An increasing number of customers have begun asking retailers about the country-of-make of the products they sell. This, coupled with growing anti-China sentiment, has seen improved demand and queries for Indian brands. Ajanta Orpat Group — best known for its wall clocks, calculators, fans and small kitchen appliances, both within India and overseas — has been witnessing this trend.

According to Nevil Patel, Director, Ajanta Orpat Group, Orpat has been supplying clocks, home appliances, and fans to over 45 countries, mostly Asian, as well as a few European nations. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and anti-China sentiments, countries are looking at alternatives.

The company is “getting global requests” from retailers in the US, UK, and Europe. Companies in these countries have expressed unwillingness to deal with Chinese companies, and are therefore, looking at Indian manufacturers.

“(We are getting) queries from new markets such as the US and UK. Rising anti-China sentiments and de-risking of business are the reasons. Within India too, end-users are increasingly asking about Indian brands. Many have actually said no to Chinese products,” he told BusinessLine .

In India, the trend has been quite pronounced in smaller towns, say sources. In larger towns, anti-China sentiments, although not so pronounced, have impacted buying patterns. On e-commerce sites, there is a visible increase in queries on the origin of products — Indian or Chinese.

“Distributors too have been stocking up on Indian brands,” Patel pointed out, adding that from a predominant presence in Tier-II markets, the company has (over the last two years) been shoring up presence in Tier-I towns and across e-tailers.

Incidentally, June 2020 sales have been better than in June 2019. But, he points out that there could be pent-up demand at play.

Based out of Morbi in Gujarat, the Ajanta Orpat Group clocked a turnover of around ₹1,250 crore in FY20. The company expects a 10-12 per cent odd dip in turnover this fiscal (FY21) as schools and colleges remain closed, thereby impacting calculator sales, while wall clocks continue to be a discretionary spend. Kitchen appliances, including fans, are generating some demand.

Import substitution

Incidentally, Patel maintains that the company has been steadily moving towards import substitution by reducing sourcing from China, even for smaller parts.

For instance, wall clocks are fully manufactured in India and backward integration has been undertaken. “There are nearly 30 different parts that go into making a wall clock. And all of that is being done in-house for quite some time now,” he said.

Similarly, home appliances are another category where import substitution is being looked at. Some companies in Pune and Bengaluru are looking to manufacturing alternatives to Chinese imported parts.

“Reduction of imports, including Chinese ones, to zero is possible. We began 10 years backs and achieved a part of it,” he added.