Guess I'll wait to buy a new iPod until I'm back in the US. I forgot mine on the inbound flight in Delhi back in December, leaving a cool Christmas gift for a lucky member of the ground staff.
I didn't realize just how cool, until I start researching the possibility of buying an iPod locally. Forget it -- the retail price for a 30GB model is around $440, almost twice that in the US. That's thanks to Almighty Sarkar's (i.e. the Government of India) decision to impose hefty customs and excise duties on the product. After all it's for the rich, those horrible evil people, and not the aam aadmi (common man).
So, what happens? A flourishing gray market sprouts, reminescent of the bad old days before 1991. The increasingly prosperous aam aadmi doesn't mind haggling and getting one for about Rs. 10000 (about the same price as in the US) from a street shop. It is a status symbol. Among the status symbols. (I never felt comfortable taking my iPod out in public. The stares! I must be a nakli desi (fake Indian). Asli desis ought to revel in the stares the janta log (hoi polloi) give the en-statused.)
So, rather than figure out where the iPod gray market might be in provincial Baroda, and end up, so to speak, in the red, with a fake or broken product (I am notoriously bhola bhala, innocent -- or better, a simpleton -- when it comes to haggling and looking out for my best economic interests when buying things), I'll survive another month or so without one.
And you know who loses out here? Yup. Sarkar. According to estimates, 60-90% (wow, that's a wild range) of the iPod market in India is in the "gray sector." Well, we used to call it black, but I guess it has become a bit, um, enlightened? Not a paisa goes to Sarkar.
But when cars are still taxed as luxury items -- nearly half the sticker price goes to Sarkar, in a country with a middle class the size of the entire population of the United States -- I guess the poor little iPod didn't stand a chance.