Expansion projects of homegrown electronics contract manufacturers – including Dixon Technologies’ proposed ₹400-crore unit for manufacturing refrigerators – are impacted due to non-grant or delay in grant of visa to Chinese engineers, they said.
Some of these companies are now sending their technical resources to China and Taiwan in order to get trained for skills like installation of manufacturing lines, executives said.
“Companies, especially the production-linked incentive (PLI) holders, need some support from the government as far as clearance of visas for Chinese engineers is concerned,” said Atul Lall, MD of Dixon Technologies.
CEOs working from China
“We still need their (Chinese) technical expertise to build our plants and manufacturing infrastructure. Otherwise, this will hurt the Make in India ambitions and scaling up by companies,” Lall said.
The Tatas recently called off a proposed joint venture between the group’s air-conditioner manufacturer Voltas and Chinese compressor manufacturer Highly International since the “regulatory approvals were not forthcoming”, as Voltas said in a stock market notice.
The joint venture was to invest about ₹500 crore to manufacture inverter AC compressors. Shanghai Highly Group is one of the largest compressor manufacturers in the world.
Another major investment proposal for manufacturing expansion by a leading Chinese electronics company is yet to get the green light, people cited above said.
Several leading Chinese smartphone brands don’t have their India chief executive officers in the country for several months since their visas are not getting approved by the government. The list includes Vivo India CEO Jerome Chen, Oppo India CEO Elvis Zhou and sales director Chen Min, and Xiaomi’s India head Alvin Tse.
Chinese expat workforce in these companies is now almost one-third or even one-fourth of pre-Covid levels, industry executives said.
These companies did not respond to emailed queries till press time Wednesday.
Chief executives of some of the impacted companies said they are now required to regularly follow up on each Chinese visa application, including sending letters or meeting senior government officials.
Chinese smartphone maker Realme’s president (international business) Madhav Seth said the government is evaluating each case of Chinese visa application individually.
“The government wants companies in India to acquire and build skillsets to operate independently in the country,” he added.
However, executives said, building skills in India will take time and until then, Indian companies need support from companies and professionals in China and Taiwan, amongst others.
Some pointed out that China is issuing visas liberally to Indian trade and industry, particularly after Covid-19 cases started to come down there.
“We need to reciprocate similarly,” said Pankaj Mohindroo, chairman of mobile phone and electronics manufacturers body India Cellular and Electronics Association. “Delay and restrictions in issuing business and employment visas is a major bottleneck in ensuring expansion and increasing value addition.”
To achieve India’s mobile and electronics manufacturing plans of 400% growth in four years and 1,200% growth in exports, India needs technology transfers, establishment and expansion of operations including of manufacturing supported by seamless travel of personnel from all relevant geographies, including China, Mohindroo said.
Industry executives said the scrutiny and reluctance to issue visas to Chinese professionals, delay in regulatory clearance of Chinese investments, and increased scrutiny on Chinese companies in India are due to souring of geopolitical relationship between the two nations especially since the Galwan clash in 2020.
The government issued the Press Note 3 norms in 2020, which said a company based out of a country that shares land border with India (like China) can invest in India only after receiving government clearances.