China’s Xiaomi had dominated the Indian smartphone market for three consecutive years until recently losing the top spot to Samsung. It has played by the Indian government’s rulebook to support domestic manufacturing, making smartphones in India rather than shipping them from its home country of China. Now it is further ramping up production in India by adding two new supply chain partners, BYD and DBG, the company said in an announcement on Thursday.
The move comes at a time when the Indian government is applying more pressure on Chinese tech companies. Along with TikTok, dozens of other popular Chinese apps were banned in India last June over national security concerns.
So far the hardware companies have remained largely unaffected, but worsening India-China relations won’t likely bode well for Chinese companies that are wooing Indian consumers. Xiaomi and its Chinese competitors Vivo, Oppo and Oppo-affiliated Realme together commanded as much as 64% of the Indian market in the third quarter of 2020.
This is probably the time for Chinese firms to demonstrate to the Indian government how they could make contributions to the local economy. Under the new production partnerships, Xiaomi will be able to significantly ratchet up its output in India, the company said.
The tie-up with BYD and DBG also reflects a growing trend of Chinese manufacturers setting up overseas plants to cope with rising labor costs back home and increasingly hostile trade policies against China. BYD is China’s largest electric carmaker with a long history of making electronics parts, while DBG has been a major supplier to Chinese telecom firms including Huawei. DBG has set up a production plant in Haryana and has increased Xiaomi’s local production by about 20%. BYD’s facility in Tamil Nadu is scheduled to begin operation by H1 this year.
Prior to its deals with BYD and DBG, Xiaomi was already making 99% of its smartphones in India through Apple’s long-time contract manufacturers, the Taiwanese giant Foxconn and California-based Flex.
Xiaomi also stressed that it sources locally, buying motherboards, batteries, chargers and other components from domestic suppliers like Sunny India and NVT, which together account for more than 75% of the value of its smartphones.
Separately, Xiaomi’s India business has onboarded a new partner, Ohio-based Radiant Technology, to make its smart TVs, which have been a bestseller in India. Local electronics company Dixon currently makes its smart TVs.
Xiaomi’s localization effort has led to a 60,000-strong team in India, six years after it first landed in the country, including staff in production, sales and logistics. The company prides itself on boosting local employment. As Manu Kumar Jain, managing director for Xiaomi India, pointed out in today’s announcement, the company added 10,000 employees in India last year. “When organizations were downsizing their workforce, we were focused on putting together the building blocks for our growth in the India market – our employees.”