Exclusive: India import hurdles hit Apple iPhone, Xiaomi devices from China, say sources

25 November 2020 –

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s strict control of quality clearances for electronics from China has slowed the import of the new iPhone model last month and delayed other products made by companies like Xiaomi, according to two industry sources.

Requests to the quality control agency, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), used to be processed within 15 days, but some now take up to two months or more.

The BIS began delaying approvals in August for Chinese imports of devices such as smartphones, smartwatches and laptops, part of the fallout from deteriorating relations with China after a border clash in June that left 20 dead among Indian soldiers.

Since the clash, India has tightened rules on investments from China and has banned hundreds of Chinese mobile apps, including tech giants Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance. It banned 43 other applications on Tuesday.

When Apple is new iPhone 12 was caught in the delays, Apple India executives called on BIS to speed up its approval, giving assurances that the company would continue to expand its assembly operations in India, the two sources said.

It was not clear how long the iPhone The request was delayed and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The company has assembly operations in India, but newer models and the iPhone 12 are imported from China, where contract manufacturers make the bulk of Apple devices.

As of Wednesday, 1,080 BIS applications for laptops, tablets and other devices were on hold, of which 669 were waiting more than 20 days, according to the site Agency web.

These included applications for devices from Chinese factories of Wistron and Compal Electronics, and Hangzhou Hikvision, according to the data.

Some of the approval requests have been pending since September.


Indian traders and Hindu nationalist groups have called for months to boycott goods imported from China due to the border shock, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to promote self-sufficiency and local production.

“As BIS delays approvals of products such as smartwatches, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology pushes companies to make these devices in India, ”said one of the sources.

Under the BIS registration system, certain electronic products – whether imported or manufactured locally – must meet certain standards. Once companies have tested their products in a certified laboratory, BIS approves the applications.

Wistron and Compal did not respond to requests for comment. Hikvision declined to comment.

BRI chief executive Pramod Kumar Tiwari and India’s technology ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Customs clearance delays are the latest headache for tech companies whose supply chains have been hit by COVID-19 brakes, leading some smartphone makers to resort to imports of models even made in India. Delays also occur during India’s holiday season, when customers make big purchases of everything from cellphones to gold and cars.

BRI delays have also hit smartwatch imports for companies such as Xiaomi and Oppo, the two sources said.

Xiaomi and Oppo did not respond to requests for comment.

In July, India’s Commerce Ministry also restricted inbound TV shipments by requiring importers to obtain a special license, a move that one of the sources said continues to hurt companies like Xiaomi and Samsung Electronics.

Xiaomi was denied the special license to import around 30,000 units of TVs, while Samsung faced similar barriers to importing, the source said.

Samsung did not respond to a request for comment.


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