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Date: 07-03-17

IESAVS 2017: Smart phone design and manufacturing in India growing fast

At this year's electronics industry event Vision Summit 2017 , organised by industry body IESA,  there was strong message about the growth of mobile phone manufacturing plants in India.

Rajiv Bansal, Joint Secretary, MeitY, Govt. of India shared to the audience at the event, how the mobile phone manufacturing is picking up in the country and the way government is supporting. With the news of Apple deciding to make its smart phones in Bengaluru, India's attempt to bring in high-end electronics manufacturing is showing results. With the announcement of Apple's intention to do manufacturing in India, most of the top smartphone brands in the world now have manufacturing facilities in India. It is estimated more than 100 million mobile phones are produced locally in India in 2016. Rajiv Bansal was confident of the good growth continuing for some more years.

There is also some progress in the local design of smart phone, where Mediatek has trained electronics design engineers from Indian smart phone OEMs such as MicroMax, karbonn, and Lava on the various practical aspects of smart phone design including, embedded software and sourcing information of various mechanical electronic components required for smart phone design.

Under the make in India program mobile phone manufacturing is important due to rise in use of mobile phones among all types of people. Though it's late, there is still a lot of scope and benefits in India focusing on smart phone design and manufacturing locally. 

The benefit to the smartphone buyer in India is the cost of the device will be  lower than imported smart phone. If you take for example Apple iPhone, the high-end phone cost easily around Rs.10,000 lesser than the imported phone. Since government of India is fully supporting domestic manufacturing, there will be hardly any administrative and bureaucratic obstacles for electronics manufacturing companies to set up factories in India, at least as of now there is a red-carpet welcome not only from central government but also from many state governments. The present infrastructure is OK to support assembly type electronics manufacturing, except for the component supply chain. While the infrastructure is improving faster even to support building of advanced semiconductor fab. If not a semiconductor fab, there is a better chance of having LCD display manufacturing facility in India earlier than a semiconductor fab.    

The Schemes such as Electronic Manufacturing Cluster (EMC) and Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS) adding significant value in boosting the electronics production, where funding and land/infrastructure resources are issues. There are 10s of electronic manufacturing clusters all over India.

Compared to China, the cost of labour, transportation and other logistics related expenses is cheaper in India and is not raising that fast.

Foxconn, the contract manufacturer for Apple iPhone is actively participating in make-in India program. There are a lot of Taiwanese companies who have invested very early in India even before the start of make-in India campaign. As early birds, their revenues are growing significantly faster than their competitors in Indian market.

Nearly 100% e-governance unfolding at high speed, the Digital-India program demands use of electronics in all aspects of everyday life, it will be increasingly important for the government to ensure the cost of electronics devices such as basic entry-level mobile phones as client side devices for e-govenance system access are affordable enough for people with lesser income, and more importantly locally made and secure in all aspects. 

The issue with the India's electronics manufacturing is not the infrastructure and the workforce. The challenge is availability of local source of electronic components, electronics manufacturing equipments- which is hardly there. To sustain electronics manufacturing, the electronic component manufacturing need to be established including the semiconductor fab. There is a very good base of automotive and industry/process automation focused mechanical engineering companies who can take on the opportunity of producing electronics manufacturing equipments including semiconductor fabrication equipments. China has already advancing in this by producing semiconductor manufacturing equipment locally.   

India has to beat China in the overall availability of electronic manufacturing eco- at a cost and quality better than China to become a successful electronic manufacturing location. That's a tougher task, but there is no alternative.

The advantage for newcomers in this area is the availability of full reference designs from mobile phone chip vendors such as MediaTek, and  Qualcomm. By using Qualcomm reference designs some of the OEMs could design a smart phone within two months. Indian smart phone OEMs need to leverage the software strength to differentiate from the imported phones. The market trends such as growth in smart home, industrial IOT, consumer IOT, wide types of wearables, smart city needs, personal medical/health care, advanced automotive electronics, and "artificial intelligence analytics at edge/node level"  can fuel the demand further.

What is really required is speed of implementation-- from thought to product should be few months with long-term strategy  well-defined.

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