World’s Largest Mobile Factory In Noida Is But A Small Step Towards Building A Manufacturing Ecosystem In IndiaThe inauguration of the factory (twitter.com/@narendramodi)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South Korean President Jae-in Moon inaugurated a Samsung mobile factory in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, today. This factory would be the world’s largest mobile manufacturing plant.

On its inauguration, Prime Minister Modi, according to this report in India Today, said that mobile manufacturing units have risen to 120 from just two units in 2014. 50 of them, said the Prime Minister, were in Noida and employed nearly 4 lakh youth.

While one view on this is that mobile manufacturing is a success story within the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, there is the criticism that many, or most of these units are merely for assembly. The phrase thrown around is that with this, India is becoming ‘a nation of screwdrivers’ since in such plants, mobile components are imported from abroad and only assembled in India.

What this line of critique misses out is is the fact that usually such screwdriver technologies are the stepping-stones to upper levels of value chain. And while at it, the millions who turn the screwdrivers have a job.

As this Swarajya piece notes, the example of China provides India with some pointers on how such a process can play out. As the author of that piece describes, China ‘opened up with screwdriver level technology jobs, forced foreign companies to transfer technology through local partnerships, maintained cheap currency for decades, provided state subsidies and incentives, and used all tricks available in policymaker’s book to become a leader in manufacturing.’

India needs jobs, and jobs in the manufacturing sector. To that extent, the new Samsung plant is a small but much welcome step in a journey that is only beginning.

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