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Handset industry fears supply crunch amid Covid rise in China, Vietnam, Taiwan

India’s electronics manufacturers, who are gearing up to resume factories, could face an acute supply crunch with China, Vietnam and Taiwan hit by a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 cases, say industry executives and experts.

China’s manufacturing and export hub and its biggest province by economic output, Guangzhou, has recorded the first major surge in infections after March 2020. Vietnam and Taiwan are also seeing their first meaningful rise in Covid cases. In fact, operations of Samsung Electronics and Apple suppliers Foxconn and Luxshare were suspended for two weeks in May in Vietnam while world’s largest chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) which runs a 24-hour foundry has chalked out a plan for labourers to work in shifts.

Experts said if these foreign hubs do not get the situation under control, India’s raw material supplies will fall sharply in June, just when consumer demand is expected to revive here. According to Tarun Pathak, research director at Counterpoint Research, India gets over 85% of the components needed for phone assembly from these three countries.

“This development will choke critical parts for the smartphone industry in India,” said Faisal Kawoosa, founder and research analyst at TechArc. “The supply chain was just getting better though in some specific components like chipsets, display and memories we still have shortages.”

Leading market trackers have already downgraded the outlook on smartphone shipments by atleast 10% this year due to the second Covid wave. Another supply shortage or the anticipated third wave in India could further hurt market growth, analysts said.

Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, Realme, Apple and Samsung did not reply to ET’s mail seeking comment.

However, industry body, the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA), played down the fears, saying operations should remain stable in June and July as China has so far been able to contain the spread to Guangzhou.

“Since September 2020, the global industry has been struck with these shortages particularly of semiconductors,” said Pankaj Mohindroo, chairman, ICEA. “We do not see the condition worsening in June and July 2021. Manufacturing operations in China, which is the main source, are normal and robust.”

Guangzhou is more focused on automotive and consumer segments. But experts warn that if Covid infections spread to key mobile markets such as Shenzhen, Shanghai or Beijing, it could cause a crunch in the supply chain.

As for Vietnam, it will majorly impact Samsung and Apple whose supply chains for products like phones, televisions and tablets are concentrated in the Southeast nation, they added.

ICEA’s Mohindroo pointed out that poor preparedness and the absence of a vaccination plan will weigh heavily on Vietnam’s manufacturing industry.

“India has shown exemplary resilience and kept manufacturing and exports robust in extremely grim conditions and our vaccinations visibility in the short term is robust. Vietnam, which was considered kosher which could do nothing wrong, has a serious outbreak with hardly 1% of the population vaccinated and very poor visibility on vaccinations,” he said.

Counterpoint Research’s Pathak said that all three countries have a good record of containing the virus. “Samsung has a backup in India as its installed capacity is good and can make up for some of the lost production if that happens in Vietnam”. 24htech.Asia


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