Apple is reportedly looking to ramp up iPhone production in India, aiming for nearly US$1 trillion worth of iPhones by next March, a contrasting sign from declining handset shipments from China over the last seven years.
The Economic Times quoted unnamed officials saying that Apple aims to manufacture nearly US$1 trillion worth of iPhones in India by the end of March 2024, if not June 2024, saying that Apple had escalated production capacity at its manufacturing partners and has already achieved over INR600 billion in iPhone production during April and October. Sources further said that about 70% of iPhones made in India are earmarked for export, and Apple has exported iPhones worth US$5 billion from April to October.
Navkendar Singh, associate vice president of Client Devices & IPDS at IDC India, said the export figures align with Apple's plan for India as a market and a crucial manufacturing and export hub in the medium to long run.
The rapid growth of iPhone production in India contrasts with the declining exports of handsets from China. According to the General Administration of Customs of China, handsets exported from China dropped from 1.3 billion units in 2015 to 822 million units in 2022, when smartphone vendors such as Samsung, Oppo, Vivo, and Apple are moving their production to Vietnam and India.
Since 2017, when Taiwan-based Wistron began making low-end iPhones in India, there have been occasional disruptions for iPhone assemblers to deal with issues arising from ambitious production expansion. In December 2020, Wistron faced unrest at its Indian facility stemming from wage disputes, while Foxconn experienced a mass food poisoning incident the following year. Both incidents resulted in production halts that lasted for months. Besides, a fire incident in September in Pegatron's Indian facility resulted in a production half for days.
For Apple, labor issues in India may continue improving with Foxconn and Pegatron accumulating experiences in their Indian investments, and the acquisition of Wistron's Indian assets by Tata, a conglomerate familiar with operating in India, may help reduce the likelihood of labor issues. Meanwhile, Apple and Foxconn successfully lobbied to revise labor laws in Karnataka, allowing two 12-hour shifts per day, increasing overtime limits, and granting permission for women to work night shifts.
Indian handset exports (US$m)
Source: Department of Commerce of India, November 2023