India’s smart TV industry has been riding on factors such as a captive audience that’s consuming content in their houses, availability of regional content and some high-end technology advancements in TV, which are presented to them at affordable prices. However, with the upcoming Union budget, we need to be well prepared to ensure that India is on its way to becoming entirely ‘Atmanirbhar.’
Amidst the ongoing third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become even more pertinent for India to make efforts towards establishing itself as an alternative SMART TV market. The industry has faced challenges both in terms of trade and market. With respect to trade, we saw how one nation’s monopoly over production of semiconductors and display panels, key components for any electronic item, drove prices to reach an unprecedented high, a 400% hike, along with its shortage. In terms of market, the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic decreased people’s disposable income and discretionary expenditures as it all went into healthcare.
A few industry requests if considered can ensure the further growth for the SMART TV industry and even the electronics industry as a whole.
First, GST for sizes larger than 32inch smart TVs should come under 18% slab, as it is the highest in the world. An 18% GST on the product would result in the reduction of prices by the manufacturers and brand owners, which can help expand its market.
Second, earlier this year, the Government of India announced its investment of Rs 76,000 crores towards building a semiconductor and display panel industry. The focus on these efforts needs to stay till results are achieved. India is already the largest exporter of software in the world, and that coupled with becoming a leader in the hardware industry can be game-changing. Display panels and semiconductors would comprise 70% of the cost if this ecosystem is created in India. The move will prove to be a gamechanger in terms of supply, availability and cost-effectiveness in manufacturing television sets. More important, the dependency on one single country for raw materials will end. It would also lead to increased earnings via exports and create job opportunities.
We request the government to have timelines for the implementation of these projects under the PLI scheme, and this shouldn’t be restricted till the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). We can see results on the ground in the next two years or so. The world needs an alternative to the monopolistic regime that is in place, so that prices and availability stay stable throughout, unlike what we have been seeing since COVID-19 began.
Finally, the government needs to set a structure in place, in case COVID-19 continues, or for any other global emergency that may arise in the near future. We cannot have industries come to a halt. The non-essentials goods industry also has livelihoods depending on it. Numerous people have lost their jobs, the scale of which has put a big dent on India’s GDP. The loss was more than what we saw at its face value. The GDP may have begun to pick up now, but a contingency plan must be put in place to avoid such losses.
(Avneet Singh Marwah is CEO, Super Plastronics, Kodak brand licencee)