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Tracking China’s footprint in Delhi’s markets

September 21, 2020 07:32 AM


Tracking China’s footprint in Delhi’s markets

Manoj Sharma

New Delhi : Situated at Bhagirath Palace, businessman Ashok Malhotra’s shop boasts of a variety of lights. From “fancy” fittings on the wall, to designer lamps on the floor, to chandeliers hanging from the ceiling – he has it all. But ask him to show something Indian, Malhotra thinks hard, casts his eyes to the ceiling and finally points at two chandeliers in a nondescript corner.

“Most people want to buy only Chinese lights — they are fancier and cheaper. We are all patriotic, but the idea of dealing in only Indian goods is not practical at the moment,” he says.

Malhotra is not the only one.

Bhagirath Palace, India’s biggest wholesale lights market, sources 90% of its products from China, particularly from a town called Guzhen.

Most traders in Bhagirath Palace, and in Sadar Bazar, India’s biggest wholesale market for household goods, and in toy hub Teliwara are wondering what the future holds for them as the Union government pushes the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. The steps include raising import duties and making BIS certification mandatory for several items, including LED lights from China, in the wake of the pandemic and rising border tensions in eastern Ladakh.

According to Bharat Ahuja, president of the Bhagirath Palace Electrical Market Association, traders are so heavily dependent on Chinese imports that stopping them will paralyse the market. “Before curbing imports, the government has to promote manufacturing in a big way through the right policy initiatives,” says Ahuja.

At Sadar Bazar, China’s dominance in the household goods market is even more apparent.

Rajendra Sharma, president of the Toy Market Association at Teliwada, which earlier used to be a hardware hub, says it is difficult to convince his customers to buy Indian toys as they do not match the quality of Chinese goods. “At this rate, Teliwara will revert to being a hardware market... Many of us are already thinking of reviving our old business of agricultural tools.”

At least they are mostly made-in-India, he adds.

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