To start off, here’s my disclaimer on the whole thing. At the moment, thinking of getting rid of everything Chinese in your life may not be a practical idea. Like every great idea, this too will require effort, time and patience.
So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with our plan to get rid of everything Chinese in the coming 365 days. I have divided the plan into three parts. First is about what you can personally do, the second is what we can do as a society, and thirdly what we can ask our Government to do. The third part of the plan is of course something that may take years to accomplish.
Make it personal
Let’s begin by understanding what all we import from China. Recent data has shown that roughly around 30-50% of what we import from China is related to mobile devices, electronics and some electrical items. So, when Shri. Sonam Wangchuk recently urged us to remove Chinese apps in a week and Chinese Hardware in a year, it was indeed a sensible thing to ask.
Personally, you can start with not buying smartphones or electronic goods that are produced by Chinese companies. This would hit fully-owned Chinese companies the most. As a long-term thing, when Chinese electronics companies see a visible slump in demand for their products, they will either pack up their bags and leave or will be in the Indian market to assemble phones and then export them to other countries.
Another major chunk is children’s toys, because we have almost no big Indian toy manufacturer that produces anything in India. The solution here would be to move to traditional Indian handmade toys that are available in almost all states. Channapatna wooden toys are a good Indian alternative.
Start a social revolution
Like every big change, planning to move away from Chinese goods too will have consequences for India. For example, if we cease to import mobile components, electronic goods and electrical items, this would actually hurt a large number of Indian companies. Most Indian companies rely on China for supplying cheap components or raw materials that can be then made into finished products for export. Many Indian brands also use China as their manufacturing hub and sell their products here.
Here’s where we can come together as a society to engineer a behavioural change in companies. One thing that no company can challenge is the increasing buying power of the Indian consumer. Instead of companies dictating what we need to buy, our buying power can dictate what companies need to sell.
Who wants a vegetarian burger?
And frankly, this wouldn’t be the first time that the Indian consumer’s buying behaviour will be forcing big corporates to rethink their entire business strategies. A relevant example is how the world’s largest hamburger company, McDonald’s was forced to prepare ‘vegetarian’ burgers because that’s what the Indian consumer wanted.
Let’s take the case of smartphones, electronics and even toys. If foreign companies see that the Indian consumer is resisting Chinese products and maybe even products with Chinese components, then over a period of time they will see merit in moving their base to India and create products that have locally made components. We can extend the same consumer behaviour to other big-ticket purchases like cars, motorcycles, home appliances, furniture etc.
On the online front, Indian consumers can put pressure on leading ecommerce platforms to provide information about the source of every product that they sell. In recent reports ecommerce firms placed the onus on the seller to provide such details, but it is well within their power to give consumers the option to choose a Chinese or Non-Chinese product.
The agents of change
Another major chunk of our Chinese imports include, APIs or Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients. Think of them as the raw materials needed to make medicines. Indian Pharma companies have enough expertise to manufacture APIs in India, but the Chinese have learnt to do that at scale while keeping costs low compared to India. So, if at all India needs to realistically look at becoming a global pharmaceutical leader, then our government might have to step in as the real agent of change. It would need to offer enough incentives to our Pharmaceutical sector. This will help local companies ensure that their quality is better than China while cost is lower or at least competitive.
There are some encouraging signs already. In the last few days, the Government of India has rolled out plans to attract mobile companies and electronic component manufacturers to set up shop in India and enjoy incentives worth Rs. 50,000 Crores. The global climate is also conducive for India because large companies that were once only manufacturing in China saw their entire supply chain collapse during the COVID-19 crisis. On one hand, we need our government to proactively attract companies and brands that can manufacture in India and on the other, people like us can help our economy by ensuring that in everything we do, and everything we buy, every single rupee stays in India with Indian companies.