At the recent Asian Games, India marked its presence as a burgeoning power by achieving its best-ever medal tally and making breakthroughs in events like table tennis and team dressage, traditionally dominated by China, South Korea and Japan. Its remarkable progress in sports is a testament to India's robust economic growth and favorable demographics, characterized by a large and dynamic youthful population. Beyond the sports arena, substantial growth opportunities are emerging across various sectors in the country, including manufacturing. As the global landscape transitions to a multipolar orientation and countries explore friend-shoring alternatives amidst geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions, India is well positioned to capitalize on these changes and emerge as a front-runner.
Leading tech firms, attracted by lower labor costs and a thriving domestic market, have already recognized this potential and are taking action. A case in point is Apple, which reportedly has started manufacturing the new iPhone 15 at an Indian plant since August, as part of an effort to diversify its global production. The move is also fueled by favorable policies. Since the launch of the "Make in India" initiative in 2014, the government has enacted a series of measures, including imposing duties on the import of specific products and reducing the corporate tax rate. Moreover, the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for 5G equipment was recently introduced to provide greater incentives to companies that boost production within India. Early signs of success in attracting foreign investments and reducing imports are emerging: in 2023, India's mobile phone exports reached $10 billion as opposed to imports worth $1.4 billion, while its contribution to Apple's global manufacturing rose to 7% from just 1% in 2021.
As a growing number of Indian companies pivot toward smart manufacturing, the integration of cutting-edge technologies will further enhance efficiency. Enabled by the high-speed, low-latency connectivity of 5G, technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and internet of things (IoT) facilitate seamless communication between machines on the factory floor. This technological evolution is set to accelerate with industry leaders like NVIDIA, partnering with Indian companies such as Reliance Industries and Tata Group to create an AI computing infrastructure and platforms for developing AI solutions. Local telecom operators, such as Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, are also seeking to tap the 5G private network opportunity. With India quickening its pace to become the next global manufacturing powerhouse, we believe Indian telecom players like Bharti Airtel are well positioned to benefit due to their focus on innovation and technology, which allows them to effectively leverage 5G’s potential.
Bharti Airtel, a leading telecommunications company, has successfully built a strong presence across various segments including connectivity, digital services and enterprise services. The company serves over 320 million mobile customers and more than 3,500 enterprises in India. Over the past decade, the telecommunications market in India has witnessed significant consolidation, with Bharti Airtel emerging as one of the two largest telecom operators. The company has also established itself as a market leader in Africa, thereby capturing growth from two of the world’s largest and emerging regions.
India is currently accelerating its mobile infrastructure upgrade. The country has just begun its 5G rollout this year, and Airtel, being a pioneer in the industry, stands to benefit from this development. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a surge in data usage due to increased remote work, learning and entertainment, on top of a continued migration from feature phones to smartphones (estimated 200 million upgrades by 2026). This shift offers tremendous opportunities for telecom operators like Airtel that are at the forefront of technological advancements in the telecommunications industry. Airtel has a strong tower coverage, a reliable fiber network, and operates one of the largest undersea cable networks out of India. With strong assets, the company aims to enable the entire 5G ecosystem under its #5GforBusiness initiative.
In its core telecom business, Airtel is focused on increasing Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) by upgrading its customer base and enhancing digital engagement. The company has been successful and raised prices by 40% in two years. In addition, Airtel is also capitalizing on emerging opportunities in ad tech, cloud communication, data centers, payment apps and more, anticipating that these emerging products will grow at a CAGR of over 25%.
Bharti Airtel is poised to lead the charge as 5G ramps up in India, thanks to its innovative strategies and robust infrastructure. With its focus on both the telecom and non-telecom digital sectors, Bharti Airtel is not just a telecommunications company, it is a digital lifestyle enabler. As such, it is well positioned to ride the wave of India's digital transformation and continue its upward trajectory in the telecommunications industry.