Well be­fore 11/11, tech ma­jors can smile— and pon­der

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By SIVA SANKAR Con­tact the writer at siva@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Sin­gles’ Day (11/11 or Nov 11) is nigh. Con­sumers, al­legedly kings who spent $14 bil­lion last 11/11, are fore­cast to en­rich Chi­nese on­line mar­ket­places and man­u­fac­tur­ers even more this year. But it’s pos­si­ble the lat­ter may be cel­e­brat­ing al­ready, thanks to glad tid­ings from In­dia.

Start­ing with the Aug 15 In­de­pen­dence Day-re­lated dis­count sales, through re­li­gious fes­ti­vals that dou­ble up as con­sumer hy­per­ac­tiv­ity pe­ri­ods last­ing till mid-Jan­uary, In­dia goes into a shop­ping frenzy. It peaks dur­ing the Oc­to­ber-Novem­ber pe­riod when re­tail­ers, malls and on­line mar­ket­places un­leash all sorts of sales and pro­mo­tions for Dasara and Deep­avali, two key In­dian fes­ti­vals.

In­dia’s on­line mar­ket­places are rife with fan­tas­tic deals on Chi­nese prod­ucts, par­tic­u­larly tech stuff like smart­phones, as well as toys, gar­ments, even ap­pli­ances. Haier, Xiaomi, Huawei, Len­ovo, Oppo, Vivo, Gionee, Cool­pad, LeEco, TCL, Moto and OnePlus, the new Chi­nese tech kid on the block, are all rak­ing it in. It ap­pears as if In­dian fes­ti­vals have be­come a cel­e­bra­tion of Chi­nese goods.

A Shang­hai-based rep­re­sen­ta­tive of In­dian in­dus­try in China said it’s not just Chi­nese tech prod­ucts that are pop­u­lar in In­dia. Even small and medium-sized busi­nesses in the auto, air con­di­tioner, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and tex­tile in­dus­tries source com­po­nents and raw­ma­te­ri­als from China, giv­ing the lie to the “myth” that Chi­nese prod­ucts are in­fe­rior. They are com­pet­i­tively priced, and hence pre­ferred as they gen­er­ate healthy mar­gins at the end of the day.

One ac­quain­tance sim­ply said In­dia can’t do with­out China when it’s de­pen­dent on even China-made nail-cut­ters and spoons. A fe­male friend said, “I once bought a silk sa­ree… thought it was My sore silk … It was Chi­nese.”

Against this back­ground, the on­line calls by some In­di­ans to boy­cott Chi­nese prod­ucts ap­pear in­con­gru­ous. Non-trade is­sues have stoked emotion and na­tion­al­ism among some In­di­ans on so­cial me­dia apps, in­clud­ing, iron­i­cally, Chi­nese apps such as WeChat.

A New Delhi tabloid last fort­night re­ported a 20 per­cent drop in sales of China goods due to the cam­paign. But In­di­ans in other cities, and con­sumers on­line, are buy­ing Chi­nese goods, ac­cord­ing to friends and me­dia. Lead­ing In­dian e-com­merce web­sites an­nounced record sales of Chi­nese smart­phones from Len­ovo, Moto, Xiaomi and OnePlus this month.

Of­fi­cial­dom on ei­ther side has been mum on the on­line cam­paign — that’s a sign it’s not a se­ri­ous is­sue, a friend said. Another pro­pounded a con­spir­acy the­ory: In­dian man­u­fac­tur­ers and busi­nesses, hurt by im­ports of Chi­nese goods, may be be­hind the cam­paign.

My guess is, ev­ery sec­ond or third In­dian con­sumer must have used a Chi­nese smart­phone to up­load, broad­cast or for­ward mes­sages re­lated to the cam­paign. I’d bet they, like mil­lions of other In­dian con­sumers, must be con­tin­u­ing to use Chi­nese gad­gets, de­vices, ap­pli­ances and ser­vices, or may be plan­ning to buy them. (For the record: I still use the Xiaomi Mi-3W I had bought inmy third at­tempt on a pop­u­lar In­dian e-com­merce web­site’s flash sale in 2014.)

I chat­ted up com­pa­tri­ots on the rag­ing topic. Sev­eral in­sight­ful views emerged:

In this age of the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, glob­al­iza­tion and in­ter­de­pen­dent mar­kets, it’s im­pos­si­ble and im­prac­ti­cal to boy­cott or ban overnight goods and ser­vices of any coun­try, least of all China’s, es­pe­cially when trade and out­sourced man­u­fac­tur­ing are key to your econ­omy. Un­less a coun­try has do­mes­tic ca­pa­bil­ity, ef­fi­ciency and economies of scale, it can’t af­ford to boy­cott su­pe­rior and com­pet­i­tively priced im­ported goods.

Con­sumers will buy prod­ucts that pack value for money, ir­re­spec­tive of who makes them or where they are made. Some form of pro­tec­tion for do­mes­tic firms may be nec­es­sary in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, but that’s am­at­ter of gov­ern­ment pol­icy, not jin­go­is­tic cam­paigns.

As far as pos­si­ble, politics should not be mixed with re­li­gion, art, cul­ture, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, busi­ness or trade. And, yes, most ofmy pals and ex-col­leagues will con­tinue to buy Chi­nese stuff.

So would I. Onmy Xiaomi is a note, a wish-list I’ve been draw­ing up for 11/11. I de­buted last year, and I in­tend to use that ex­pe­ri­ence to land bet­ter deals this year.

“In busi­ness, emo­tional cam­paigns will run their short course and die a nat­u­ral death,” said a friend.

I think he hit the nail on its head. That nail could well have been man­u­fac­tured in China.


Fans of Xiaomi smart­phones in In­dia line up out­side a Xiaomi new prod­uct re­lease in New Delhi.

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