India delays laptop import restrictions order by three months after uproar

India is delaying the implementation of its import limitations on laptops, tablets and servers by three months, a day after the unexpected regulation left electronic industry giants in a state of disruption and uncertainty. In a notification published late Friday, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said the implementation of the new import rule won’t go into effect till October 31.

Earlier on Friday, India’s Deputy IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar assured the industry players that New Delhi will provide a “transition period” before implementing the amended import policy. 

India’s Ministry of Commerce announced Thursday that the new restrictions on import of consumer electronic devices were going into effect immediately. The notification said the government will permit import against a valid license for restricted products. The restriction will also not apply to passengers carrying the mentioned devices in their baggage.

Computer vendors including Dell, Apple and Samsung promptly moved to comply with the notification Thursday and froze all new imports, Bloomberg News reported earlier.

India has been providing incentives to firms in recent years in a bid to spur domestic production. The initiative has successfully drawn in a swath of smartphone manufacturers and is now increasingly piquing the interest of chipmakers and semiconductor producers.

In May, the Narendra Modi government unveiled a $2 billion scheme aimed at promoting businesses locally building hardware like laptops, PCs, servers and related edge computing kits. The scheme was an upgrade to the previous program under which the government was willing to spend $892 million. Hong Kong-based market research firm Counterpoint estimates that around 30% to 35% of laptops and 30% of tablets shipped to India during the first half of 2023 were manufactured locally.

Thursday’s restriction announcement, which follows a similar curb on smart TV imports years ago, is likely to help boost local manufacturing. India’s ban on smart TV imports nearly three years ago boosted local manufacturing, according to analysts.

“India is becoming one of world’s fastest growing markets for digital products including laptops and servers. It is govt’s objective to ensure trusted hardware and systems, reduce import dependance and increase domestic manufacturing of this category of products. It is about regulating imports to ensure trusted and verifiable systems and ensuring India tech ecosystem uses trusted and verified systems only that are imported and/or domestically manufactured trusted systems / products,” Chandrasekhar wrote in a tweet.

The story was updated to add more details following the publication of Ministry of Commerce’s notification.