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Yes we can, but..

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VoicenData Bureau
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This has become a perpetual story. Something goes wrong somewhere and Indian IT users have to bear the brunt. There is a factory fire or a tsunami and the supplies are hit. Or the Indian rupee comes down against the dollar and the equipment becomes too expensive. There is a Chinese bug scare in all communications equipment, and the industry literally comes to a standstill. Or there is something else. Once it was the Thailand floods, and once it was the Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami. And as Alok Bharadwaj, MAIT president very aptly put it, India has now been hit by the dollar tsunami. Indian users suffer so much, just because the equipment is not manufactured in India.

Is local manufacturing the solution? Maybe yes, but the challenges that will come in the way of building India as a manufacturing base are huge. Talk to the industry, and you will realize that there is so much to be done before anyone will take us seriously. There are a host of government policies that support manufacturing, including bureaucracy-less single window clearance, that must be first put in place. The infrastructure required for manufacturing--power, roads, ports--is almost missing. There has to be a huge ecosystem of partners and suppliers, which will need to be simultaneously built up. All this will take time, but before that we need a strong government. Is that anywhere in sight?

The other big question is if the local market will accept Made in India products. Technology decision makers in Indian companies believe, by and large, that stuff made in India is not entirely reliable. And that the kind of post-sales support that foreign companies offer, Indian vendors cannot. It is therefore unlikely that the products manufactured in India, even by MNCs will not be easily accepted. And if it is an Indian vendor with a Made in India product, the resistance will be even higher. Unfortunately, there have been some recent examples of Indian products that just failed on reliability and quality, that only goes to strengthen their argument.

This is the mindset that will have to be broken. And that will not happen by just talking. Indian vendors will have to walk the talk--in terms of price, product quality, features, and support. Are they ready?

A good example will be to study the Nokia manufacturing plant in Chennai, which is their biggest in the world. According to market reports, over 100 million phones are produced in this plant every year, by over 10,000 workers, 80% of whom are women. Out of this production, almost 50% is consumed in India, and the rest is exported to about 100 countries. Can both the industry and the government learn from this? And just try to replicate it?

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