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Foreign telecom manufacturers seek level playing field

Foreign telecom gear makers Nokia, Ericsson and Cisco have called for fair treatment of equipment manufacturing companies in India, at par with local firms, in policy decisions.

Senior officials of these companies on Thursday lauded the government’s effort to push for exports and suggested focusing on development of the component ecosystem in the country to enhance local value addition in the products that are made in India.

“Create a market access which is fair and is not restricted by the ownership of a company. On the PLI (production-linked incentive) scheme, it is a very good forward-looking policy.

“Existing investments that we have made in India should be given due respect and acknowledgement while deciding on the next level,” Nokia Corporation Head (Marketing and Corporate Affairs) Amit Marwah said at the India Mobile Congress 2020.

He added that Nokia has spent about Rs 600 crore to set up the Chennai facility, and about Rs 2,500 crore of investments have been made in various facilities that the company has created in India.

Marwah said Nokia started India operations with 50 employees and now has over 15,000 employees.

“The factory that we have in Chennai is one of the two factories that Nokia owns. About 50 per cent is being exported even to advanced countries. For two years, we have been manufacturing 5G radio and exporting it to the world, including the US where 5G is happening,” Marwah said.

The government has started giving push to local manufacturing with the help of incentives and it has also put in place preferential market access (PMA) policy in public procurement for Indian companies.

Ericsson India MD Nitin Bansal said, “We have to also look at market access being fair. A company like ours that has been in India since 1903, we employ more employees in India than in any other country.”

He added that there should not be any demarcation between a foreign company and an Indian company, and an equal market access needs to be provided.

Cisco Systems Managing Director (Public Affairs and Strategic Engagements for India and SAARC) Harish Krishnan said there is a need to develop component ecosystem in India and if it is established, there is no reason for companies to import them from other countries.

He said that PMA has not been successful for both Indian and foreign companies because of unrealistic value addition norms in the policy, as most of the components required for technology products are imported from select few countries.

During the discussion, former telecom secretary J S Deepak said that whatever success India has had in manufacturing in the past many years, it was by and large in assembling and in the low-technology sectors.

“Now, with the second generation of investment promotion and domestic manufacturing policies, I believe the challenge is to get components deeper down into the value chain and attract the bigger companies who are anchoring global value chains to India. Manufacturing of components is critical,” Deepak said. PTI

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