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Tatas set to write new India iPhone manufacturing story post Wistron plant acquisition

Tatas set to write new India iPhone manufacturing story post Wistron plant acquisition
With Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Wistron selling its India operations to Tata Group for $125 million, Tata Electronics is going to become the first Indian company to manufacture new Apple iPhones in the country, which is a major fillip to the government's 'Make in India' initiative.

Currently, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 12 and iPhone SE (second generation) are being manufactured/ assembled at Wistron's factory in Karnataka, which Tatas will take over.

The company said in its regulatory filing that it will sell a 100 per cent stake in the unit Wistron InfoComm Manufacturing (India) Pvt. to Tata Electronics Pvt., following the board approval.

The much-awaited deal has been finalised after strategic considerations in response to the reshaping of the group's product strategy and global manufacturing layout.

Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, said that within just two and a half years, Tata Group will start making iPhones from India for domestic and global markets.

"PM Narendra Modi's visionary PLI scheme has already propelled India into becoming a trusted and major hub for smartphone manufacturing and exports. Congratulations to the Tata team for taking over Wistron operations," the minister posted on X.

He said that this is a "great going for Apple in building a global supply chain from India with Indian companies at its helm".

"MeitY stands fully in support in growth of global Indian electronics companies that will, in turn, support global electronic brands that want to make India their trusted manufacturing and talent partner," Chandrasekhar added.

Industry experts said that with their ambition on semiconductors and EVs, it only makes sense for the Tata Group to gain expertise in manufacturing high-end iPhones in the country.

"With the Wistron acquisition, Tata Group will get a leg-up on its electronics manufacturing ambitions with the iPhones, and the possibility of manufacturing top-end iPhone models as well in the near future. We anticipate 'Make in India' to gain further momentum, and India to emerge as a major fulcrum in the global electronics value chain," Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group, CMR, told IANS.

In the years ahead, the Tata Group has the potential to solidify their position as a pivotal player in the iPhone manufacturing ecosystem.

Wistron's factory in Karnataka, that employs about 12,000 people, constitutes a major chunk of its business in the country.

As the iPhone consumption increases in the country, Apple needs more suppliers to ramp up production here, as it reportedly aims to take away a significant chunk of manufacturing from China to countries like India and Vietnam.

Driven by domestic manufacturing, Apple iPhones are set to garner 7 per cent market share in the Android-dominated smartphone market in India this year, according to latest data.

Apple iPhone shipments grew 68 per cent (year-on-year) in the first half of this year in the country.

CMR estimates the iPhone 15 shipments in the launch quarter (October-December period) to hover around 65 per cent, driven by an increased 'Make in India' initiative.

For the first time, 'Make in India' iPhone 15 units were exported to other countries within a short span of time from its global launch last month.

Apple received tremendous response to the iPhone 15 series in the country -- nearly 50 per cent more from last year.

Apple had set a June quarter record in India, driven by the robust sales of iPhones, according to CEO Tim Cook.

Tarun Pathak, Research Director at Counterpoint, told that Tatas' semiconductor ambitions are serious and came at a very important juncture amid India's digital goals.

"First, they can leverage the semiconductor strength in their EV business and second, their chips can be aligned with Apple in the future and the learning curve will be great for them," Pathak told IANS.

India is now the second-biggest manufacturing hub for mobile phones due to heavy investment from original equipment manufacturers, original design manufacturers and companies dealing in components and parts, according to Counterpoint.

The country saw mobile phone exports worth $5.5 billion (over Rs 45,000 crore) in the April-August period in the current fiscal year (FY24), government and industry data showed.

As per the estimates by the Department of Commerce and the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA), the April-August period saw mobile phone exports worth $5.5 billion, against $3 billion (about Rs 25,000 crore) in the same period in FY22-23.

India is set to cross Rs 1,20,000 crore in mobile phone exports in the current fiscal year, with Apple leading the market with more than 50 per cent in FY24.