COVID-19 second wave has hit India hard. The number of lives the deadly Chinese virus has consumed in the last one year explains how badly it has affected the country and the people. Several states such as West Bengal, Maharashtra, among others are currently under lockdown, while other states like Delhi gear up to unlock in the next few days. Amid the lockdown, e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart and among others have restricted deliveries on non-essential products including smartphones in several parts of the country. This simply means, people living in states under lockdown cannot order smartphones and even laptops, even if they require them for their everyday activities.

There have been many debates in the past around whether smartphones should be classified as “essential” product or not. We speak to a few smartphone brands and they all believe that mobile phones must be classified as an “essential” product during lockdowns. Speaking to BGR India, Realme CMO, India and Europe, Francis Wang said that smartphones are an essential part of human life, and should definitely be considered among the essential services.

Wang said, “we are going through such times that the role of the smartphone has become more important to help us stay connected with our families, friends and work when everything else seems to come to a halt. Especially during the lockdown, smartphones are still front-runners in providing a platform to industries like E-commerce, Fintech, Edutech, Healthcare, etc., which are playing a key role in catering to work, education, health and business needs of people despite COVID – 19 restrictions.” “For even things like ordering daily food requirements during lockdown especially where people don’t have facilities nearby, booking vaccination spots, etc., smartphones are playing an important role to cater to such needs,” Wang highlighted.

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As per the latest IAMAI Digital in India report 2021, smartphones remain Indians’ first choice for a device to access the internet in both urban and rural India. Another survey conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) recently revealed that 80 percent students depend on mobile phones for learnings, indicating the strong reliance of students on mobile phones for e-learning.

If we rewind back to last year, when the lockdown was imposed due the first coronavirus wave, India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA), which calls itself the apex industry body of mobile and electronics industry in India, reportedly urged the India government to include smartphones and laptops in the list of essential items and services. Smartphone brands also believe the same and that makes complete sense.

Rightly said, smartphones have indeed become a part and parcel of all our lives in the recent times, especially due to the tough COVID-19 lockdown times. The lockdown has put us all inside of homes, leaving us with no option but to depend on smartphones to connect with our near and dear ones. This also led the rise in video calls across apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and much more. In fact, several tech giants also took this as an opportunity to develop a new video calling platform to help users meet their family and friends digitally. Connecting with family and friends via video calls also requires a smartphone.

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Image: Flickr

Just as Wang, a Xiaomi spokesperson also believes that smartphones must be classified as an essential products amid the lockdown. “Smartphones have become a modern day essential item, after food, groceries, and medicine. It is not only helping people stay connected with their families, friends, but is also enabling remote working and learning from home,” the spokesperson told BGR India. “With government apps facilitating citizen services including vaccination registration, smartphones are empowering and enabling citizens to access these digital touchpoints,” the Xiaomi spokesperson further added.

Tejinder Singh, Head-Product, Lava International Ltd also believes that with COVID, the dependence on smartphones has gone up significantly. From e-learning to work-from-home to asking assistance to reaching out to the needy, in the post-COVID era, the role of mobile phones has become vital to people’s lives.

“We believe that classifying mobile phones as an essential commodity and enabling the supply chain for the production, distribution, and sale will help in ensuring individuals and communities stay connected and united. The government must review the definition of ‘essential products and services’ to include mobile phones and spare parts,” Singh told BGR India.

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