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OM in the News: India vs. China As the Next Manufacturing Power

November 11, 2014

india vs chinaWith its chronic blackouts, crumbling roads, and other infrastructure woes, India should have no appeal for Abbott Laboratories’ VP John Ginascol, who is responsible for ensuring that the company’s food-products factories run smoothly worldwide. He can’t afford surprises when it comes to electricity, water, and other essentials. “People like me,” he says, “dream of having existing, good, reliable infrastructure.” Yet Abbott has just opened its first plant in India (producing Similac baby formula), and Ginascol has no complaints. The officials “were able to deliver very good, very reliable power, water, natural gas, and roads,” he says. “Fundamentally, the infrastructure was in place.” In an attempt to build its industrial base nationwide, India is pushing the Make in India campaign, easing restrictions on foreign investment in property projects and overhauling the railroad system., reports BusinessWeek (Nov. 6, 2014).

China became an export powerhouse because of its vast pool of low-wage workers, but it’s no longer so cheap to manufacture there. Pinched by double-digit increases in China’s minimum wages, many companies are looking for low-cost alternatives. Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are attractive, but they lack the deep supply of workers available in India. The hourly labor cost in India for manufacturing averages 92¢, compared with $3.52 in China. But, says U. of Maryland Prof. Anil Gupta, India hasn’t come close to matching China’s investments in the roads, ports, and power networks that companies want. “Lousy infrastructure essentially eats up any advantage the country may have on the labor front.”

Micromax, for example, is the top local smartphone brand in India. The company takes advantage of its Indian roots to win customers, but when it comes to putting its phones together, it looks to factories in China. To produce locally, a company such as Micromax would need to have lots of its suppliers nearby; that exists in China, not in India. “You need to have cameras, screens, touch panels, chip sets. You need all that to be around you,” says its Chairman. “If you are able to build that ecosystem, then the Make in India story comes true.”

Classroom discussion questions:

1. What factors have kept India behind China in manufacturing thus far?

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of locating in India vs. Vietnam or Indonesia?

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