A definitive guide to buying stuff from abroad
With the opening of markets and relaxation of the duty structure, the novelty of getting gadgets from abroad for cheap has seen some decline, but there’s still the temptation to get hold of the latest tech before its official launch in India. Fortunately, you no longer need to depend on the grey market to be a proud owner of the latest gizmos! International shopping is now at your fingertips. It can be quite effective and even economical if done correctly. So let us look at how online shopping has enabled placement of international orders for cool gadgets right from the comfort of your homes sans the headache of figuring out the custom duties and hassles of managing the shipment.
A DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO BUYING STUFF FROM ABROAD
Frustrated because you don’t have access to the latest gadgets? It’s time you discovered the world of global online shopping. Here’s our guide to smarter online shopping from international e-stores…
With the opening of markets and relaxation of the duty structure, the novelty of getting gadgets from abroad for cheap has seen some decline, but there’s still the temptation to get hold of the latest tech before its official launch in India. Fortunately, you no longer need to depend on the grey market to be a proud owner of the latest gizmos!
International shopping is now at your fingertips. It can be quite effective and even economical if done correctly. So let us look at how online shopping has enabled placement of international orders for cool gadgets right from the comfort of your homes sans the headache of figuring out the custom duties and hassles of managing the shipment.
A quick reality check
Firstly, any international transaction requires a credit card. Before you start planning your purchase, ensure you have a valid international credit card (preferably a VISA card) with enough credit limit. Secondly, all that comfort of getting products delivered to your doorstep does come at a cost. You’ll pay for the custom duties on the products, the taxes applicable in the country that the purchase is made from, plus the shipping charges and a slight overhead for the convenience. Therefore, its not as simple as converting the international pricing into Indian rupees. The overhead cost above the international pricing ranges roughly between 25-35 per cent of the quoted price of the product on the web site. Another thing is the delivery time, which can take anywhere between 7 to 15 days. Ready to shop?Let us look at the options…
eBay Global Easy Buy
eBay Global Easy Buy is our favourite of the lot, and is strongly recommended for anyone venturing into online international shopping. Global Easy Buy gives you the final prices in Indian rupees that include all costs such as the custom duties, shipping, handling and other service charges that the carriers charge to get the product to your door step. Thus, what you see is what you finally pay. Its search engine is pretty straightforward as well; with results showing the final prices. Another advantage of purchasing on eBay is the robust buyer protection mechanism that minimizes the chances of any kind of fraud or lapse in the committed transaction. You don’t need to have a separate account for shopping at eBay Global Easy Buy; your eBay India account login can be used to make purchases.
Another advantage with Global Easy Buy is the ability to pay via interestfree EMIs, as long as you’re paying via a credit card that is accepted. You can choose the three-month EMI option if a one time payment doesn’t fit your budget. On the downside, your options are not as wide as they would be if you were buying from amazon.com or newegg.com; your options are limited to the Global Easy Buy listings. These listings differ from the ones found on the international ebay.com. While most of the global elctronics sellers are listed; the availability of the products under Global Easy Buy are primarily dependent and decided upon by the international carriers who act as middlemen for shipping the products to your doorstep after clearing all dues.
Finally, it is recommended that you check the seller ratings on eBay before making the purchase. Buying from a seller with more than 10,000 ratings with an average customer satisfaction score of 99% and above is generally regarded as a safe bet.
International sites that ship to India
There are quite a few international sites that ship products directly to India. The key to shopping from these sites is to keep the transaction value as low as possible. If the value of the imported product goes above Rs 2000, which is the legal limit for duty free imports, the shipment is very likely to be scrutinized for import duty check. While you might be willing to pay the duty levied on the product, the duty assessment process can cause an unnecessary delay. International sites should be generally used to import low-cost accessories and components that are generally not available in India or are horribly over-priced in the local market. While some international sites do offer warranty, the expense related to shipping the product back to the vendor and the possible delays in resolution can get frustrating. So, it is recommended that you stick to accessories like cases, cables and some of the unique products that are only available internationally. A portable charging bank for iPod/iPad is a good example of a unique product that sells for a mere $8 on www.dealextreme.com
Examples of sites that ship to India
Ordering through shipping companies
The concept of being able to buy imported products without any hassles gives rise to enough opportunities for business and hence, apart from online stores, you have shipping companies offering the same services via a special account. Aramex, a shipping and logistics service provider offers a “Shop and Ship” account – its e-tail delivery service offers Middle Eastern and Indian consumers the convenience of online shopping from the US, the UK and Europe at competitive rates. Shoppers can access the Aramex service by logging on to ShopandShip.com and signing up for a lifetime membership account which costs $45 (`2,230). Once the consumer places an order, Aramex receives the ordered goods at its facilities from the e-tailer, and then ships and delivers them right to the doorstep of the shopper. Here again, the service provider adds customs duties and shipping service charges over and above the final product price that you pay with your credit card.
Unlike eBay Global Easy Buy, this service doesn’t have any robust buyer protection mechanism; you have to trust the service provider to get you your stuff. You can choose to pay cash on delivery for all the overheads, thus protecting a part of your total expense. There are similar services from companies like ICC World, in whose case, you have to open a free account, mail the company the products you’d like to purchase from any international site, following which it mails you back with the final quotes for delivering the product to your door step. Once you find the quote agreeable, simply purchase the product and use the shipping address provided by them, which is usually their warehousing station from where they manage the delivery mechanism right up to your doorstep.
The overall deal through the above mentioned options may not necessarily be cheaper. In fact, with mainstream products like phones and cameras from most popular brands, you would most likely pay more or almost similar to what it would cost you in India. So, how can you take advantage of these services? The trick lies in spotting good deals, and while there’s no single formula for spotting deals, here are some general guidelines that can work in your favour. Accessories are a good starting point. Cases for phones, tablets and similar lower priced products are generally cheaper from these stores.
The accessories market in countries like the US is a lot more matured, you have tonnes of options at every price point and the quality these products is generally better than what we get in India. We ordered an iPad Case from eBay Global Easy Buy for `1,685 shipped to our doorstep. This product carried a retail price of $75 (`3,716) in the US. Some of the popular Indian e-tailers were selling the same OtterBox Defender iPad Case for `4,500-perfect example of the kind of sweet deals that can be grabbed on Global Easy Buy. With accessories, the usual worries with regard to warranties and damage in transit don’t haunt you while placing the order; its a relatively safe bet, especially when you’re not risking huge sums of money.
Read the product descriptions carefully
With stricter and more streamlined buyer protection laws, online stores in the US are bound to disclose all details pertinent to the product. However, with long descriptions and the excitement of having spotted a great deal, buyers tend to ignore the details. For example, a product that is categorised as “new” can have another tag that says, “Open Box”. These products are not used but they aren’t exactly brand new, un-touched items. They might have been used for demo purposes or returned the very next day by the customer. So, such products can be up for sale at a much lower price but you ought to be clear about what you’re buying. In case of products like laptops, there might be multiple configurations for the same model listed across the store, for instance, the Asus Zenbook ultrabook has several configurations listed on the eBay Global Easy Buy site, and unless you read the description in detail, you might end up buying the `58,000 config as the best deal, not realising that it has a regular mechanical hard drive instead of the 128GB SSD in all other configs, which are priced just `5,000 higher than the cheapest one.
Shipping can make or break a deal
Ordering heavy stuff can really hike up your budget and the added tension of physical damage to the goods always lingers in the back of your mind. Shipping rates are also pretty tricky, once a product crosses 5 pounds (2.27kgs); the shipping rates almost doubles. So, it’s not just the duties that can sour the deal. Shipping charges can be a deal breaker too, so it’s advisable to watch the weight.
Look for stuff that’s impossible to get here
Camera lens adapters, iPad car kits, privacy filters for laptops, speaker stands for hi-fi speakers and similar products are hard to find in the Indian market and are priced exorbitantly due to a limited market appeal. Such objects are good candidates for importing through online sellers. Another possible scenario for buyers with deep pockets is buying products that are far away from launch in India or at times never make it to the Indian market.
What about warranty?
Warranty is important, and that’s where the entire “shop at international stores from the comfort of your home” can be a real bummer. Almost 100 per cent of the products you purchase online come with warranty, but these are valid only in the country from which they were purchased. So forget about getting local warranty. You h the seller to claim warranty for the product and apart from the time frame of about 15-20 days, the cost of shipping must be borne by the buyer. A strong case for sticking to accessories and products that are least affected by warranty issues.