Tata Group is in talks with a Taiwanese supplier to Apple Inc. to establish an electronics manufacturing joint venture in India, seeking to assemble iPhones in the South Asian country.
Discussions with Wistron Corp. aim to make Tata a force in tech manufacturing, and the Indian salt-to-software conglomerate wants to harness the Taiwanese company’s expertise in product development, supply chain and assembly, people said. knowing the subject. If successful, the pact could make Tata the first Indian company to make iPhones, which are currently mostly assembled by Taiwanese manufacturing giants like Wistron and Foxconn Technology Group in China and India.
An Indian company making iPhones would give a massive boost to the country’s efforts to challenge China, whose dominance in electronics manufacturing has been jeopardized by Covid lockdowns and political tensions with the United States. It could also persuade other global electronics brands to consider assembly in India to reduce their reliance on China at a time of rising geopolitical risks.
The structure of the deal and details such as stakes have yet to be finalized, and talks are ongoing, the people said, declining to be named because the conversations are private. The plan could involve Tata buying shares in Wistron’s Indian operations or the companies building a new assembly plant, one of the people said. They could also perform both of these moves, the person said.
It was not immediately clear whether Apple was aware of the talks, which come at a time when the US tech giant is seeking to further diversify its production away from China and deepen its supply chain in India. Apple is known for working with local companies in regions where it sets up manufacturing bases, but assembling iPhones is a complicated task that involves meeting the American company’s tight deadlines and quality controls.
A representative for Wistron declined to comment. Tata and Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
The new venture aims to increase the number of iPhones assembled by up to five times compared to what Wistron is currently building in India, one of the people said. A partnership would also likely allow Mumbai-based Tata to get a slice of Wistron’s manufacturing business beyond smartphones, the people said.
Tata Group Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran said electronics and high-tech manufacturing are key areas for the company, India’s top conglomerate with revenue of around $128 billion. Industries such as software, steel and cars make up a large part of Tata’s business, but it has taken the first steps in the smartphone supply chain by starting to manufacture iPhone chassis components in the southern India.
For Wistron’s Indian business, which is struggling with losses, a pact with Tata would give it a formidable local partner with deep pockets. Tata’s reach also extends to automobiles, including electric vehicles, an area that many global tech giants are keen to expand.
Wistron started manufacturing iPhones in India in 2017, after years of efforts by Apple to add manufacturing capabilities in the country. The Taipei-based company is currently assembling iPhones at its factory in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
The promise of a $1.4 billion Indian consumer market and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s financial incentives for tech production have pushed Apple’s other major contract makers, Foxconn and Pegatron Corp., to expand. also in the country. Yet India’s workforce and factories have not easily adopted the highly controlled practices that Apple requires of suppliers: Since iPhone assembly began in India five years ago, workers rioted over substandard wages and living and working conditions in two significant incidents.