Union Budget 2016: What’s good for the ESDM industry and what’s not

The union minister for finance, corporate affairs and information and broadcasting, Arun Jaitley along with the minister of state for finance, Jayant Sinha on the left

The Union Budget 2016, presented by the NDA government on February 29, 2016, has put forth various initiatives to give a boost to flagship projects like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Startup India’. The Budget has certainly offered a lot to the ESDM industry by providing various tax and duty benefits. These will go a long way in strengthening the manufacturing capabilities of Indian companies. Sudeshna Das, senior executive editor, Electronics Bazaar interacted with different industry experts to get a better understanding of what’s good and what’s not in this budget, for the ESDM industry

The Union Budget 2016 has outlined various government initiatives to ‘transform India’ through the adoption of technology. These include the allocation of funds for India’s digital connectivity initiative by pushing the panchayats and municipalities to upgrade and develop digital infrastructure, enhance the use of IT infrastructure, etc. The Budget has also revised the electrification target, from 10 per cent to 45 per cent, which will lead to increased demand for electronics products and IT hardware.

Moreover, the Budget offers a very attractive corporate tax rate option for new manufacturers at 25 per cent plus surcharge and cess, provided the company does not claim profit linked or investment linked deductions. It should also not avail an investment allowance and accelerated depreciation.  The Budget has also lowered the corporate tax rate for the next financial year for relatively small enterprises, i.e., for companies with a turnover that does not exceed ₹ 50 million (during the financial year ending March 2015), to 29 per cent plus surcharge and cess. This will help MSMEs working in this segment.

In addition, favourable policies like a 100 per cent tax holiday for three years in a window of five years, provision of MAT (Minimum Alternative Tax), and no capital gains tax if such gains are invested in the notified ‘fund of funds’, envisage an environment in which startups will help to build the ‘startup’ ecosystem in this sector.


The Union Budget 2016 also clearly highlights the government’s agenda to transform the electronics industry. The various provisions for the sector announced in the Budget will, in the long term, encourage domestic value added manufacturing of electronics hardware and make it as competitive as imports. The announcements are in line with the Make in India initiative and work towards reducing transaction costs. But what do industry experts make of all these initiatives?

At the outset, we collated the key policy amendments related to the indirect tax structure, i.e., excise duty/countervailing duty (CVD), special additional duty (SAD) and basic customs duty (BCD) for the ESDM sector. And we then solicited the opinions of industry experts, who generally feel that the Budget has largely met the expectations of the ESDM sector due to the number of changes in the indirect tax structure, which will promote the manufacture of IT hardware and mobile phones.

Rajoo Goel, secretary general of ELCINA, states that there is a clear indication that the differential duty structure for mobiles and tablets, which was introduced last year, is being taken to the next level (by including components and parts for chargers, batteries, wired headsets and speakers), i.e., the zero duty category. He also feels that a number of duties have been rationalised to promote the manufacture of a wide range of products such as routers, modems, set-top boxes, DVRs, NVRs, CCTV cameras and others.

Exemptions to facilitate ‘Make in India’
The excise duty/countervailing duty (CVD) as well as special additional duty (SAD) have been abolished on inputs, parts and components as well as sub-parts for the manufacture of chargers, adapters, batteries, wired headsets or speakers for mobile phones, subject to actual user conditions. At the same time, a differential duty structure has been created on chargers, adapters, batteries, wired headsets or speakers for mobile phones wherein 2 per cent CVD/excise is applicable if CENVAT Credit is not availed on these products, but 12.5 per cent is applicable if that is availed. To further support manufacturing, exemption of basic customs duty (BCD) on chargers, adapters, batteries, etc, for mobile phones has been increased from 0 per cent to 5 per cent. BCD has been reduced to nil on all the inputs, parts and components of the above products.

The experts’ perspective

“Manufacturers importing specified mobile parts/accessories like chargers, speakers, headsets and batteries are now required to pay the normal customs duty rate on importing these products.  The beneficial scheme for mobile phones has been altered to incentivise actual manufacturing of mobile phones from the parts/components level and dis-incentivise SKD manufacture of mobile phones. The intention appears to be to create a manufacturing ecosystem through a process of backward integration.” Mahesh Jaising, partner at BMR & Associates, LLP

“This makes a strong case for making these products in India. Those who import them will need to pay 12.5 per cent excise duty and domestic makers will have to pay 2 per cent.” Pankaj Mohindroo, national president, Indian Cellular Association
“The same way as it was done for mobiles and tablets, a 10.5 per cent duty differential benefit has been created for those who manufacture/assemble these products locally viz-a-viz imports, which will attract the full 12.5 per cent CVD. Regarding components, the obstacle for the local manufacturers is that they will have to get the actual user certificate from the manufacturer of the charger or the wired headset locally. Only then will they be able to supply at a rate excluding the excise duty. This is the only obstacle that has to be overcome. This problem will not be faced if components are imported from outside, but only if these are manufactured locally. The local manufacturers will also have a CENVAT overflow because they will be buying inputs. So this amendment brings the direct benefit up to the mobile accessory stage and does not encourage local component manufacturers. This needs to be addressed, even before the next budget, through an interim policy amendment. The government should provide some incentives for local components procurement. Local component manufacturers can supply electronic components such as resistors, capacitors and some connectors, which are being made locally. In this budget, all these components are allowed with zero import duty.” Rajoo Goel, secretary general, ELCINA
“The proposal to abolish excise duty on inputs, parts, components and sub-parts for the manufacture of chargers/adapters, batteries and wired headsets/speakers of mobile phones is a welcome move, and will eventually promote the local manufacture of these components. However, the exemption from basic customs duty, CV duty and SAD on chargers/adapters, batteries and wired headsets/speakers for mobile phones being withdrawn will increase the cost of the mobile phones till the time the companies manufacture these products domestically.” Rajesh Agarwal, co-founder Micromax
“Buoyed by the success of mobile handset manufacturing where the introduction of a differential excise duty structure has led to the setting up of production facilities in India by several leading mobile handset vendors, both Indian and foreign, the government has widened its scope to cover additional high-consumption products in the Budget 2016-17. It would, however, be a challenge to supply locally manufactured inputs to the domestic manufacturers of product categories brought within the ambit of the differential excise duty structure due to zero CVD and the applicable BCD on their inputs (for non- ITA-1 inputs).”
Vinod Sharma, chairman, CII National Committee on ICTE Manufacturing and MD, Deki Electronics Ltd
“This is basically done to improve the value chain of these products. The government has created almost a 26.93 per cent duty difference between the imported products and the finished products that are domestically manufactured. It has imposed customs duty, CVD and SAD, which is not available in the case of imports. So if you manufacture these products in India, all these three duties are exempted. Now the only problem that the government should address is that they should abolish CST for finished products, due to which 2 per cent gets added to the cost. Further, this amendment creates an opportunity for local component manufacturers. Today, when people are importing finished products, the very survival of the component suppliers in India is under threat. But now there will be a huge demand for components within the country; so component manufacturers should compete and cater to that demand.” Nitin Kunkolienker, VP, MAIT

Excise duty/CVD as well as SAD have been abolished on parts and components for routers, broadband modems, set-top boxes, digital video recorders, network video recorders, lithium batteries, CCTV cameras and IP cameras. A differential duty structure has been created for routers, mobiles, set-top boxes, etc, with 4 per cent excise/CVD being levied without CENVAT credit and 12.5 per cent being levied with CENVAT credit.

The experts’ perspective

“The government is driving the Digital India initiative by exempting all earlier-applicable duty charges on DVRs and CCTV cameras. This will make products cheaper and more affordable in the market, keeping in mind the consumer’s perspective. This offers a bright opportunity for existing industry players and encourages new entrants to make their presence felt in this segment, and to cater to the audience more efficiently.” Manish Sharma, president of CEAMA and MD, Panasonic India and South Asia
“The change in the duty structure as proposed in the Budget 2016 will encourage the manufacture of consumer premise equipment like modems, routers, digital video recorders, STBs for the Internet and IP cameras. I expect investments of about ₹ 100 billion for the local production of these devices. I expect their prices will go down by 8 per cent in the first year, and by 10 per cent in a year-and-a-half. With the incentive on finished goods with respect to CCTV cameras, the assembly of these will begin to happen locally. As the pace picks up and scale develops, it will provide the necessary impetus for component suppliers to set up manufacturing units locally as well, just like the industry from Taiwan migrated to China 15 years back.
Not only the components for CCTV cameras, but also the sub-components used for manufacturing these components are exempt from duty. Hence, the component manufacturer will enjoy duty exemptions, while the CCTV manufacturer pays 2 per cent on the output.” Nitin Kunkolienker, VP, MAIT
“The situation in the case of digital video recorders, CCTV cameras, set-top boxes, etc, is similar to that of mobile phones. The government has abolished excise duty, which also includes the CVD as well as SAD on parts used for manufacturing these items. Further, the government has created a differential duty structure. So, if the manufacturers of these products claim CENVAT on the finished products, they will have to pay 12.5 per cent but if they do not claim CENVAT, then they only have to pay 4 per cent. That means an 8.5 per cent advantage is provided to those who assemble/manufacture these products here. This incentivises the assembly of the product, which is good at this stage but only for the short term, because the ultimate goal is to develop the entire ecosystem. To ensure that, component manufacturing needs to be incentivised.” Rajoo Goel, secretary general, ELCINA
“Extending benefit of concessional excise duty (at 4 per cent) to indigenous manufacture of specified IT hardware described as “Consumer Premise Equipments” (CPEs) which includes routers, broadband modems, set top boxes for gaining access to internet and set top boxes for TVs. Exemption to parts, components and accessories thereof for use in the manufacture of these products.”
Mahesh Jaising, partner at BMR & Associates, LLP

A 4 per cent SAD has been imposed on populated PCBs (laptops or desktops) used for the manufacture of personal computers, and a 2 per cent SAD has been imposed on populated PCBs for mobile phones/tablets.

The experts’ perspective

“Import of populated PCBs by manufacturers of mobile phones/tablets now attracts a 2 per cent duty. This will have a positive impact on the domestic manufacture of PCBs. However, companies that have already made investments in India, without factoring in the duty on the manufacture of the above-mentioned products, will incur an additional cost of 2 per cent.” Mahesh Jaising, partner at BMR & Associates, LLP
“Introduction of SAD on populated PCBs is useful. The only issue here is that the SAD that is paid on populated PCBs is allowed to be adjusted over the excise duty on the finished product. So it may or may not encourage the buyers from sourcing it locally. However, those products that do not attract excise duty in India may be incentivised to get their populated PCBs assembled here. The benefits are not very quantifiable right now; some more analysis has to be made. But yes, there are some benefits and these will increase the business for EMS companies.” Rajoo Goel, secretary general, ELCINA
“It is a good step. The government should completely discourage the import of populated PCBs in the country. The populated PCBs should be taxed to the highest level and so should be the family of components because there is a huge potential to assemble these in India. Many traders have switched to manufacturing by just importing the goods in semi knock down (SKD) form. They are cheating the government by obtaining populated PCBs almost as finished products in disassembled form. That should be prohibited. The government should ban the import of populated PCBs in any form. Introduction of SAD is not going to affect motherboard manufacturers that much as they will get the import credit for the same. It will help EMS companies.” Nitin Kunkolienker, VP, MAIT

BCD is being exempted on specified raw materials used in the manufacture of micro fuses, sub-miniature fuses, resettable fuses and thermal fuses. Further, BCD has been reduced to 2.5 per cent on the neodymium magnets and magnet resins used to manufacture BLDC motors, subject to actual user conditions.

The experts’ perspective

The reduction of BCD on specified capital goods used in the manufacture of various fuses is a boost to component manufacturing and will enrich the supply chain.”
M.N. Vidyashankar, president, IESA
“Some specific recommendations of ELCINA, which were pending since many years, have also been addressed this year and this is one of them.”
Rajoo Goel, secretary general, ELCINA

BCD and SAD have been exempted for machinery, electrical equipment, other instruments and their parts [except populated PCBs] used for the assembly, testing, marking and packaging (ATMP) of semiconductor chips and Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) fabrication units, subject to actual user conditions.

The experts’ perspective

“By this, the government is hoping to create an environment that encourages the setting up of fabs in India.”
Mahesh Jaising, partner at BMR & Associates, LLP
“The government has already introduced incentive schemes like MSIPS to encourage the setting up of fabs in India. This amendment is another positive gesture by the government, as it will reduce the capex costs involved in setting up fabrication units.”
Nitin Kunkolienker, VP, MAIT

BCD has been exempted for magnetrons with a capacity not exceeding 1.5kW (as against the existing 1kW), used in the domestic manufacture of microwave ovens subject to actual user conditions.

The experts’ perspective

“The customs duty extension for microwave ovens on magnetrons with a capacity of 1 KW to 1.5 KW, will help domestic manufacturers to manufacture the product with enhanced capabilities and features.” Manish Sharma, president CEAMA and MD, Panasonic India and South Asia

BCD has been reduced from 7.5 per cent to 0 per cent on polypropylene granules/resins for the manufacture of capacitor-grade plastic films.

The experts’ perspective
“Film capacitor manufacturers should benefit because of this.” Rajoo Goel, secretary general, ELCINA

BCD has been exempted on LCD (liquid crystal displays), LED (light emitting diodes) or OLED (organic LED) panels and is being restricted to imports for the manufacture of TVs, subject to actual user conditions.

The experts’ perspective

“Although the government has imposed actual user conditions on LED/LCD panels used in the manufacture of TVs from April 1, 2016, this has brought about a disability for the industry—the companies will have to go through a cumbersome process of filing for IGCR licences for the end user agreement, which takes at least two to three weeks in clearance. We hope that this issue can be resolved.” Manish Sharma, president, CEAMA, and MD, Panasonic India and South Asia
“Exemption of BCD for imported LED and LCD panels based on actual user conditions is a good idea. These panels are now being allowed with zero import duty to facilitate the assembly of televisions in India. Looking at the actual conditions, the rules have been simplified quite significantly. I think this is a good move to prove that you are the actual user. But I think this is a medium-term arrangement and ultimately, our aim should be to ensure manufacturing of these panels in India.”
Rajoo Goel, secretary general, ELCINA

BCD has been reintroduced on some components including VoIP switches, VoIP gateways, current entry line systems, digital current line systems, etc (refer Table 3).

The experts’ perspective

“Basic customs duty on some components has been reintroduced. There was a notification in 2014 stating that if you import those products, you will have to pay BCD. Another notification said that if service providers, like the IT service provider companies, import components, they are exempt from duty. Now, the government has removed that anomaly; so anyone importing these products will have to pay 10 per cent BCD. The products include VoIP switches, VoIP gateways, current entry line systems, digital current line systems, etc. So, basically, these are Layer 3 and above switches for use in telecom. This is a welcome step and the raw material required to manufacture these products is exempt under the notification 11 of 2014.”
Nitin Kunkolienker, VP, MAIT

Steps taken for ease of doing business
1. Indirect Tax Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2016, has been introduced with the Union Budget 2016-17. It will be effective from June 1, 2016. Its salient features are given below:

  • An appeal pending before the commissioner (appeals) with respect to an impugned order as on March 1, 2016, will qualify for declaration to be filed on or before December 31, 2016.
  • The declarant has to pay tax along with interest and penalty equal to 25 per cent of the penalty imposed in the impugned order within 15 days from the date of acknowledgement of the declaration, and the designated officer will pass an order of the discharge of dues..

2. IGCR-1996 amended to IGCR-2016

  • EEnd use certification, which was to be obtained from the local deputy commissioner, excise, has been waived.
  • The reporting time for the imported goods in the manufacturing facility has been increased from one day to two working days (excluding holidays).
  • Instead of approval, the excise (AC/DC) officer will now ‘forward’ a copy of the application to the AC/DC, customs.
  • The import plan for the full year submitted to the customs and excise departments need not be monitored by the authorities for each import, and returns can be filed on a quarterly/yearly basis..

Reference: Amendment in The Customs Act, 1962, Vide No. 32/2016 – Customs (N. T.)

Industry leaders Views

“Given the challenges the finance minister has to contend with to meet the high expectations of various sectors of the industry, SMEs, big corporate houses, the middle class and social sectors, the Budget has come up to our expectations. The finance minister has drawn a roadmap for relief to all sectors; as the GDP growth gets accelerated, it will lead to higher revenues available with the government.”

Vikram Desai, president, ELCINA and MD, Desai Electronics Pvt Ltd.

“The government impetus being given to the Make in India initiative by providing tax and duty benefits will boost the manufacturing sector for a long period of time and strengthen the manufacturing capabilities of Indian companies. The industry today is well equipped to address the environmental concerns; however, the government should consider formulating a coherent policy, wherein development and environment conservation goes hand-in-hand. The government should also place emphasis on incentivising the manufacture of energy-efficient and eco-friendly products.”

Manish Sharma, president, CEAMA and MD, Panasonic India and South Asia

“The effort to incentivise the ‘Make in India’ programme by way of domestic value addition in the EMS segment is a step in the right direction as is the removal of customs duties. This augurs well for us, as the majority of the spending in our industry is on imported ESDM items.”

Sunil Khanna, president and MD, Emerson Network Power India

“The Union Budget 2016 has largely met the expectations of the ESDM sector with a number of changes in the indirect tax structure to strengthen manufacturing of IT hardware and mobile phones. The Budget lays the right emphasis on domestic manufacturing to facilitate the prime minister’s pet project—‘Make in India’. It will provide the much needed fillip to accelerate growth and generate jobs, which is acutely lacking today.”

Rajoo Goel, secretary general, ELCINA

“In terms of the electronics manufacturing industry, we expected a lot to be announced but there was not much reference in the Budget for the same.  There are a lot of steps the government needs to take to bring in the next wave of growth in the electronics segment of the country. On behalf of all the handset makers of India, we expected the government to introduce regulatory restrictions for ETA (Equipment Type Approval) and licensing requirements from DoT to import low-powered wireless equipment, as both policies are very critical for the success of the Digital India and Make in India vision; but there was no mention of the same in the Budget. We wanted the government to also focus on having a quicker and more predictable time frame to complete the CRS (compulsory registration scheme) formalities to comply with the nation’s product safety standards. Additionally, as electronics and mobile handset manufacturing is touted to be the next growth engine for India, there was a dire need for an income tax holiday to make it viable and attractive for the industry and investors, just the way it is in countries like Vietnam.”

Rajesh Agarwal, co-founder, Micromax Informatics

Industry leaders’ Views

  “This Budget, unlike any other, has not treated technology in isolation but integrated the effective use of technology across all the strategic imperatives in keeping with the intent of a Digital India. It has laid emphasis on governance reforms and ease of doing business, while highlighting the need for enhancing educational skills. However, we are disappointed with the announcement of R&D incentives being reduced, because this move could be detrimental in building India as an innovation hub. I strongly urge the government to reconsider this move, as any restrictions on the R&D ecosystem are likely to decelerate innovation and restrain the ambitious Make in India and Digital India vision.”

Debjani Ghosh, president, MAIT

“The IGCD procedure has been simplified, allowing duty exemptions to importers/manufacturers based on self-declaration, obviating the need for permissions from the central excise authorities. The various provisions for the sector announced in the Union Budget would, in the long term, encourage domestic value added manufacturing of electronics hardware and make it as competitive as imports. The announcements are in line with the Make in India initiative and towards reducing transaction costs. However, a lot more needs to be done to develop India as an electronics manufacturing hub.”

Vinod Sharma, chairman, CII National Committee on ICTE Manufacturing and MD, Deki Electronics Ltd
“Exemption of BCD and SAD for ATMP for semiconductor wafer fabrication/LCD fabrication is a very well planned move and will certainly give a boost to local manufacturing, especially to SMEs. A similar exemption extended to parts, components, and sub-parts for manufacturing chargers, adapters, mobile phones, routers, modems, set-top boxes, etc, will go a long way in encouraging local production. Imposition of BCD on finished products like telecom equipment, etc, is a very well thought out move to enhance domestic manufacturing and reduce import dependence.”

M.N. Vidyashankar, president, IESA
“Imports of assembled sub-systems like chargers/adapters, batteries and wired headsets/speakers for the manufacture of mobile phones will cost 16.5 per cent more due to withdrawal of basic customs duty and special additional duty. On the other hand, inputs, parts, components and the sub-parts for manufacturing these and other electronics sub-systems have been reduced to 0 per cent. Further, imports of populated PCBs will cost 2-4 per cent more. Both these reflect a strong commitment to promoting local value addition in electronics.”

Vinay Shenoy, chairman, IESA and MD, Infineon Technologies

“The Budget has many positives for the development of the country as a whole and to kickstart all-round economic activity. The changes in the duty structure will encourage manufacture of consumer premise equipment like modems, routers, digital video recorders, set-top boxes and IP cameras. We expect a billion US dollars’ worth of investment inflows for their local production. Further, I expect the prices of these products to go down by 8 per cent in the first year itself and by 10 per cent over 18 months.”

Nitin Kunkolienker, VP, MAIT

An advisor’s View

Mahesh Jaising, partner at BMR & Associates, LLP
The Union Budget 2016 has rolled out a spate of incentives to encourage manufacturing in India in the backdrop of ‘Make in India’ being the primary agenda of the present government. A significant point to take note of is the string of indirect tax benefits announced, with the IT hardware sector taking centre stage.  While the key beneficiary of the government’s largesse towards the ‘Make in India’ programme has no doubt been the IT hardware sector, key proposals have been made to provide a much needed boost to the consumer electronics manufacturing sector as well.
The exemptions rolled out are, typically, subject to the importer following the procedure set out in the Customs Rules 2016 (Import of Goods at Concessional Rate of Duty for Manufacture of Excisable Goods), which have replaced the erstwhile rules, thereby simplifying the procedure mandated for the import of exempted goods.  Under the new rules, to facilitate the ease of doing business in India:
There is no requirement to obtain specific registration from the jurisdictional central excise officer
A manufacturer will now only be required to make a self-declaration, setting out details such as the name, address, details of excisable goods produced, and the nature and description of the imported goods used in manufacturing
One is hopeful of the above procedural changes being meaningfully implemented at the ground level, to enable ease of doing business.
While the benefits extended to encourage indigenous manufacturing are truly welcome, the actual advantage of this to the ultimate consumers is to be discerned on a case to case basis. For instance, while concessional duty benefit of 4 per cent has been extended to a local manufacturer of customer premise equipment (CPE), given that the consumers of the CPE (mostly businesses) can claim 100 per cent of credit of the CVD/excise duty charged, such consumers may still opt to import instead of buying locally.
The government no doubt has taken giant steps in creating a conducive indigenous manufacturing environment by rolling out various tax incentives. However, some of the key and critical requests of the industry have been overlooked by the government. These include:
Reduction of customs duty on components for air conditioners and refrigerators to create a level playing field for both domestic manufacturers and those importing under specific Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)
Lower duty on the production of energy-efficient products, based on the star rating of the products
Duty benefit on goods that substitute ozone depleting substances
Notwithstanding the misses, the government’s concerted and affirmative efforts towards making its ‘Make in India’ agenda a reality is truly manifest in the incentives announced, and it is hoped that these efforts should continue. The government should also ensure that the ‘Make in India’ initiative enjoys patronage under the Goods and Services Tax regime.