Mumbai: Electronic hardware companies got a breather on Thursday, with the government extending the deadline for mandatory registration of the products they sell to January, according to a person familiar with the development. Companies were earlier given till 3 October to get their models certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), a mandatory requirement for the sale of such products.
The decision was taken late in the evening at a meeting between Kapil Sibal, the Union minister for communications and information technology (IT), and representatives of industry and trade lobby groups, said the person, who did not want to be named.
“Two important decision were taken. First, companies can import only those products that are based on self-declaration and have been submitted to the testing labs. Second, the government has agreed to allow companies do the (BIS) labelling in their own warehouses,” he said.
Calls to P.K. Gambhir, deputy director general of BIS, for comment on this issue went unanswered.
Hardware companies have for long argued that BIS certification is a drag. They point out that of the 325 applications submitted to BIS, only 250 registrations have been issued till date, a fact that Gambhir confirmed over the phone earlier on Wednesday.
“With new applications being submitted every day, it will impossible to clear the entire backlog before 3 October,” said J. V. Ramamurthy, president of the Manufacturers’ Association of Information Technology (Mait) and president and chief operating officer of HCL Infosystems Ltd.
Industry experts added that even if some of the 100-odd new models of laptops, notebooks, tablets, televisions, microwave ovens, printers and scanners do get certified by the 3 October deadline, consumers may not be able to buy them during the peak Diwali season as it typically takes 14-16 weeks to get the products labelled with BIS stickers and ferried to retail outlets.
Electronics companies and industry lobby bodies say any delay in issuing the mandatory BIS registration number potentially leads to lack of supply in the market, directly impacting their revenue. The electronics hardware industry has already been hit badly by the rupee’s depreciation against the US dollar, given that it imports 80-85% of components from abroad.
Much of the delay in certification, allege companies and trade bodies, takes place due to lack of an adequate number of BIS-authorized testing labs, frequent changes in guidelines, and missing technical details, rendering many of the new models almost obsolete because of the rapid pace of change in technology.
BIS, on its part, maintained that the electronics industry’s grouse was unreasonable as it was given over a year to comply with the rules. “We are only doing a job. Extending the deadline is the government’s job. But we have given the industry adequate notice,” said Gambhir.
Lenovo India, for instance, submitted 150 products, but has had only about 50 certified till date. “The 3 October deadline is unrealistic and the government has to put more resources on the job to shorten the turnaround time,” Rahul Agarwal, executive director (commercial business segment) of the personal computer maker, said before the government’s decision to delay the deadline,
S. Rajendran, chief marketing officer of Acer India, said his company had given over 50 new models for testing in March, which “took over six months to test”. Only one-third of the products have been certified till date, he said.
On 23 September, three US trade bodies—the Consumer Electronics Association, the Information Technology Industry Council and Telecommunications Industry Association—wrote a letter requesting the Barack Obama administration to take up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his Washington visit.