How to Kill Innovation in India using Customs
I did my engineering from 1998 to 2002. It used to be very difficult to get the latest and greatest in the electronics world from the local market. My go-to way to get something interesting was to apply for freebies from companies in the USA, whether it was PICs from Microchip or the latest Linux CDs. I would apply and then wait. It would take time but it would arrive at home safely. I used to get frustrated by this waiting time. Sometime it would take up-to three months. Twenty years later shipping has become faster but the new hurdles by the bureaucracy and administration is the source of frustration. In a nutshell nothing has changed in twenty years.
I am not a professional electronics engineer anymore. I am more of a computer science engineer now. But the ECE engineer in me tries to experiment once in a while. The newer FPGA platforms are truly cross domain. They are equally electronics design and computer programming. Something for which I was waiting for a long time. Also RISC-V architecture is becoming the open source challenger for the traditional chip designers. In many years FPGA has become affordable, easy and accessible. So as an excited engineer I wanted to try my hands at both. That’s when I came across FOMU.
Fomu is a programmable FPGA device that fits inside a USB port. It has four buttons, an RGB LED, and an FPGA that is compatible with a fully open source chain and capable of running a RISC-V core. Fomu comes in a custom plastic enclosure that slots perfectly into a USB Type-A port.
It’s a great product to experiment and learn. So I ordered on CrowdSupply1. I ordered two to save on shipping if one goes bad. It wasn’t really cheap. I paid $74 (Rs.5282.34) including shipping. Shipping arrived last week to Bangalore. And it arrived home today with a rude shock that I have to pay taxes and service fee of Rs.4489 ($62.89). A little less than the amount I paid for the product. I am a tax paying individual. I rarely order things from across the world. When I order it’s mostly to experiment. I think this tax and bureaucracy around it is killing my interest in experiments. I am an earning individual so I can afford to pay. But imagine a student me. I wouldn’t even think about it even if I had saved up enough money to buy it. Student me wouldn’t pay so much tax. It’s similar to how tariffs are hurting innovation in small electronics industries in the USA.
This is not the first time. Last year I got a sample of ATTINY817 which costs couple of cents (Rs. 9) from USA. I got a very bureaucratic letter from customs. It’s usually so much effort to deal with them that I didn’t collect. I left it to decay.
I hope someone in the department wakes up before it causes huge hindrance. As far as I am concerned it’s already hurting a lot of innovators.
On a side note FOMU looks great. I am looking forward to experimenting with it. Thank you team FOMU and Sutajio Kosagi for this amazing product delivered to my home. I hope to write more.
- Kickstarter for small hardware manufacturers ↩