Early this month, BlackBerry announced a distribution agreement with Optiemus Infracom to distribute the newly launched BlackBerry DTEK50 and DTEK60 smartphones in India, a key market for the Canadian device maker. New Delhi-based Optiemus Infracom is quite excited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ campaign, intended to lower barriers to doing business and promote foreign investment in the country, especially in the mobile handset market. It has already inked a joint venture (JV) agreement with Wistron, Taiwan’s leading original design manufacturer (ODM), to establish manufacturing facilities for telecom products in India. “We strongly believe that as a country we have the required resources and talent to bring about a manufacturing revolution and the Make in India campaign provides the right platform to achieve this,” Ashok Kumar Gupta, chairman, Optiemus Infracom tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction. Excerpts:
How focused is Optiemus Group about the Make in India initiative? Are you looking at only handset manufacturing in the country?
We are strongly focused on the Make in India initiative. Optiemus Infracom is an end-to-end telecom ecosystem company, involved in manufacturing, retail, distribution of mobile handsets in the country since 1997. We are one of the pioneers in bringing contract manufacturing in India by setting up manufacturing facilities under the brand name of GDN-Global Deices Network in Noida, in late 2014. We have expanded our capabilities by setting up system design and manufacturing capabilities, to serve the needs of Indian market.
In November last year, we formed a joint venture with Taiwan’s Wistron Corporation, one of the largest ODMs and contract manufacturers of mobile phones. The joint venture will invest around $200 million (R1,320 crore) over five years to make smartphones, tablets and smart devices in India. Through this partnership, Indian consumers will get access to latest technologies concurrent to the world.
How much investment have you made in the manufacturing plant? How does this investment compare with those in other countries for Wistron?
From a manufacturing point of view, we have a roadmap of three to five years of consistent investment and we believe at the end of the period we will have pumped in over $200 million in total investment. Wistron does not give break-up of investments by the country, but this is one of the highest commitments made by them anywhere in the world.
What is the benefit of manufacturing handsets in India?
Smartphones have overtaken sales of feature phones globally and it is a matter of time before this happens in India also. Moreover, manufacturing of mobile handsets, which was predominantly in China and Taiwan, has now started moving to countries with high domestic consumption, such as India. Our mobile handset market demand is estimated to be around 300 million handsets in the current year. India is still in a growth phase and, therefore, offers volumes to justify investment in a manufacturing or assembly unit here.
Another advantage is that it leverages our deep understanding of the market and consumer mindset and therefore design and manufacture as per consumers’ preferences and expectations. Over the years we have seen a paradigm shift in consumer’s behaviour, with preference shifting from feature phones to smartphones. We want to ensure that we offer affordable and feature-rich devices that are locally developed, designed and manufactured to meet the demand of the Indian consumer.
What are your plans related to manufacturing?
We aim to penetrate deeper into the Indian market by expanding our capabilities. Electronic manufacturing also provides significantly large employment opportunities and under the government’s ‘Skill India’ initiative, we would like to leverage our growing manufacturing capabilities to provide employment in large numbers as well.