Three Indian women sitting on the floor looking at a laptop

India restricts laptop, tablet and PC imports to boost domestic production

Image credit: iStock

The government order could severely impact international electronics manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung, forcing them to invest in local manufacturing.

The Indian government has restricted imports of personal computers, laptops, palmtops, automatic data processing machines, processors and mainframe computers with immediate effect.

In a notice issued on Thursday, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade said that companies would, with immediate effect, need a “restricted imports” licence to ship such devices into India.

“Import of laptops, tablets, all-in-one personal computers, and ultra small form factor computers and servers falling under HSN 8741 shall be ‘restricted’,” the notice said. 

The rule is similar to one issued by the Indian government in 2020, which regulated inbound TV shipments.

The restriction will not apply to visitors carrying these devices in their baggage. In addition, imports up to 20 items per consignment for R&D, testing, benchmarking, evaluation repair and re-export, and product development purposes are exempt, although these devices would have to be destroyed or re-exported after the testing has been complete. 

The Indian government gave no explicit explanation for the decision, but the move is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to promote local manufacturing of electronic goods. In May, the Modi administration unveiled a $2bn (£1.6bn) package for companies that produced hardware and computing kits in the country.

“This policy announcement seems to be based on the premise of providing secure digital access to the burgeoning number of digital citizens in the country," said Pankaj Mohindroo, chairman of the Indian Cellular and Electronics Association.

“We are confident that valid licences will be provided to trusted industry partners which will enable ease of doing business and unrestricted access to trusted brands for digital consumers.” 

The restrictions could also be a way of targeting Chinese technology imports, which made up more than 75 per cent of India’s total $5.33bn (£4.19bn) imports of laptops and personal computers in the last year. 

HP and Dell already manufacture PC laptops in India, while other companies such as Asus and Samsung produce all their laptops in other Asian countries such as China and Vietnam. Apple currently manufactures iPhones in India, but imports all its laptops and iPads. 

“The move’s spirit is to push manufacturing to India. It’s not a nudge, it’s a push,” said Ali Akhtar Jafri, former director-general at electronics industry body MAIT.

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