken. According to observers, India’s nearly three-year-old prohibition on the importation of smart TVs helped domestic manufacturing.
In recent years, India has offered incentives to businesses in an effort to increase domestic output. A wide range of smartphone manufacturers have joined the campaign, and now chipmakers and semiconductor producers are starting to take notice as well.
The $2 billion program was introduced in May by the Narendra Modi administration to support local manufacturers of gear such as laptops, PCs, servers, and related edge computing equipment. The plan was an improvement over the prior proposal, for which the government was prepared to pay $892 million.
This policy declaration appears to be built around the idea of giving the nation’s growing population of digital citizens secure access to the internet. According to Pankaj Mohindroo, chairman of the Indian Cellular and Electronics Association, “We are optimistic that legitimate licenses will be granted to reliable industry partners, enabling Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) and unrestricted access to reliable brands for digital customers.
Among the businesses that already have manufacturing plants in India are Dell and HP. The Indian government also wants to boost domestic production and attract Apple and its industrial partners to set up a global manufacturing base in India. Nevertheless, the nation now spends billions of dollars importing gear, including laptops.
Government data presented to the parliament in December shows that India’s imports of completed electronic goods increased 32% from over $32 billion in 2019–20 to $43 billion in 2021–2022. The share of imported completed electronic goods (including components) in total electronic goods imports decreased from 69% in 2019–20 to 64% in 2021–2022, thanks in part to the incentives and programs granted to encourage local manufacture.
According to estimates from Hong Kong-based market research company Counterpoint, between 30 and 35 percent of laptops and 30 percent of tablets shipped to India in the first half of 2023 were made in India.