Karnataka commissioner's Taiwan visit: tech investment, Wistron assurance, and sustainable vision

Jerry Chen, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: DIGITIMES Asia

Gunjan Krishna, Karnataka's Commissioner of the Department of Industries and Commerce, recently visited Taiwan to attend Foxconn's 50th-anniversary celebration. Her visit came in the wake of Foxconn investing an additional US$1 billion on top of the US$1.6 billion earmarked to produce 20 million phones annually at its facility near the Kempegowda International Airport in Karnataka. Notably, Foxconn CEO Young Liu was recently honored with the Padma Bhushan, one of India's highest civilian awards in trade and industry.

Strengthening local production

In a conversation with DIGITIMES Asia, commissioner Krishna stressed the importance of bolstering local production to enhance cost-effectiveness, advocating for component manufacturing within Karnataka to establish a comprehensive value chain for smartphone production. This marked her third visit to Taiwan to showcase Karnataka's potential for investment and collaboration. During her previous visit in 2019, Krishna engaged in discussions with Gogoro, who has since inked an agreement with Maharashtra, Karnataka's neighboring state, to manufacture and deploy smart battery infrastructure.

Addressing semiconductor manufacturing, Krishna highlighted Karnataka's proactive approach to engaging major industry players, citing the state's value proposition amidst evolving geopolitical dynamics. With established design centers by industry giants like Intel, Nvidia, and Qualcomm, Karnataka aims to leverage this foundation to advance into semiconductor manufacturing.

On the electric vehicle (EV) front, Karnataka, the first state in India to introduce an electric vehicle policy, is now focused on developing a comprehensive clean mobility policy covering the entire EV supply chain, including battery manufacturing, powertrain production, and OEM partnerships. With Karnataka leading electric car sales in India and witnessing significant growth in two and three-wheeler EVs, the state presents substantial opportunities for companies eyeing India's burgeoning electric vehicle market.

Talent ecosystem and Wistron's future in Karnataka

Accompanying commissioner Krishna on her visit was Manharsinh Laxmanbhai Yadav, the Director General of the India Taipei Association, who emphasized India's growing talent ecosystem, with significant investments in training and education by companies like Micron and Applied Materials, alongside collaborations with universities for talent development.

Regarding Wistron's investment status in Karnataka, Yadav addressed concerns about the company's recent deal with Tata and its pay row incident. The director general emphasized that the incident in 2020 was an isolated occurrence, dubbing it as simply a "blip" and not reflective of broader working conditions of the state. He also affirmed Wistron's continued investment in India, attributing the decision to sell its iPhone manufacturing arm in India to internal restructuring rather than any challenges with the ease of doing business in India.

Recent reports have revealed an INR15 billion (US$180.7 million) effort from the Wistron Corp to establish a 32-acre notebook manufacturing facility in Karnataka. The plant slated for construction in July 2024 and mass production in 2026 would be the first notebook manufacturing facility in the state. Aligned with Industry 4.0 standards, the factory is also expected to produce IoT components and EV parts.

In terms of investment support, he assured regardless of the state chosen for investment, Taiwanese industrialists would receive the necessary support from both state and central governments.

Additionally, commissioner Krishna emphasized her state's commitment to renewable energy, aligning with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's COP-26 pledge to increase non-fossil fuel share to 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2070. She highlighted that 63% of the state's 32 GW capacity comes from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Additionally, she discussed initiatives to assist smaller SMEs in boosting productivity and sustainability through factory retrofits, highlighting India's transformation into a sustainable investment destination beyond being a low-cost labor option.