Import curbs on television sets: Companies may take licence route ...

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TV makers Samsung, Xiaomi and TCL don’t immediately plan to set up new production lines for large-screen premium models and will instead seek licences to import them as the limited demand for these products does not justify local manufacturing, said people familiar with the matter.

LG and Sony, too, are evaluating the licence route for the 75-inch-plus premium models which are at present imported. Industry executives are, however, aware that these licences may not be issued easily, especially for imports from China. They fear that this development will impact availability of highend TV sets just ahead of the crucial festive season.

The government on Tuesday re-introduced import curbs on TV sets and put them on the restricted list for the first time in 20 years with the objective of boosting local manufacturing. Companies will now have to apply for a licence to import TV sets. TCL India general manager Mike Chen said the company is already in touch with the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) for licences. Sony, Samsung and LG did not respond to ET’s queries. Xiaomi refused to comment on the issue of imports.

Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association (CEAMA) president Kamal Nandi said some of the large brands may seek import licence for their premium range where volumes and scale may be low right now, making manufacturing investment unviable.

According to industry estimates, 55-inch plus TV sets, which are priced at over Rs 1 lakh, account for around 15-20% of the Rs 25,000 crore Indian TV market. The big companies mostly import these units while manufacturing the rest locally. In addition, some smaller, online-focussed brands as well as Chinese companies import their entire portfolio. These companies will be hit the hardest by the import restrictions, and will have to evaluate their future options, said industry officials.

In all, around 35% of the television sets sold in the country are imported. “The licensing issue further complicates matter at a time when the industry is fearing demand may take ahit due to the Covid pandemic,” said a senior executive with one of the top three television makers. “It is not possible to shift production overnight. The products imported are premium models and their sales will take a severe beating in the festive season if the consignments do not reach on time,” he said.

While around 65% of Samsung TVs sold are made locally, for Xiaomi and TCL, the numbers are 85% and 70%, respectively. Sony said it locally produces almost 99% of its TVs while for LG, 96-97% of its units sold are locally made.


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