GPU prices are skyrocketing in India — this is how crypto miners and scalpers are making it worse

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GPU prices are skyrocketing in India — this is how crypto miners and scalpers are making it worse
GPU prices are at an all time high.Photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash
  • For instance, the Nvidia 3070 GPU is priced at ₹45,500 but the partner cards are being sold at ₹90,000 and more.
  • The most obvious reason behind the inflated GPU prices is the silicon shortage and crypto mining.
  • Using their network, scalpers acquire the GPU stocks in high volume to sell them at a higher price.
Gamers, in India, are going through a depressing phase in their lives.

The companies they adore have been launching the best gaming hardware they can’t get their hands on. But, thanks to the pandemic and some other factors, they are literally out of reach.

The supply is short. And whenever a product is available, the prices are exorbitantly high. From the new PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox gaming consoles to the new graphics processing units (GPUs) from AMD and Nvidia, there's an acute crunch in supply globally, and in India.

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While consoles can still be bought at the retail price despite the shortage, it has to be noted that GPUs are being sold at double their cost and even more, in the grey market. On the e-commerce platforms, the graphics card stocks run out in a jiffy.

Akash Bhat, a Bengaluru based gaming enthusiast, who was playing games on his PlayStation 4 decided to get back to PC gaming during the lockdown. The cost? He had to pay double the price of the GPU to build his PC. "I wanted to get back to PC gaming and I decided to do so at the worst possible time. I built a PC for which I overpaid for my GPU by 100% which left a bad taste but at least the gaming experience is better. And not like PS5s are easily available," he told Business Insider India.

Offline, it's slightly easier to buy a unit, but prices are highly inflated. For instance, the Nvidia 3070 Founders edition is priced between ₹45500. The partner cards for the same GPU are being sold for more than ₹90,000 by retailers in India at the time of writing this story. Simply put, the demand for graphics cards overweighs the supply globally, but it's worse in India.

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“The price of GPUs is not only rising in India but also globally. The GPUs have been in high demand since 2020, so it was difficult to lay hands on them. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic further led to constraints in the supply chain dynamics,” says Parv Sharma from Counterpoint Research, a research consultancy.

Work-from-home leads to more gaming

Sharma says the demand was very high for GPUs due to people working from home and socialising through gaming. “Supply chain issues led to semiconductor shortages ranging from the substrate materials, RAM shortages (GDDR6), and short supply of wafers as most of these GPUs are fabricated on 7nm and all players are fighting for grabbing max share in the foundry. Further to make the matters worse the huge demand for GPUs for crypto mining, and scalpers are selling the GPUs at 1.5x to 2x prices are making this worse,” he adds.

The most obvious reason behind the inflated GPU prices is the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to lockdowns lasting several months and staying at home becoming a norm, the demand for personal electronics has gone up and the closure of manufacturing units has led to shortage of supplies.
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Also, the supply chains have been disrupted especially for non-essential goods. Since graphics cards fall under non-essential goods, the governments restricted imports for a long time. In February, Taiwan-based electronics firm Asus confirmed that it needs to raise GPU and motherboard prices due to logistical complications and import tariffs, which led other GPU vendors including MSI, Zotac, and Gigabyte to follow suit.

Another reason behind rising GPU prices is the global chip shortage, which is said to last for at least one more year. The impact is not just on GPUs but mobile phones, consoles, automobiles and a lot more. Due to the shortage, the quota of units being shipped to India has been cut down to favour bigger markets like the US, Europe and China.

GPU prices are skyrocketing in India — this is how crypto miners and scalpers are making it worse
GPUs are in high demand for crypto mining. Photo by Reina Kousaka on Unsplash

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How crypto miners come into the picture

It is also being said that crypto miners are behind the graphics card shortage. Mining cryptocurrency requires a high-specced rig with a powerful graphics card to mine faster. Cryptocurrency is not just a buzzword anymore. It is here to stay and so are the miners. To mine, you need a minimum of 4GB of video RAM and it gets better as it goes higher. That's why the stocks for graphics cards over 4GB are even rarer to find.

Some Indian retailers say that miners are being favoured over gamers as they bulk-buy graphics cards and higher volume gives them a better opportunity to earn after their businesses were hit due to pandemic. The crypto mining issue led Nvidia to restrict crypto-mining capability on its cards. It will be making cards with a lower hash rate that makes them unfit for mining.

Blaming miners for GPU shortage is unfair. Aditya Kshirsagar, a product marketer and PC enthusiast makes a fair point where he points out how even the low-end graphic cards are also not in stock and overpriced. He says, "I can understand the prices of medium to high tier cards appreciating due to the cryptocurrency boom. But, I want an Nvidia GTX 1030 for a build. These cards are either unavailable or over-priced which points to scarcity. Is this scarcity due to the pandemic, supply constraints, or induced remains unknown? A miner has no use for these cards so why are basic GPUs missing from the market?”
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He also said companies capping hash rates of GPUs to restrict mining is counterproductive. The miners earn a livelihood out of these cards, and they can’t be differentiated from a normal buyer. “Brands unable to cater to gamers and miners while keeping the appreciating values in check is worrisome. There should be more enforcement on prices so that such a situation is avoided in the future. The loss of consumer trust is real,” he adds.

The curious case of bundling

Business Insider spoke to Bilal Moolji, founder of Cezor, a custom PC company and online shop for PC hardware, about the stock and price situation of graphics cards in India. Moolji agrees with the factors mentioned above, but he also adds the seller’s perspective. Due to the pandemic, sellers were stuck with non-movable items like PC coolers, chassis, custom PCs and similar that led to an unprojected loss in business. As a result, to cover up the losses, many retailers started bundling other non-moveable items with the GPU to desperate buyers. Some of them intentionally waited for desperate buyers so that they could ask for the desired amount. He did hint that scalping is also an issue, which is not surprising.

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India's grey market for electronics is huge. Scalpers make the most out of situations where there's a crunch in supply and when demand is high. Using their network, scalpers acquire the GPU stocks in high volume and at a higher price to sell them at an inflated price. In India, you can find these scalpers in online communities and groups and sometimes through retailers, who tell you "we don't have it, but you can call this guy and ask". That "guy" obviously asks you to pay a premium way over the maximum suggested retail price (MSRP) depending on your desperation.

We reached out to Asus, Zotac and Gigabyte, three major GPU makers, to get their comments on how brands are dealing with the crunch and what the future looks like. Gigabyte responded to inform Business Insider that their team is busy with Computex, a computer expo in Taiwan, while Zotac did not reply. We will update the story with inputs from these brands if and when we receive it.
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