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FINDING A WAY (SHE)IN

A Chinese clothing brand has found a workaround to Modi’s ban—and Indians can’t stop celebrating

Amazon Shein
Screenshot/Amazon.in
Another way in.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published Last updated

After being shunned from India for over a year, Shein is making a quiet comeback in the country. And Indians are excited.

On July 13, netizens started spotting banner ads on Amazon.in that mentioned Shein as one of its “Prime Day launches” for its July 26-27 sale. Since then, social media has been abuzz with celebratory posts. Even Tinder India hat tipped.

Shein was having a great run in India until June 2020, when it was banned along with a host of other Chinese apps amid border tensions between the two countries.

For more than a year now, orders on Shein’s own website remain suspended in India.

Screenshot/Shein India
Shein India.

The decision to debut on Amazon doesn’t just affect Shein but also its partners and rivals.

Shein back in India

Last year’s ban wasn’t the first time Shein found itself in troubled waters in India. In July 2019, the Chinese fashion e-commerce site faced a temporary shut down in the country after being caught undervaluing clothes to avoid customs duties.

However, it still found many takers. Shoppers were lured not just by its inexpensive catalogue but also a wide range of products offered in a variety of sizes.

“I felt included due to the ‘plus size’ category and the kind of clothing they have for plus-sized people,” singer-songwriter Darshana Kashyap told Network18 last July. “It made me feel good about my body seeing the plus-size models. It was a great confidence booster. I never thought a shopping app would be emotionally important, too.”

This time, Shein is not operating as a standalone entity but instead, it looks like it’s going to be a seller on Amazon.  Shein’s debut on the e-commerce giant’s portal “will allow Amazon to take some real fashion market share,” Ashutosh Dabral, chief product officer at fintech firm Moneytap, tweeted.

Amazon did not respond to Quartz’s questions about Shein at the time of publishing.

On the other hand, some brands that were filling Shein’s void are likely unhappy. Consider UK-based Urbanic, which has an office in New Delhi. In the past year, it has become the go-to shopping destination for cheap and trendy fashion in the absence of Shein. Several influencers called it the alternative to Shein and did haul videos from the brand.

Shein is the second wildly popular banned Chinese app that has found a way to reenter the Indian market after the Narendra Modi government’s ban.

Just over two months ago, South Korean video game developer Krafton reintroduced PlayersUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG) to India as Battlegrounds Mobile India. With PUBG’s comeback in a new avatar, tournaments, audience interactions, and brand engagements are once again rising for gamers.

Meanwhile, even amid the cheers, the reception even from the general public hasn’t been unanimously positive.

The problem with Shein’s relaunch in India on Amazon Prime Day

Selling clothes at dirt-cheap prices stoke joy because they don’t break the bank. However, they do have environmental and ethical repercussions—and several Indians are sensitive to that.

Influencer Dolly Singh, who has 1.3 million followers on Instagram, posted a reel about Shein’s return on the day it was first reported. But within a few hours, commenters criticised the video for propagating unsustainable fast fashion. Singh took down the video, admitting “the problem worsens when I come here and promote it.”

Screenshot/Dolly Singh Instagram
Dolly Singh’s Shein post.

Several comments under Singh’s post as well as on Instagram and Twitter more broadly were against supporting the Chinese brands amid the Modi government’s Make-in-India push.

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