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   Vol. 23 No. 5
Tuesday February 6, 2024

Tata Wistron India Takeover

Tata Wistron Takeover

     Air India is looking at cargo to write the words for its celebratory song. The Tata Group-led India’s national carrier recently started operating six Boeing 777s (Air India has ordered 470 Airbus and Boeing aircraft and deliveries will start in 2025). These widebodies will be helped by temperature-controlled transport solutions and bonded trucking services and will provide competition to the foreign carriers that have been predominant in the transportation of cargo from India. FT has often pointed out that foreign carriers handle around 85-90 per cent of the exim air cargo business from India.
     Air India is gearing up, as evidenced by the recent moves, to regain its share of the cargo business that it once had. The carrier is No 5 in India’s exim air cargo sector behind Emirates, Qatar Airways, Aerologic and Cathay Pacific—and once it receives all the airplanes it has ordered, it can look forward to substantial belly cargo capacity.
     Air India could well be banking on Apple to build its air cargo business with its sister company, Tata Electronics (TEPL) helping it out. The recent takeover by TEPL of the Taiwan-based Wistron’s Apple iPhone India manufacturing operations will be the sweetner that will propel Air India’s cargo business. The USD$125m deal will provide the air cargo volumes for the national carrier.
     Wistron came to India in 2008 with a repair facility for PCs, laptops, servers and other devices. It started producing iPhones for Apple in 2017. In fact, it was the first company out of Apple’s three global contract manufacturers to assemble iPhones. As of May last year, it was making the iPhone 14, iPhone 13, iPhone 12 and the iPhone SE and was also running trials on the iPhone 15 at its Karnataka state-based unit at Kolar. Recently, Wistron wound up its business, according to reports, because it was unable to “penetrate Apple’s supply chain”.
     The TEPL takeover of Wistron’s Kolar unit comes on the moves by iPhone makers Foxconn and Pegatron showing interest in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market. Foxconn, Taiwan-based, an Apple supplier and also the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics, has plans to double its workforce and investment in India within the next year. Foxconn, in fact, has an iPhone manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu.
     It may be pointed out that Apple wants to move 25 percent of its manufacturing capacity to India and when that happens, Air India will be ready to provide transport for iPhone exports to the UK, Europe, USA, China and Japan.
Ashwini Vaishnav, Tim Cook, Jitendra Srivastava      Apple CEO Tim Cook, while announcing Apple’s 2023 fourth quarter earnings recently, said that “distribution is getting better, (and there are) lots of positives” in India. He mentioned that India was a “major focus” for Apple where it had a “low share” in the country’s large market and there was a “lot of headroom” for growth.
     India’s IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav, referred to the TEPL takeover of Wistron as the spur for “the next cycle of investment in the Indian electronics manufacturing ecosystem” while signalling “the maturing of the country’s contract manufacturing companies.”
     The players in the India supply chain sector are eagerly looking forward to the results of these developments. And freight forwarders like Jitendra Srivastava, (left) CEO of Mumbai-based freight forwarder Triton Logistics & Maritime, was quoted saying: “Tata’s acquisition of Wistron’s Bengaluru plant presents a promising opportunity for Air India, in terms of freight expansion. As smartphone exports continue to expand, Air India’s involvement could become a key driver of growth for the airline and Indian smartphone manufacturing.”
     Air India could benefit from the demand of iPhones domestically as well. According to provisional government data, India’s iPhone exports in fiscal year 2022-23 went up to $5bn by value, beating Samsung to become the number one exporter of smartphones in Q1 of fiscal 2023-24.
     FT reached out to Air India for their views but as of deadline had not received a response.
Tirthankar Ghosh

Steely Dan Rikki
Here just for February and Tata’s plunge into 21st century telephone business acquiring Wistron India, is a contact song celebrating 50 years . . . Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number”. Since 1974 when it first came out, Spotify has Rikki at 85 million plays.

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Vol. 23 No. 2
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