NEW DELHI: The showstopper of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit later this month may well be his meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook in San Francisco. This could have implications far beyond the headlines it will generate. Apple, it is believed, is looking to invest in building manufacturing capacities in India, which could come as a huge boost for Modi’s ‘Make in India’ project.
While auto companies are already here, tech companies like Google don’t really manufacture. Apple, if it comes, would be really into manufacture and signal Indian manufacturing capabilities.
The Cupertino-based company’s sales of i-Phones in India grew 93% in the third quarter — albeit off a lower base — faster than 87% growth in Greater China markets. Apple uses manufacturing facilities of Foxconn, which has recently promised to invest $ 5 billion in manufacturing facility in Maharashtra.
It’s believed that Apple may consider manufacture in India for third country markets. There is also talk that Apple might consider facilities in India to refurbish its products. Refurbishing is currently not allowed under India’s industrial policy. There would be a demand from Apple to change that policy. It believes its refurbished products (phones, computers, tablets, laptops) have a big market in Asia. They draw a distinction between refurbished and second-hand products and believe that Apple products, if properly refurbished, have a much longer life than, say, Samsung or other similar products.
In fact, Cook will, in a unique coincidence, be meeting the heads of two biggest Asian powers in the same week. Cook may join other top US CEOs for an exclusive meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping who will be touring the US around the same time as Modi.
As he prepares to sweep through New York and California, Modi has carefully chosen his meetings with US Inc in the same way he did last year. Time Inc, for instance, will be hosting a 100-guest dinner for Modi with chief executives from companies specializing in infrastructure and manufacturing. In 2014, Modi had promised action on land acquisition, GST and energy. This year, he will have to explain how he plans to find ways around as his government is still to deliver on two of these. Nevertheless, he will still be able to showcase a large number of reforms his government has undertaken in the past year.