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Local telecom gear manufacturers Tejas Networks Ltd and HFCL Ltd are changing strategies to limit the impact of severe component shortage on their order books, amid intense competition from European vendors Nokia Oyj and Ericsson Inc.

Supply chain constraints, geopolitical conflicts, increased input costs and pandemic-related volatilities have led to a sharp fall in revenues and profits of telecom equipment makers, at a time global disruptions open up new business opportunities for Indian manufacturers.

“To counter it, we have placed orders for entire FY23 requirements, which is more than 12 months ahead of time," said Sanjay Nayak, chief executive officer, Tejas Networks. Since the company had a large and dedicated order book, it will be able to recover the revenues it had lost in FY22 this fiscal year, he added.

In a recent earnings call, Nayak highlighted shortages in low-cost and high-cost components in FY22 which disrupted manufacturing, despite the company having customer wins and a robust order book. Tejas’ revenue dropped 37.2% to 126.5 crore in the March quarter, resulting in a loss of 49.6 crore.

HFCL also clocked a fall in revenue and profit for the March quarter, even as full-year numbers were higher year-on-year (y-o-y). Its net profit dropped 21% y-o-y to 68 crore for the March quarter, while revenue was down 15% to 1,183 crore. The firm said it has started to seek orders at higher prices to soften the blow of high input costs and freight costs.

“We’re now asking customers to give orders at increased prices, to which customers are also responding, because they also know that input prices have gone up, so output prices will also go up. So, we’re balancing it out in the coming quarter," Mahendra Nahata, managing director, HFCL, said in an analyst call.

Industry executives said large global players place component orders of tens of billions of dollars years in advance, but Indian players lag far behind not only due to their scale but also due to far smaller revenue streams.

“They place orders at most a quarter in advance and if supplies of any component get hit, their entire output gets choked and limits the ability to complete orders. They not only lose business but the market to other (read foreign) players," said a senior executive, who did not want to be named.

Sector watchers said companies need to come together when putting in supply orders from component vendors, most of which are in China and Taiwan, such that the scale can become bigger and suppliers can address demand on priority.

“Industry has to come together to generate a consolidated demand and put in orders much in advance because we are aware that supplies are set to get delayed. The same strategy can be applied when orders are getting replenished. This will give them adequate foresight and allow them to mitigate potential risks," said N.K. Goyal, chairman of Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association (TEMA).

The change in strategies assumes significance as India’s own semiconductor supply chains will take a few years to develop, and only after the first chipmakers set up their manufacturing units. While the first steps have been taken by the likes of International Semiconductor Consortium (ISMC), which recently signed an agreement with the government of Karnataka for $3 billion, the actual supplies may only begin in a couple of years.

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