said in an exclusive interview to News18.
The minister on Friday attended the inauguration of a new mobile phone manufacturing facility of Taiwanese electronics major Pegatron at Chengalpattu, south of Chennai. Speaking to News18, he said state governments should proactively participate in central government’s projects to generate investment and employment in sectors like electronics.
On the government’s ‘internet for all’ plan, Chandrasekhar said: “I can assure you on behalf of the Government of India that we will bring all 120 crore Indians online by 2025-26. Today, 80 crore Indians are online. We will make the internet open, safe, trusted and accountable.”
Having inaugurated this facility, where do you think India stands in mobile phone manufacturing?
It is the biggest plant inaugurated post-Covid. During Covid, things had paused. This plant is an important symbol of restarting the momentum. In terms of electronics in general, India is becoming a very significant player in the global value chain.
In 2014, there was no electronics industry at all. Due to the efforts of the Prime Minister and his government since 2014, India is now the second largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world. In 2014, 90% of our mobile phones were imported. Today, 97% of phones used in India are made in India. Plus, we are exporting 50,000 crores of the latest Apple and Samsung phones to markets around the world, but the Prime Minister has re-imagined our ambitions.
He wants to get to $300 billion by 2025–2026, and the journey is now focused on that. We want to see more and more investments.
What we are seeing today is the tip of the iceberg. There will be many more investments. In Tamil Nadu alone, five plants worth Rs 6,500 crore have come up under the Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI), EMC and SPEC schemes. And over 40,000 to 45,000 direct jobs are created. This is an opportunity for India to become a global leader in electronics, which for several decades we have not focused on.
You said this is only the tip of the iceberg. What are other similar projects in the pipeline?
The main thing is that we have reached a reasonable scale and size in mobile phone production. Soon you will see that for laptops, servers, and the compute side of technology. We are focused on becoming a leading player in wearables (smartwatches) and hearables. There is a lot of work being done in India.
Along with broadening and increasing the categories of electronics, we want to go deep into the electronic system. In December 2021, the Prime Minister announced a Rs 75,000 crore semiconductor package. You will soon see an announcement of a PLI for component manufacturers. The heart and soul of all these products are the electronic components. Even today, a lot of it is imported.
We want to create a vibrant ecosystem, a vibrant supply chain in India that will benefit from the large volume of products that will be manufactured.
Is the South being prioritised for the establishment of electronic manufacturing plants?
The government of India will create the right enabling environment, right policies, right fiscal incentives and partner with state governments. Some states recognise the opportunity and are moving quickly, others are not. On October 1, we have a meeting of IT ministers from all states, where we are trying to make all states aware of the opportunities.
In February 2022, I wrote a letter to all the state governments saying this is a huge opportunity to create jobs and attract investment in their states. Some states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu have responded and moved proactively. Those who have not, lost the opportunity.
How conducive do you think Tamil Nadu is to new investments?
That is not for me to comment on. I urge every state government to support this industry. My job is to make the state governments aware that this is a huge opportunity for investments, jobs, and for their economy, and to create an environment so that we don’t go back to the dark days of Tamil Nadu, when you had to shut down a Nokia plant.
These are to be avoided. Today’s Rs 6,500 crore investment and 14,000 jobs can become Rs 30,000 crore investment and 3 lakh jobs in Tamil Nadu alone. For India, it will be crores of investments and jobs. I don’t want this to be affected by some bad state government conduct. That is why I go personally to all these launches, motivate the company, motivate the investors, and urge the state government to create a supportive environment so that, based on the success of these investors, other investors will also come.
You mentioned packages for semiconductors. When it comes to semiconductors and electronic space, what are the opportunities ahead? Can youngsters look at it as a career option?
If you look at the faces, these are all youngsters. If you take the entire technology sector, 48% to 50% of the workers are women. The technology sector addresses inclusion, represents opportunities for young Indians and for businesses and companies to be globally competitive. It is once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity.
That is why I urge the state governments to roll out the red carpet and welcome investments, so that the local state economy will benefit and the youth of India will get more and more opportunities.
When it comes to weaponisation of the internet and splinter net, what is the status of data laws and cybersecurity laws?
All the laws are under progress. I can assure you on behalf of the Government of India that we will bring all 120 crore Indians online by 2025-26. Today, 80 crore Indians are online. We will make the internet open, safe, trusted and accountable. Modi’s government will ensure that the internet will be a place where an elderly person, a youth, a housewife, a youngster, or anybody can use the internet for productive purposes, and we will keep the internet as safe as possible. Therefore, our laws will ensure that the internet is safe and trustworthy.