New Delhi: A number of Indian technology brands are slowly looking to set up manufacturing or assembly in India as they seek less dependence on China to answer Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a self-reliant India.
Weeks after Micromax announced its ‘Made in India’ phone series, fitness tech firm GOQii has now said it is “committed” to moving the manufacturing of its devices out of China to India.
“Currently GOQii is designed and developed in India and manufactured in China. However, responding to the clarion call of Honourable PM Narendra Modi’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat, GOQii is committed to move manufacturing to India,” GOQii founder and chief executive Vishal Gondal said. However, he didn’t specify a date for the implementation of the plan.
Gondal made the comment in an emailed response to ThePrint’s query about where the company’s devices are manufactured.
The California-headquartered firm, whose flagship product GOQii Vital has been designed and developed by its subsidiary GOQii technologies in India, has experienced growth in sales, particularly since March when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. “…GOQii is witnessing a 300 per cent growth in device sales. The pandemic has brought to surface the importance of using wearable devices,” Gondal said.
Founded in 2014, GOQii makes fitness wearables that also provide services like health and nutrition advice.
According to Gondal, the firm’s flagship and best-selling tracker is the GOQii Smart Vital, which costs Rs 5,699 and monitors body temperature, blood oxygen saturation, heart rate and blood pressure, and analyses sleep and fitness activity.
GOQii is promoted by Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, who also endorses Gondal’s Indian answer to the now-banned popular Chinese game PUBG. Titled FAU-G, the game is being developed by nCORE games, in which Gondal is an investor.
Looking to make a comeback to India’s tough smartphone market, the Gurugram-based Micromax launched its ‘In’ series of made in India phones ahead of Diwali. During the announcement last month, co-founder and CEO Rahul Sharma expressed optimism that there is space for an Indian player to give a tough fight to Chinese competitors like Xiaomi.
Since PM Modi’s call for self-reliance in May, a number of Indian firms have sought to reduce their dependence on China. Many international companies like Apple have also sought to make more in India.
Concerns over making in China?
Speaking about the concerns around China, GOQii CEO Gondal said sensitive data outside the purview of Indian law could lead to serious threats.
Wearables collect sensitive health data, so the country of origin of the device and the company policy on data were important things to consider.
“Critical personal health data combined with location data is captured by different wearables and apps. Such sensitive data in the hands of companies, which don’t come under the purview of Indian law and store data outside, can lead to serious threats as it has the potential to be misused,” Gondal said.
However, experts say that while the Chinese government accessing user data poses a privacy risk, company policy is more important for protecting privacy.
“For companies based in China, if there is a request from the Chinese government, they will have to share the data. This, of course, is a matter of concern,” said Prasanth Sugathan, legal director of digital rights organisation Software Freedom Law Center.
“However, irrespective of the country of the device manufacturer, it is important that the companies have robust security practices and proper privacy policies… Even (Apple’s) iPhones are manufactured in China, but have robust privacy practices,” he said.
Independent cyber intelligence analyst Pukhraj Singh also said company policy on data storage is most critical, as hackers would try to infiltrate the data storage.
“A wearable doesn’t become unsafe simply because it is made in China. What could be a risk is how securely the wearable company transmits and stores user personal data. Mostly, such data lands up in cloud databases, which could potentially be exploited by any entity, regardless of origin,” Singh said.
Why making in India may not be feasible
Experts also said that for a company like GOQii, moving wearable manufacturing to India will be a challenge.
“Technically, India is capable of assembling a smartwatch and other wrist-wearables. However, the question here is whether companies will have enough economic benefit in shifting all wrist-wearable operations to India, since the market here for wearables is growing, but is still at a nascent stage,” said analysis firm IDC’s associate research manager Jaipal Singh.
“Currently, there is little commercial incentive and little advantage for making these devices in India in large volumes,” he added.
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