Custom duty on an item costing Rs 10,087 (product cost+shipping cost) came to Rs 4,274.
Break-up of Rs 4,274 = BCD @10% (Rs 1,009) + Social Welfare Surcharge (Rs 101) + IGST @28% (Rs 3,135) + Postal Fee (Rs 30)
Funny thing was the postman calling me up and asking 'if' I'd be willing to pay the custom duty. I replied in the affirmative and upon delivery, asked him about the 'if'. He said that most who buy such stuff for personal use refuse to pay the duty and leave IndiaPost with no choice but to return the item to origin. So, he wanted to save the trip to my place carrying the parcel if I didn't intend to pay either.
Alibaba works, you just have to find a seller who's willing to ship via post or couriers such as DHL Express and be ready to pay customs should assessable value be over Rs 5,000. Moreover, you can also get wholesale pricing compared to AliExpress's retail price.
Ordered the same product along with a couple of cheap other accessories (related to the product) from the same seller, for a friend.
BCD was levied at 35%. As you'd know, this bumps the surcharge and IGST accordingly. No idea why it was 10% in the previous instance and 35% now. Googling shows the BCD has a range of 0-100% depending upon the product's type, source country, and most importantly, the levying officer's interpretation of these 'guidelines'.
Perhaps another difference was that the product was this time shipped via DHL Express, which charged almost 50% more than in the previous instance where the seller used post. Moreover, DHL also added handling feels totalling up to just about Rs 1k to the customs bill.
As a percentage of the total product+shipping cost, the final amount came to 77%. If you add DHL's handling fee to this mix, this figure comes to 98% of the product+shipping cost. With the desire to get the product safely, we paid up the amount via DHL's site.
You win some, you lose some.