Chinese e-commerce apps Shein and Club Factory are currently still taking orders and delivering products in India despite being banned by the government along with 57 other apps.
When TNM checked on Friday and Saturday, both apps were taking COD orders. While Club Factory was working on WiFi and mobile networks, Shein was only working on certain WiFi and telecom networks.
An order placed on Shein via COD after the ban was also successfully delivered to a customer as of July 9.
On June 29, India banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, Shein, Club Factory, Camscanner and UC Browser.
Shein and Club Factory were along the most popular e-commerce websites in India before the ban. In fact, according to a report by analytics research firm TechArc in February 2020, Club Factory was the third most used e-commerce app in the country after Amazon and Flipkart.
During October-December 2019, a period when there were massive sales across e-commerce websites, Club Factory was the most downloaded app in the shopping category in India. It had over 100 million monthly active users (MAUs) in India.
Even though Club Factory is still accessible on most networks, for fresh downloads, on its Instagram page, Club Factor has put a link that allows users to directly download the Android Package (APK) to install the app. This would only work for Android devices.
On the homepage of its app, Club Factory has a message appearing that says that it is working with the government to help users to have the “most secure and the best shopping experience in India.”
“Your interest in our utmost priority. You can always check the status of your previous orders and payments at this app. Our easy refund policy and the delivery policy are all as usual, and your wishlist will always be there. We are hearing from you, our beloved users,” the message reads.
At the time of the ban, Club Factory said in a statement that it strictly follows all rules and regulations of the region and maintains utmost standards of user data security and privacy.
“We comply with all data security norms and have not compromised with the security or privacy of any users. Through our long-term presence, we have provided direct employment to hundreds of people in India and indirect jobs to third-party partners, including logistics and supply chain companies, warehouses, customer support agencies and more,” it said.
It also reiterated its commitment to India saying it empowers over 30,000 registered Indian sellers with a strong focus on MSMEs in the country. “Club Factory is the only e-commerce player that has empowered local sellers in India by providing them a level-playing field by not charging any commission fees. We have always been willing and continue to remain committed to working with the Government to resolve any concerns,” it added at the time.
Shein too, on its app, emphasised its relationship with India.
“Through thick and thin, through defeat and win. By supporting each other, we will overcome these difficult times. Please stay safe and stay strong!” the message reads.
According to an Economic Times report, a senior executive at a large telecom operator told ET that Chinese e-commerce players were using several domain names to bypass the firewall and that telecom companies are trying to find the various DNS (Domain Name Server) and have informed the government that there are other DNSes that are making the sites active.
Given that the bans are focussed on users from India, if users can use technologies to hide the fact that they are from India, they can evade such bans. "People can evade the ban by using technologies that allow them to hide their Internet traffic from their ISP, for instance, using VPNs or using anonymising networks like I2P or Tor. Further, they can create Apple IDs or Google IDs with a false country location, or even download the apps from alternative app stores," Pranesh Prakash, an expert in technology law told TNM in a conversation during the ban.
A total block may not be possible because not all VPNs can be blocked. Even China, which according to Prakash has a far more sophisticated Internet censorship infrastructure than India, finds it impossible to block all usage of VPNs.