Author(s): Peter Bryer
Foxconn is already a fantastically influential company in the handset industry, and can be considered one of the pillars of the business. No company makes more stuff than Foxconn. Strictly speaking, it's the world's largest smartphone maker.
Foxconn already has more than 1.2 million workers around the globe, making it the world's 10th-largest employer. Stats from the World Economic Forum say the manufacturer is only outsized by a few armies and a handful of private companies like McDonald's and Walmart.
The news that Foxconn plans to build a dozen factories in India and add 1 million employees in the process is so ambitious that it's a challenge to consider the implications. Foxconn currently has facilities in Brazil, China, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, South Korea, the US and a number across Europe. About 40 percent of all consumer electronics products sold are already made by Foxconn, and a near doubling of its workforce would mean that the vast majority of electronics sold each year would be assembled by the contract manufacturer.
The plans are timed well with the Indian government's Make in India campaign and the expanding Indian smartphone market. Handset brands in the region like Intex, Lava and Micromax have been looking to local manufacturing, and could provide Foxconn with some volume early on.
Expansion of Foxconn's headcount by 1 million by 2020 means its subsequent 2.2 million employees would make the company the largest private employer in the world, smaller only than the American and Chinese militaries. For perspective, Walmart has 2.1 million employees and McDonald's has 1.9 million.
The possibility that Foxconn could move closer to the end user by licensing brand names from companies like Nokia might complicate defining its place in the handset value chain. In February, we noted that contract manufacturers have been trying their hands at becoming original equipment manufacturers, completing against their own clients.
Foxconn's industry influence is approaching the levels of Apple and Google. It's a giant that few consumers have heard of, but it's an army on the move.