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Green PCs not to burn hole in your pocket

Bibhu Ranjan Mishra  |  Bangalore 

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)-compliant desktops and laptops, which Wipro and HCL Infosystems have launched in the last few months, will not cost extra despite the investment in upgrade that the companies claim to have made.
RoHS is an environment-friendly (lead-free) directive, and not a law, adopted by the European Union in February 2003 that took effect on July 1, 2006. It restricts the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ether.
RoHS-compliance is still at an awareness stage in India. Adhering to this directive, however, implies an upgrade in the manufacturing process and substitution of alternative materials, all of which add to the cost.
Wipro, for instance, claims to have spent a lot towards upgrading its manufacturing facility in Puducherry (Pondicherry) to meet the new standards.
"This is not a marketing or brand exercise. We would just want our customers to know that they can opt for eco-friendly PCs without any implication on performance, reliability, quality and price," said Ashutosh Vaidya, vice-president, personal computing division, Wipro Infotech.
PCs typically constitute thousands of components that are mostly sourced from different vendors across the world, while a few are manufactured in-house. Most of the firms, having manufacturing plants in India, assemble the components at these units.
"It's therefore essential that the components sourced from vendors meet the RoHS norms and do not contain hazardous chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium," explained Ramapati Kumar of the Greenpeace.
Wipro has already blocked the sourcing of non-RoHS-compliant components from its vendors. The company has asked all its component suppliers to produce a certificate, stating that components meet the RoHS norms.
HCL Infosystems, another Indian PC manufacturer, too claims that a significant majority of the components procured from vendors are RoHS-compliant. The company is also planning to phase out the manufacturing of products that do not comply with the RoHS norms by the end of 2007.
"We have been proactively working with our vendors to help them phase out the hazardous substances from manufactured components, which is a key step towards the RoHS certification. The process has been going on for many months and today a significant majority of components from our vendors are certified as RoHS-compliant," said George Paul, executive vice-president, HCL Infosystems.
The company claims the process has resulted in the launch of its first RoHS-compliant notebooks in March this year.
The products do not entail any additional costs to the end consumers. HCL aims to achieve the RoHS compliance for its notebooks by the end of 2007.
Says Paul, "As a customer-centric company, we are glad to bear the costs for ensuring the RoHS compliance of our products so that the impact on the final price of a computer is nominal for our customers."
Experts say it makes a lot of sense for Indian companies to invest in manufacturing green products since they have to meet certain standards, including the RoHS, in geographies other than India. The government is also toying with a legislation on the lines of the RoHS.
"It's environmentally right, and the path these companies are taking is justified. Large companies, who have exports out of India or those who are planning to export at some or the other point of time, need to comply with the local environmental laws in each of the geographies they are planning to enter," said Sanjay Handu, chairman, southern region, MAIT.
Many global firms such as HP, Dell and Lenovo, which have a large share of the Indian PC market, claim they have been following stringent environmental standards in manufacturing PCs.
Since it is publicly known that these companies follow the same standards globally, it is believed they follow the same practices in India. However, most of these firms are tight-lipped as to whether their manufacturing plants in India comply with the RoHS norms.
While HP and Lenovo already have their manufacturing plants in India, the Dell plant in Chennai will be operational soon.
In responses to queries from 'Business Standard', a Lenovo spokesperson said, "While products which do not comply with the EU RoHS restrictions may continue to be shipped in locations such as India, which do not have regulatory requirements, it is our goal to achieve the global RoHS compliance for the newly launched Lenovo products in 2007."

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First Published: Fri, June 29 2007. 00:00 IST