India's homegrown networking market has turned over INR500 billion

India's plan to establish a domestic market for the production and sale of telco and networking equipment appears to be working.

Nick Wood

July 10, 2024

2 Min Read

The government has announced that revenue from sales of kit that has been part-funded by its Production Link Incentive (PLI) scheme has reached INR500 billion ($6 billion).

Launched in 2021, it's all part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make In India' nation-building initiative.

There are several ongoing PLIs covering various sectors of the economy. This particular one has a five-year mandate to allocate funds from its INR122 billion ($1.6 billion) pot to companies producing telecoms and networking products in India. Its remit covers not just radios, routers and related gear, but also mobile phones and their components.

Both domestic and overseas players with a large presence in India are eligible for funding.

These overseas players arguably represent the big caveat to this initiative. Make In India doesn't necessarily mean invented, founded or even headquartered in India. It could easily mean a foreign entity has set up shop, or expanded its existing operations in India. Apple is eligible for PLI funding, for instance, because it uses the Indian operations of Foxconn, Pegatron and Tata Electronics to manufacture some of its products.

Nokia and Ericsson have a long history of operating in India. Nokia opened its Chennai factory in 2008, and in 2020 it was upgraded in order to produce Nokia's latest 5G products. Ericsson first arrived in India in 1994.

The market's two-biggest operators, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, are both relying on foreign-designed equipment for their 5G networks.

However, caveats aside, inward investment is not to be sneezed at. The government regularly takes stock of its PLI progress, and this year's report serves up some impressive stats.

To date, the government said the scheme has attracted investment of INR34 billion, and created more than 17,800 direct jobs, plus "many more" indirect jobs. Of that INR500 billion of revenue, exports accounted for INR105 billion.

When it comes to handsets, the number of units produced in India over the last 12 months weighed in at 330 million, while the number of units imported stood at 3 million. The picture was quite different in 2014-15, when domestic production was 58 million and imports were 210 million.

Between this PLI and related schemes run by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), India has managed to significantly reduce its telecoms trade deficit.

Indeed, over the last five years, it has been slashed from INR680 billion to INR40 billion.

The PLI schemes "have started to make Indian manufacturers globally competitive, attract investment in the areas of core competency and cutting-edge technology; ensure efficiencies; create economies of scale; enhance exports and make India an integral part of the global value chain," the government said. "It has transformed India's exports basket from traditional commodities to high value-added products."

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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