Here is how to get Vibram FiveFingers in India:
- A friend in USA or elsewhere abroad.
- 6000 INR in your account and an international credit card.
- 2 to 6 Months of patience.
So one of the obvious most inexpensive ways (i.e. saving shipping charges and custom duty) of getting stuff from abroad is to get one of your friends/relative to buy it there (or you can order it online and get it sent to their residence) and then get it for you in their luggage when they come visit India. But if their India visit is not scheduled in the near future, there is an alternative method you can use. Here is what I did to get my Vibram FiveFingers:
- Wait one of the American festival days around which discounts are offered on a few selected items only. I ordered Men's Bikila around Labor's day at 40% discount (at 54 USD instead of the usual 90 USD).
- Get the item shipped to your friend's place in USA/Canada using your international credit card. I got it shipped to my friend Sneha's place in Canada. Shipping was free for USA/Canada.
- Write up a letter addressed to "The Office of the Commissioner of Customs (Import)" of your nearest big city in India. I addressed it to the office at the Airport Parcel Sorting Office, Mumbai.
- The letter should say that the value of the goods is less than 10,000 INR and is meant as a gift from your friend to you. Also specify what is actually inside the package (i.e. shoes) and attach a copy of invoice (should be addressed to your friend) along with the letter.
- Ask your friend to forward the shoes to you using SpeedPost (a.k.a. Express Mail Service) ensuring that the letter+invoice is attached to the outside of the package in a plastic sleeve. Use the cheapest post option to ship the shoes onwards to India. Sneha used the land express post which cost 50 Canadian Dollars (Air express post was 80 Canadian Dollars). Ensure that whatever option you use, has a online tracking feature.
Indian laws prohibit you from importing goods of value greater than 2000 INR. If you do, you will be fined and an additional flat 40% duty will be assessed on your goods. This is totally mental, but there is a way around it. As per law, you can receive gifts from your friends abroad of value upto 10,000 INR without paying any fine or duty. One of my past experiences is recorded here.
So as an experiment, I got Sneha to ship these shoes (with the letter attached) to see if it passed smoothly through the Indian Customs . And it did. Here is my timeline.
- Labor Day was on Monday, September 3, 2012. I ordered the shoes on 4th September 2012 - it was still Labor Day in USA. The shoes cost me 54 USD. Two days later the charge appeared on my credit card as 3,124.32 INR. The website tells you how to measure your size while ordering.
- +8 days on September 12, 2012: Shoes arrived at Sneha's. She wasn't at home when they tried to deliver, so she had to got to the post office to pick them up.
- +10 days on September 14, 2012: Sneha Shipped them via Land Express Post for 50 Canadian Dollars (~2700 INR). They issued a standard EMS tracking number.
- +49 days on October 23, 2012: Post man delivered the package home at my Mumbai Residence.
While the shoes were in transit, I could track them on the CanadaPost's website as well as IndiaPost's IPS Web Tracking site. IPS Web Tracking is not the same as tracking tool on the homepage if IndiaPost. IPS Web Tracking presents a combined information from all the worlds postal services as the package makes its way to you. IPS stands for International Postal System, more information here.
Here are screenshots of tracking reports from both websites:
|IndiaPost - IPS|
|You even get presented with a delivery certificate at CanadaPost's website|
And finally the shoes, ordering them cost me a total of ~ 5800 INR, 49 days worth of patience and time (mine as well as my friend's), but in the end totally worth it:
Here is the text of the declaration letter attached to the package while forwarding to India:
Saturday, 10 September 2012
Office of the Commissioner of Customs (Import)
Airport Parcel Sorting Office, Speed Post Centre,
Opposite Hotel Sahara, Vile Parle (East), Mumbai 400099
Tel: +91 22 26156063
Sub: Declaration regarding the good in the package
The package accompanying this letter contains a pair of shoes for Mr. Anurag Chugh residing at [insert address]
The goods valued at 54 US Dollars (approximately equivalent to 3000 Indian Rupees) are meant a a GIFT for Mr Anurag Chugh. A copy of the original invoice is attached as proof of value of the goods.
I understand that as per Indian Import Laws, the receiver is allowed to receive gifts from friends abroad of value upto 10,000 Indian Rupees without imposition of any fine or custom duty. Upon arrival of the package at the Indian Customs, I hope that you will forward the package to Mr. Anurag Chugh without imposition of the same.