Foxconn's latest lockdown is India's big chance to become Apple's preferred factory hub over China

Foxconn’s latest lockdown is India’s big chance to become Apple’s preferred factory hub over China

On the finish of final month, movies began circulating on the Web that show 1000’s of individuals carrying suitcases by way of the streets and highways of Zhengzhou, China.

They had been staff from Foxconn Expertise Group, the world’s largest electronics maker, fleeing the corporate compound. Some barbed wire fences scaled to flee; others traveled 25 miles go house.

Days after the mass exodus, China locked down the economic park the place Foxconn’s amenities in Zhengzhou are positioned, often called the iPhone City. This additional remoted the power’s 200,000 staff, who had been beforehand requested to work in a ‘closed-loop’ system as a consequence of a COVID outbreak, by which they sleep, dwell and work in a chosen space remoted from the surface world. . Closed-loop system left Foxconn staff uncovered to the virus and missing primary requirements, which brought on them to flee.

This isn’t the primary lockdown at a Foxconn manufacturing unit. Foxconn amenities throughout China have suffered manufacturing losses a number of instances this yr as a consequence of government-imposed measures. blockages and closed loop systems. Following latest disruptions in Zhengzhou, together with each the lockdown itself and earlier employee escapes, manufacturing at Apple’s favourite iPhone manufacturing unit has fallen to “considerably diminished capability”, the Cupertino-based firm recognized in a word final week.

For almost three years, corporations like Apple have operated with the uncertainty of not understanding when and the place the subsequent lockdown will hit – and for the way lengthy – as a consequence of Beijing’s strict measures. zero-COVID playbookhighlighting the dangers of being too depending on Chinese language factories.

These lockdown uncertainties, mixed with rising commerce tensions between China and the USA, have led Apple to speed up its seek for new manufacturing hubs. And India has emerged because the clear winner, with some analysts betting that the world’s third-largest economic system is poised to change into one in every of Apple’s most well-liked suppliers.


Beijing’s relentless pursuit of zero COVID has locked folks in malls and workplace buildings, on factory floorsand even in Disneyland. China’s virus containment measures, among the many hardest on this planet, have powered nervousness, despair and psychological trauma.

For world corporations working in China, the federal government’s virus containment technique has resulted in main disruptions to manufacturing and gross sales.

The grueling 60-day spring lockdown in Shanghai has prompted Starbucks gross sales in China to dive 40% on this neighbourhood ; You’re here delivered 18% fewer cars throughout the identical interval, in comparison with the earlier quarter. In spring and summer time, Apple lost $4 billion in anticipated iPad and Mac gross sales solely. Following China’s virus containment measures, which show no end in sight – the enterprise local weather has collapsed. Solely 55% of companies interviewed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai in October stated they had been optimistic about their five-year enterprise prospects in China. It was the bottom studying within the survey’s 23-year historical past.

China’s embrace of zero-COVID, alongside rising commerce tensions between China and the USA, has made it more and more troublesome for corporations to “rely solely on Chinese language suppliers for his or her merchandise”, he stated. Patrick Penfield, professor of provide chain apply at Syracuse College. Fortune.

“Many multinationals in China are struggling to keep up manufacturing, provide and meet demand,” he stated.

The mass escape by Foxconn staff and subsequent lockdown in Zhengzhou solely reinforces the “toughness” of China’s virus containment technique, stated Edith Terry, chief govt of consultancy Cotton Tree Advisors, who focuses on enterprise and public affairs in East Asia. Fortune.

The implications of China’s zero-COVID coverage are an “absolute blow to Apple in its most essential vacation quarter”, Dan Ives, managing director of funding agency Wedbush Securities, tweeted Final week. “We estimate this negatively impacts roughly 3% of iPhone gross sales this quarter primarily based on…manufacturing in China [and] provide points. The albatross continues in China,” he stated.

Zhengzhou is an important web site for Apple’s iPhone manufacturing, particularly its newer fashions. iPhone manufacturing may gradual up to 30% as a consequence of latest occasions, dangerous information for the electronics large as the vacation season approaches. Apple stated Sunday it could make fewer iPhones and shipments can be delayed. The unpredictability of Chinese language provide chains has created obvious uncertainties for corporations like Apple that “depend on a steady provide of products from China,” stated Chris Tang, Distinguished Professor of Enterprise Administration on the UCLA. Fortune.

“For that reason, Apple now not has a alternative [but] diversify its provide base.

And that base, he added, is shifting to rising markets like India and Southeast Asian international locations.

The chance of a lifetime

In recent times, India has courted multinational companies with the objective to change into the world’s main middle for the manufacture of electronics and smartphones. In June 2020, he introduced a $6.6 billion incentive program to entice world corporations to supply their electronics in India.

The Modi authorities has acknowledged the present second as a “distinctive alternative” to affect world companies as China’s zero COVID technique shakes up their provide chains, Akshobh Giridharadas, adviser to enterprise advocacy group US-India Strategic Partnership Discussion board, Narrated Fortune. “India has a restricted time – and [Narendra Modi] realizes it. The federal government is accelerating insurance policies that can give India a bonus as corporations more and more diversify their provide chains,” he stated.

India’s robust state assist for smartphone manufacturing, coupled with its giant workforce of younger, expert professionals, is driving the world’s cell phone makers to ramp up manufacturing within the nation, stated Tarun Pathak, director analysis at smartphone consultancy Counterpoint Analysis. Fortune. And a key promoting level that differentiates India from different rising markets is its huge market dimension.

“Foxconn is shifting manufacturing to India from China, it is also getting nearer to a high-growth market, moderately than, say, following US coverage signaling to comprise China,” Terry stated. Apple additionally needs to dominate India’s fast-growing high-end smartphone market, which is anticipated to develop 10% subsequent yr from 7%, Pathak stated.

At the moment, based on specialists, India is quick turning into a popular manufacturing unit hub for Apple on the expense of China.

In September this yr, Apple started manufacturing iPhone 14s at a manufacturing unit outdoors the town of Chennai – the primary time the Cupertino-based firm has primarily based manufacturing of its new smartphones in India, marking a shift main in its manufacturing technique.

After Zhengzhou’s newest lockdown, Apple has requested a second vendor – Taiwan’s Pegatron – to begin launching its newest iPhone mannequin in Tamil Nadu, based on a Bloomberg report. Foxconn now plans to quadruple its Indian workforce over the subsequent two years to 70,000, based on a Reuters report.

Analysts now count on a bigger and faster-than-expected shift in iPhone manufacturing to India. In September, JPMorgan analysts predicted that India may produce 5% of Apple’s iPhone 14 inventory and 25% in three years. Ming-Chi Kuo, know-how analyst specializing in Apple at TF Worldwide Securities, primarily based in Hong Kong, said last week that the Zhengzhou lockdown prompted Foxconn and Apple to ramp up iPhone manufacturing in India. Kuo waits Indian-made iPhones, once more by Foxconn, are anticipated to develop by at the very least 150% subsequent yr.

“Foxconn’s medium to long run goal is to ship 40% to 45% of iPhones from India, up from 2% to 4% presently, which means that Foxconn’s iPhone manufacturing capability in India will enhance quickly over the subsequent few years,” suggests Kuo. .

Pathak thinks Apple “can scale in India” with iPhone manufacturing within the nation more likely to double subsequent yr. However he argues that India, which contributes half of all iPhone meeting globally, is an “formidable” goal due to China’s nonetheless outsized position in iPhone’s provide chain. iPhone and fierce competitors from different rising markets.

Apple shouldn’t be alone in diversifying its manufacturing in India. Rivals like Samsung, Xiaomiand Google (which manufactures the Pixel smartphone), are additionally shift manufacturing to India. From 2021 to 2022, Indian smartphone manufacturing jumped 126%, making the nation the world’s second-largest smartphone maker behind China.

Corporations like “Apple, Abbott, Boeing-Tata, Flex, Pratt & Whitney… are simply the beginning of this wave” of multinationals shifting to India, stated Gunjan Bagla, Indian managing director of the enterprise consultancy Amritt and professor of enterprise at Arizona State College. Fortune.

But India must develop the infrastructure and expertise these corporations want. China nonetheless affords environment friendly, high-value manufacturing networks that Apple – and different multinationals – will wrestle to interchange in India, stated Paul Hong, a distinguished professor of worldwide provide chain administration on the College of Toledo. Fortune. India imports the majority of iPhone parts from China. “For Apple, the entire decoupling of China [is] not reasonable within the brief time period,” Hong stated. As an alternative, the businesses are actually pursuing a “China plus one” technique that sees them preserve operations in China however diversify provide chains to India and competing economies like Vietnam and Mexico, Bagla stated. .

Chinese language authorities have now lifted the lockdown in Zhengzhou, however the Foxconn advanced remains beneath a strict closed-loop system, with firm and authorities officers offering no indication of when this may finish.

And India will proceed its mission to leverage China’s zero-COVID ache, Giridharadas says.

“India is simply getting began.”

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