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What’s happening with ISA and Indian semicon industry?

October 17, 2011 12 comments

What? The India Semiconductor Association (ISA) only has around 25 Indian companies in its list? This startling piece of statistic was recently conveyed to me by a company looking to enter India! I frantically contacted ISA to clarify. As of now, am yet to get a reply.

I look around, especially across Asia. There are so many local companies listed in China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, but the number drops drastically, when it comes to India!

Having spent a number of years in Asia Pacific and being more familiar with its ways definitely helps. Why, I remember meeting TSMC, back in 1998, in Taiwan. It was considered a small entity, with few takers. Where has it risen today?

Even Huawei, for example, showed off its 3G base stations, while still a young Chinese company, to me in 2000. I recall asking Richard Lee, then with Huawei, what’s the company’s expansion plans. Today, everyone knows how fast and wide Huawei has expanded!

Now, when you compare two of the biggest players today – TSMC and Huawei — with Indian players, who do you come up with? Nothing?? Some may say, AirTel and Reliance? Excuse me, but aren’t they telecom operators?

ISA founder members in Oct. 2004!

ISA founder members in Oct. 2004!

Now, I do know of several start-ups in the Indian semiconductor space, who have time and again given a negative response when asked the question: Are you an ISA member? The single biggest and telling response has been: “ISA caters to global companies or MNCs. What does it do or has done for the Indian companies? We are fine without its support!”

Wow! If this is the response that the Indian semiconductor start-ups have toward the industry association, I wonder what lies ahead!

When the ISA had started off in Oct. 2004, things weren’t this way! Going back to that year, India was said to have a major advantage in building fabless semiconductor companies. Some other advantages in favor of India at that time (Nov. 2004), were: local IC design service firms, who were creators of selective IP, development of smart chips with embedded software and the need for microelectronics as national agenda. Today, all of that seems to have been lost! Why? These are not even discussed?

And now, the ISA has latched on to ESDM (electronics system design and manufacturing). That’s really ‘easy to say, but difficult to manage!’ Going by the current happenings, one does not feel even this can happen! One wishes, it eventually does.

But hey, this post is not about ESDM! It is about having the number of Indian-born-and-bred semiconductor companies within the ISA!  Take a good look at the image! Only one member of the Executive Council is currently present! Where are all the founders of ISA? Or, do you now want to tell me that the Indian industry does not even respect its founding fathers?

The ISA is committed to including all players of the ESDM ecosystem within it’s member base. As such, any company which plays in this ecosystem, irrespective of their country of origin, is welcome to join the ISA. Having said that, the ISA is particularly partial to getting more companies registered within India, and who are doing both R&D and development within India, to join it’s membership base. We are also very supportive of startups in this space and are very proud of the startups who are already members, said PVG Menon, president, ISA.

Need to work toward sustainable future: imec

September 5, 2011 2 comments

Luc Van den hove, president and CEO, imec.

Luc Van den hove, president and CEO, imec.

At an ISA CXO Conclave, Luc Van den hove, president and CEO, imec, said that we need to work toward a sustainable future. Started in 1984, Leuven, Belgium-based imec performs world leading research in nanoelectronics. He touched upon some research programs currently undertaken by imec.

Green radio is for low-power wireless communications. Technologies would be 1000K energy efficient. He added: “We are also developing low cost, low-power reconfigurable radios. Further, we feel that videos will dominate mobile phones.”

Another innovation, E-Nose, can be used for air quality, safety, food and well being. Human++ BAN life sciences, is yet another innovation. Now, the cost of healthcare is said to be exploding. By 2030, over 1 billion people will be over 65+ years. imec is developing body area network. According to imec, wearable wireless sensors can grow to over $400 million by 2014.

imec is working on technologies ranging from bio sensors to lab-on-chip. “We are also working on implantable devices such as microprobes,” said Van den hove. imec is also working on the NVision technology. According to estimates, there will likely be 78.1 million 3D TVs by 2012. Van den hove said, “we are developing holographic visualization.”

On energy, he said that renewable energy was growing in importance. “We are working on solar, storage, switching, etc. As an example, we have replaced Ag (silver) with Cu (copper) metallization.” Organic solar cells is yet another technology imec’s working on.”

In power electronics, imec is working on GaN power devices. “We also have a program for boosting chip performance and system functionality,” he added. “We are also exploring the third dimension — DRAM on logic.”

CMORE, is said to be more than CMOS, as well as MEMS, sensors, photonics, SiGe based metals/devices. In organic electronics, imec and Holst have developed the first plastic microprocessor, which was introduced in 2011. imec has research programs for full ecosystems as well.

Van den hove noted: “We also celebrate the launch of imec India. We want to develop sustainable nanoelectronic solutions. For example, rural India drives the mobile phone growth. India is also driving e-health.” In Arise Labs, imec has provided the nanoelectronic platform, technology and design expertise, application programming and strong industry network.

Fabless fables and all that! Is India listening?

August 15, 2011 1 comment

I received an interesting news alert from the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA), formerly, Fabless Semiconductor Association, which spoke about how fabless companies, only, were funded in July 2011. Well, it also led me to this feeling that each time there is any new electronics or related segment being talked about globally, it seems that the Indian semiconductor industry is slowly losing the plot! One surely hopes not!!

May I take your attention back to Pravin Desale’s speech during Mentor Graphics’ U2U conference of December 2009. He had cited some numbers during his speech, borrowing heavily from GSA. According to the GSA Dec. 2008 figures, distribution of fabless IC companies is: Canada 29, USA 606, Europe 151, Israel 61 and Asia 510 — China 222, Taiwan 196, Korea 47, Japan 16, Taiwan 16, Singapore 7, Malaysia 4, and India 2-28 (two fabless companies and 28 design services/IC providers).

Agreed that these numbers should have changed a bit, if not, a lot.

The ISA is born! Oct. 28, 2004, Bangalore, India.

The ISA is born! Oct. 28, 2004, Bangalore, India.

Now, when the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) was formed on Oct. 28, 2004, members at the BangaloreIT.com that November, dwelt upon the need for fabless companies.

Somshankar Das, e4e, had said that for building fabless semiconductor companies in India, the country had a major advantage, as Indian talent was a large part of the global semiconductor industry. Some other advantages in favor of India at that time (Nov. 2004), were: local IC design service firms, who were creators of selective IP as well. Development of smart chips with embedded software was ongoing. Next, the US-funded cross border semiconductor firms were setting up development centers in India. Dr. Bobby Mitra, TI, had cited the need for microelectronics as the national agenda.

Well, where are we today? Why hasn’t the fabless semiconductor industry grown in India?  Just two months ago, I wrote on how, China’s fabless market was set to double by 2015. Is any such movement even happening in India? At least, I am not aware, in case it were!

The establishment of fabless semiconductor companies is one good way to drive the growth of the semiconductor industry in India.

I still have the  photograph of the founding members of the ISA, which is pasted above. The original participants were: Dr. Ananda, Dr. Madhu Atre, S. Uma Mahesh, Rajendra Khare, Dr. Sridhar Mitta, Dr. Anand Anandkumar, V. Veerappan, S. Janakiraman and Dr. Satya Gupta. Today, the ISA only has Dr. Satya Gupta as a representative. One hopes the others have not been left behind in the run of events following the ISA’s formation!

By the way, why am I referring to the original ISA, and fabless companies? Perhaps, there is a very deep significance!

What’s this EoI got to do with semiconductor fabs in India?


Last week, I was alerted to a news on a local daily, which simply read: Government invites EoI for semiconductor fabs! With all due respect, what is the need for an Expression of Interest (EoI) in the first place? At least, I fail to understand!!

Having spent most of my life in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, I’ve seen plenty of fabs come up in the past decade, and before. Why? In the 1990s, no one used to even give a second look at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), which [I don't know if many are aware] started operations in 1987.

Back in the mid- to late-1990s, I had the pleasure of attending several trade shows at the Taipei World Trade Center (TWTC), Taiwan. In fact, I tracked the rise of the Taiwanese and Chinese companies in telecoms and semiconductors. Back then, no one even noticed TSMC, as well as the Chinese backed Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC). However, the art of manufacturing, which had found its bearings in Taiwan, were steadily shifting to China. I even remember visiting Huawei in the middle of 2000, and later ZTE.

By 2000, many of the Taiwanese firms had moved their operations to China for managing cheaper labor costs. Today, China has assumed gigantic proportions, hasn’t it? Today, even TSMC is in the list of top 10 global semiconductor companies. I had even written a post congratulating TSMC for making it to the top 10 R&D spenders during 2010.

What exactly does this EoI from the government of India set out to achieve? Well, for starters, the EoI should come from the technology companies on whether they are interested to start a fab in India. By the way, do you know what happened to the SIPS or the Indian semiconductor policy announced in 2007? It sank without a trace! A Karnataka Semicon Policy was unveiled with great fanfare last year. The result? No takers!! Read more…

Mobile as the nexus: Warren East, ARM


Warren East, CEO, ARM.

Warren East, CEO, ARM.

ARM’s CEO, Warren East, presented this evening at an ISA invited conference on Mobile As The Nexus!

East said the industry is in a transformational mode. Mobile devices are now connecting ubiquitous environments, cloud computing, services and storage. We have the opportunity to reshape the value chain and create growth. Rapid pace of product revolution demands choice and re-use. Low power, low cost and differentiation drives innovation across markets. Scalable solutions enable smarter systems for expanding opportunities. East added that a flexible, diverse ARM ecosystem is evolving to enable new paradigms across new markets.

Focusing on the 2020 opportunity with ARM, he noted that ARM is growing into new markets and product categories. Today’s processors are driving shipments beyond 2015. All of this presents a tremendous opportunity for those who want to work with ARM.

Earlier, he said that currently, over 4 billion people were globally connected by ARM-powered mobile phones. Smartphones will leapfrog PCs in the developed world. Over 1.8 billion ARM processor cores were shipped in Q1-2011. Over 25 billion ARM based chips have been shipped so far. The table applications revenue is likely to top $15 billion by 2015.

There are over 850 ARM Connected Community partners, The ARM  Cortex family has now been licensed 186 times. ARM currently has 10 percent of the mobile computing market.

However, East cautioned that there is still some way to go! Around 5.1 billion people don’t have the Internet, 2.2 billion folks don’t have mobile phones and 1.4 billion of the global population don’t have electricity. Read more…

Where is Indian semiconductor industry headed?


It has been a pretty disappointing year for me, so far, owing to one or another family related problems. I’ve only flattered, to deceive, as one would put it! Not that I’m out of my troubles, but am sure I can ‘play my game as usual’, hopefully, without any further disruptions.

First, I have been closely following the global semiconductor industry, despite my troubles, and there’s really nothing new worth reporting, at least, so far!  Hope the next month and the rest of the year are better! But first, my take on the Indian semiconductor industry, which has now started to disappoint! At least, yours truly!

Last July, I had done a post, where, Len Jelinek, director and chief analyst for semiconductor manufacturing at iSuppli, (now IHS iSuppli) had said to a question on the need for a foundry for the Indian semiconductor industry that: “If there is a foundry built in India, it will have to start at mature technology, which they will have to underprice just to get business. Financially, this makes no sense for any investor, except for the government, which can protect the foundry (their investment) through tariffs.”

It is going to be a year since the remark was made!

This February, at the ISA Vision Summit, one heard  a well known personality voice concern that the manufacturing sector suffers from a confidence deficit. A part of the software successes have been due to a brand developed. He said: “We have the advantage of a great brand, and need to make use of it in the electronics manufacturing sector. The government recognizes the need to convert Indian into a global destination.”

Where is the recognition to help create Indian into a global destination happening? Does it really take so long to develop a semicon policy in the first place? It is strange that perhaps, six and a half years since it was set up (Oct. 30, 2004), the ISA has still not found any takers for a fab in India!

Elsewhere, I mentioned that the latest ISA-Frost report on the status of the Indian semiconductor industry does not sound accurate! I don’t have anything personal against the Indian arms of MNCs, but why are they made even part of the report? I don’t recall seeing a similar report from China or Japan or Taiwan, that does a similar thing!

Where are the Indian semiconductor companies in the first place? One of India’s major semicon firms, the Srini Rajam-led Ittiam Systems, recorded a growth of Rs. 52 crore in 2010, while another significant ODM player, SFO Technologies from Kochi, Kerala, was said to be achieving Rs. 750-800 crore in 2010. What about the other Indian companies? To be accurate: what’s even happening with the Karnataka Semicon Policy? And, don’t some of the other Indian states deserve similar policies?

There are certain things that the Indian semicon industry needs to do, unless it wants to be written out of reckoning in the global context.
1) Focus on the needs of the Indian semicon companies only!
2) Prepare industry reports that highlight the capabilities of Indian semicon firms only; it does not matter how small those firms are! At least, we will have correct reports presenting the right picture.
3) I mentioned 10 points the Indian semicon industry needs to focus on in a post “Long wait for Indian semicon industry?” Perhaps, some, if not all, need to be paid attention to!

I am also told that the ISA president, Ms Poornima Shenoy is leaving, to start a new business. My best wishes to her for a successful career!

‘Long wait’ for Indian semiconductor industry?


I still don’t quite understand the submission made by the IT Taskforce on recommendations for the Indian hardware and electronics manufacturing! The first proposal was submitted by this Taskforce, back in Nov. 2009! Now, a leading daily comes out with a report about a new prescription to boost electronics manufacturing. What is all this?

By itself, isn’t this a ‘long wait’ for the Indian semiconductor and electronics industries?

I repeat: Have we really done enough, even in  the past, to even boost electronics hardware manufacturing in the country? If yes, then where are the mini Hsinchus and Shenzhens within India? N. Vittal had said something similar (such as developing mini Hong Kongs and Singapores) some years ago, but that seems ages ago, now!

Back in April 2010, I had written a post titled: Did you know that the Indian semicon policy had expired and now requires an extension? The next thing one heard was in July 2010: Indian industry proposes to extend deadline of India’s semicon policy up to March 2015!

What is really happening with the Indian semiconductor industry? First up, the semiconductor indusrty is NOT the IT industry. However, it appears that it is being treated like one!

Did anyone really look into the reason why fabs never happened in round 1 of the SIPS? Perhaps, not! I had asked a question, back in Feb. 2009: The Indian silicon wafer fab story seems dead and buried. Should we revive it?

Lest I be repetitive, and boring, I had suggested a 10-point program for the Karnataka semicon policy — in another blog post — on June 29, 2008. The points were:

1. A long-term semiconductor policy running 20-25 years or so.
2. Core team of top Indian leaders from Indian firms and MNCs, as well as technology institutes in Karnataka to oversee policy implementation.
3. Incentives such as government support, including stake in investments, and tax holidays.
4. Strong infrastructure availability and management.
5. Focus on having solar/PV fabs in the state.
6. Consider having 150/180/200mm fabs that tackle local problems via indigenous applications.
7. Develop companies in the assembly testing, verification and packaging (ATMP) space.
8. Attract companies in fields such as RFID, to address local problems and develop local applications.
9. Pursue companies in PDP, OLED/LED space to set up manufacturing units.
10. Promote and set up more fabless units.

All that one needs to do is to simply extend this all across India, rather than waste time in devising policies that have either expired, or well, take ages to see the light of the day! We should also refrain from discussing wafer fabs for now, and focus on fabless. Although, if we do attract and develop a local fab, that would be great for India!

Wonder, whether anyone in India is even listening!

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