/‘Essentials tag’ call divides handset makers, retailers

‘Essentials tag’ call divides handset makers, retailers

New Delhi: Sharp differences have emerged within handset makers and retailers over the treatment of devices during the lockdown. While handset makers sought PMO support not to just make mobile phones an essential item but also allow its sales in offline shops, retailers opposed any move to bring mobile handsets under essential items, and resumption of offline sales amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Instead, retailers want a bumper stimulus package from the government to rescue 30,000 sellers from bankruptcy, saying that retail business is already on a ventilator. All India Mobile Retailer Association (AIMRA), which represents 1.5 lakh such retailers across the country, wrote to commerce minister Piyush Goyal to not consider mobile handsets as essential items.

“We did not request you to change the category of mobile phones to essential items,” Arvinder Khurana, National President, All India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA) said in an April 23 letter to Goyal. “Human life is more precious than mobile phones getting converted into essential items,” the letter’s subject line said.

He added that it didn’t want to expose mobile retailers and customers to risk of contracting Covid. “but we are ready to serve the customers by doorstep delivery”. Earlier this week, handset body India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) and another retailer body – The Confederation of All India Traders wrote two separate but identical letters to Home Minister Amit Shah and Goyal, urging the government to allow include handsets under essential items and allow their sale and service through offline stores in the country. ICEA represents the likes of Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Apple, Lava and contract manufacturers like Foxconn and Wistron, who have seen their sales plunge to practically zero amid the nationwide lockdown. CAIT represents 70 million traders and 40,000 trade associations of India.

But Friday, CAIT ditched ICEA and backed AIMRA in its views that offline handset shops should be opened during the Covid crisis. “Any hasty decision of lifting the lockdown may result in further worst period for the country and therefore the government should take a decision by deeply analysing all pros & cons of lifting or continuing the lock down,” CAIT secretary general Praveen Khandelwal told ET.

AIMRA, in a separate letter dated April 23, urged finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to provide a stimulus package, including salary support, rental relaxation, bank credit and other fee waivers to rescue 30,000 sellers from bankruptcy. The letter stated that the survival of retailers is not possible without intervention from the government, and a stimulus package is must to avoid job losses.

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Tech-Economic Times