As the stand-off between India and China continues at the borders, shrill calls for the boycott of China-made goods is getting louder, solely because India’s most powerful weapon against China is trade. India is a gigantic market for Chinese products and over the years, the import of goods from China has increased manifold. My concern is, why are we debating about boycotting Chinese products? Let’s get something straight here…we can never boycott Chinese goods for the lone reason that we have bilateral trade ties with China and both countries are part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Has any of us stressed the fact that we need to overcome the challenges that do not allow Indian made products to compete against Chinese goods? Why aren’t goalposts shifting from just Make In India to also buy in India? China is leveraging the Indian population to create an economic cushion for themselves which signifies that the market is already prepped. All we need to do is use this buying inclination to our advantage. The foundation of framing the buying mindset is already laid, all we need to do is replace it with India commodities. Additionally, in order to encourage Make In India, a national government procurement policy has also recently been approved that will give more preference to locally made goods and services. This step will give a substantial boost to local manufacturing and services sectors, thereby creating more jobs, the need of the hour.

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Chinese firms are using higher quality labour and technology and are producing commodities more efficiently than Indian producers in several cases of imports in India’s consumption goods market. India exports much less to China, mainly raw materials, while it imports much more, mainly electronics and other manufactured goods which are in high demand. India’s pharma sector also has critical dependency on Chinese imports used in drugs manufacturing.

So, the solution to India’s trade deficit is clearly not a boycott of Chinese goods, but a more efficient domestic industry.

The math is simple, the human psyche always chooses what is convenient and affordable, something that China has always been offering. However, when a consumer goes to buy a product, given that he is not well-informed about the quality of the product, an element at the very core of product manufacturing, the next thing that instinctively comes to mind is affordability! Chinese products appeal to the mass and despite being short-term in nature, are widely accepted. So, my question here remains, how do we better compete with China so that their products do not gain a monopolistic avenue over Indian products?

Naively speaking, money always conquers sentiment. While Make in India sounds very emotionally appealing, the truth remains, if it doesn’t fit the pocket of the consumer, they will never go for it.

A strategic framework needs to be in place with a clear roadmap across levels. Bureaucrats need to be given a free hand with their progress monitored closely. More infrastructure needs to be created in the form of ports, surface transport for Indian made goods to find ground. Corruption needs to be stalled at all levels to ensure files move fast and do not gather dust for months together.

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Any policy on preferential domestic procurement will imply job creation, a priority area for the country. Despite signature schemes such as Make in India and Start-Up India, job creation has remained a tricky area. Buying Indian products will help small and big industries that will grow our industrial base. And when our industries will grow in numbers, our youth, skilled, unskilled, educated, professionals will find job opportunities too.

It is not just about boycotting Chinese products, that remains out of question; it’s all about making Indian markets self-sustainable when it comes to manufacturing and producing goods.

Dr Somdutta Singh is a serial entrepreneur and the author of “Decoding Digital”. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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