Laptops, Desktop Sales Spike As Office And School Go Online

That came as companies introduced work from home guidelines for employees and online education became the norm in schools.

Lenovo Group Ltd. laptop computers await testing in the electronics section at the refurbishment facility of GreenDust, a unit of Reverse Logistics Co., in New Delhi. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg
Lenovo Group Ltd. laptop computers await testing in the electronics section at the refurbishment facility of GreenDust, a unit of Reverse Logistics Co., in New Delhi. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

As Indians work from home and schools go online during the pandemic, sales of laptops and desktops have spiked.

Shipments of personal computers fell in the first three months of 2020 as supply chains in China, the largest exporter of electronic goods, froze. But sales in India, Asia’s third-largest economy, rose starting May, led by pent-up demand, as the government gradually started reopening the economy.

“On the commercial side, large enterprises with over 1,000 employees have driven the demand for laptops during the lockdown,” Jaipal Singh, associate research manager of Client Devices at IDC India, told BloombergQuint over the phone. “This was the best quarter for commercial sales of laptops,” he said, adding pent-up demand persists with the lockdown not lifted entirely across India.

All businesses barring essential services were shut as the world’s most stringent lockdown was imposed in India for more than two months since the last week of March, decimating consumption—the bulwark of the economy. That meant electronics retailers or their online portals couldn’t sell or transport goods. The government has since paved the way for normalcy by allowing the opening up of select public places in a phased manner.

Demand for laptops and tablets in India is expected to grow at an annualised rate of 3% between 2020 and 2023, according to the global data firm Statista, which said it has adjusted its numbers to account for the pandemic’s impact. The laptop-and-tablet market grew at a little over 2% until 2019 and may contract by around 1.4% this year as a result of Covid-19 in spite of the recent spurt in demand.

The market for these two devices, which stood at $8 billion as of 2019-end according to Statista, may decline marginally to $7.95 billion this year.

Retailers reported a rise in sales after the first two phases of the lockdown. Croma, the electronics store chain owned by the Tata Group, saw volumes of desktops, laptops and tablets rise by nearly 20% in May and June.

“The reason is because home is now the office and the school—people are working from home and learning from home,” Ritesh Ghosal, chief marketing officer at Croma, told BloombergQuint over the phone. “Also, typically a family would have one laptop or desktop for the entire family earlier. Now, each member of the family needs his/her own device to work on or connect to his office or classroom.”

Dell Technologies India, the nation's second-largest maker of personal computers, said in an emailed statement it’s witnessing increased conversions on its online consumer store and retail outlets.

“Earlier, one out of five walk-ins would purchase a device, but now the ratio has improved,” Raj Kumar Rishi, vice president and managing director for consumer and small businesses at Dell Technologies India, was quoted as saying in the statement. Consumers are now using it for a variety of uses like remote working, learning and even catching up with family and friends, he said.

Acer India, too, said it has witnessed a rise in computer sales after the coronavirus outbreak, attributing it to similar reasons.

“Acer has seen a surge in demand for PCs across the spectrum—both from the personal and commercial side,” Sudhir Goel, chief business officer of Acer India, told BloombergQuint. “We believe that remote working and learning is likely to become mainstream and the penetration of devices in each household is predicted to go up.”

Yet, this may be a short-term spike. Laptops and desktops category witnessed decline in shipments and volumes during January-March, according to IDC Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, May 2020.

That was because sales were high in the same period a year earlier as the Tamil Nadu government placed a huge order for laptops to be distributed for free to students in the first quarter of 2019, Singh from IDC India said.

Sales, especially from the commercial segment, have been exceptionally high since May, but it would continue for another quarter, he said, adding that it remains to be seen if it would sustain after a quarter or two.