Chinese handset makers including Xiaomi and Realme are asking the Indian government to list smartphones as an essential commodity so that they can be sold on e-commerce platforms during the nationwide lockdown in India.

Why it matters: India is one of the most important overseas markets for many Chinese smartphone makers, and a 21-day national lockdown in the country, starting Wednesday, is expected to severely hit handset sales.

  • E-commerce deliveries of essential and necessary goods such as food and medical equipment will be excluded from India’s curfew restrictions during the lockdown, according to local newspaper, The Economic Times.

Details: Xiaomi and Realme have united with two industrial bodies to seek an exemption for deliveries of smartphone along with other electronic devices during the national lockdown, The Economic Times reported on Monday.

  • The letter, written by local industry representatives the Manufacturers’ Association of Information Technology (MAIT) and India Cellular & Electronics Association (ICEA) on March 27, also seeks to remove restrictions on the movements of electronics components for inland and export purposes.
  • “Smartphones today are probably the most essential items after food and groceries that anybody needs. We can increase social distancing and reduce the number of people going out if everyone is using a smartphone,” Manu Kumar Jain, the managing director of Xiaomi India, told The Economic Times.

Context: Xiaomi is India’s biggest smartphone vendor with a market share of 27% in the fourth quarter, while Realme is the fifth-largest with an 8% market share.

  • South Korean smartphone makers Samsung and LG have suspended their factories in India on requests from local government, ZDNet reported last week.
  • Smartphone sales in China dropped 54.7% year on year in February when the country was essentially locked down because of the coronavirus outbreak. The figure will likely fall 40% in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, according to market data firm IDC.

Writing about semiconductors and telecommunications.