India's HFCL focuses on new products to boost revenues
One of the few Indian vendors to successfully transition from the domestic to the international markets is Himachal Futuristic Communications Limited (HFCL). While the company started its journey as an optical fiber manufacturer, it has recently made waves because of its new product development for growing markets.
"A key driver of the transition was that we wanted to grow our revenue by going beyond the Indian market," said Mahendra Nahata, managing director of HFCL, speaking to Light Reading. "To do so we had to develop our own design capabilities and procure new machinery, as every market has its own specific requirement for optical cable."
New product growth
The market expansion has helped the company grow revenues to 43.3 billion rupees (US$527 million) in 2021-22 from INR30.9 billion ($376 million) in 2017-18. And HFCL is investing heavily in new product development, working with partners outside of India to complement its booming fiber business.
HFCL recently launched new Wi-Fi 7 Access Points in collaboration with Qualcomm at India Mobile Congress. HFCL claims to be the first company to develop an open-source Wi-Fi 7 access point producing a speed of more than 10 Gbit/s.
At the same event, HFCL also launched the 5G 8T8R Macro Radio Unit as part of its open RAN portfolio. The vendor also announced a collaboration with Qualcomm for the development of 5G outdoor small cell.
HFCL now directly employs 250 people for research and development of new products, while it also works with other companies, including Capgemini and VVDN.
"In total, around 500 to 600 people are directly or indirectly working for the development of new products," said Nahata.
Speculate to accumulate
HFCL is investing INR4.5 billion ($54.81 million) as part of the government's Design Linked Incentive (DLI) program and its Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme.
The company has also launched 5G Lab-as-a-Service (LaaS) which provides an automated environment for companies and startups to test applications and products.
HFCL's business is divided into three verticals – optical fiber cable, equipment and system integration.
For the optical fiber business, it is expanding manufacturing capacity and targeting newer geographies for export.
For the equipment business, HFCL is looking to develop products in niche categories like Wi-Fi, small cells and open RAN. When it comes to system integration, it hopes to play a role in the developing 5G private networks segment.
Also aiding its market visibility and growth is HFCL's close ties with shareholder and customer Reliance Jio, India's largest service provider.
HFCL's Infotel had acquired the pan-India license for the broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum which Jio acquired immediately after the auction in 2010. In 2021 Jio, increased its stake in HFCL by 5%.
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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading