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ISA, UK-TI MoU to develop semicon industry


PC-HKRecently, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) signed an MoU with East of England International (EOEI) to promote and develop the semiconductor industries in their respective domains.

On August 31st, which is early next week, the ISA and the UK-TI will be signing an MoU to extend this relationship further.

My colleague, Usha Prasad and I met up with Chandrika Anil, Manager – Membership Services, ISA,  to hear more about the MoU.

Elaborating on how the MoU between the ISA and UK Trade & Investment (UK-TI) is going to help in encouragement and development of Global Value Chain Partnerships, Chandrika said that the ISA and the UK-TI share a mutual interest to promote and develop the sector semiconductor industries in their respective domains. The MoU between ISA and UK-TI entails promotion of the concept of Global Value Chain Partnerships.

As part of the MoU, the two organisations have agreed that:

  • Global Value Chain Partnerships are of mutual benefit in the ongoing development of the Indian and UK semiconductor industries and the relationship between them.
  • ISA and UK-TI will co-operate with each other in the following activities to encourage and develop Global Value Chain. Partnerships between Indian and UK semiconductor firms. This allows for:
  1. Promoting the concept of Global Value Chain Partnerships amongst the Indian and UK semiconductor industries in the most appropriate manner
    • This may include website, newsletters, conferences and direct discussion with firms.
  2. Identifying, through ongoing research and discussion, areas of potential business opportunity which could be addressed by Indian and UK firms working together
    • These areas could form a set of themes around which ISA and UK-TI may wish to focus on seminars and other activities to raise awareness, understanding and interest.
  3. Encouraging firms in the two industries to register (free of charge) their interest in exploring relevant partnerships and business opportunities in the identified areas
    • This would involve inviting firms to provide information about their interests and capabilities, periodically reviewing identified opportunities which may be relevant
  4. Facilitating meetings between firms and groups of firms to take forward discussions with a view to formation of Global Value Chain Partnerships

The MOU will create a synergy between India and the UK in the areas of design, device and applications.

You can read more on ISA’s website. Thanks for the interaction, Chandrika, and well done, Usha!

AqTronics-Mouser eye growth opportunities for components distribution in India!


Bangalore based AqTronics Technologies Pvt Ltd is an innovator in the distribution and marketing of semiconductors, passives, interconnects, electro-mechanical, IT and enterprise products. It is a focused demand creation distributor for India markets.

According to Ranga Prasad, business development manager, AqTronics, the company desires to be a part of the technology supply chain for customers in India.

He said: “We would like to bring the latest technologies to India and provide an exemplary standard of quality service through superior product marketing, outstanding technical solution support, in-depth inventory, professional selling procedures and the most reliable operational systems in distribution.”

AqTronics to distribute Mouser’s components in India
AqTronics recently entered into an agreement with Mouser Electronics Inc., a leading global distributor of electronic components.

Under the agreement, AqTronics will distribute Mouser’s electronics components in India. All of Mouser’s components are available through AqTronics through INR (Indian Rupees) and USD (US dollars) with Modvat refund.

Mouser Electronics is one of the fastest growing global catalog and web based distributors in the electronics industry. The company is focused on the rapid introduction of newest products, leading edge technologies, and world class customer service.

It is specially focused on design engineers and buyers demanding small to medium quantities of the latest products. Hence, Mouser provides customer-focused distribution.

Mouser is also an authorized distributor for over 390 industry leading manufacturers. With a new catalog every six months, it ensures that the newest products are added and the end-of-life products removed from the print catalog. Mouser’s website features over a million products for easy purchase in USD, INR and with Modvat refund through AqTronics.

USP of AqTronics-Mouser relationship
Ranga Prasad says: “AqTronics’ focus is demand creation distribution. This calls for supporting customers on the complete product development life cycle (PDLC).”

Mouser Electronics will help AqTronics will support customers for — functional engineering, embedded development tool selection, bread board to engineering BOM, prototyping with small quantities, and NPI or pilot production – broken pack (Non MoQ, non MoV).

Components distribution and India advantage
Estimating the global components distribution market, according to Mouser, the semiconductor markets globally are estimated to be $1.2 trillion.

The Indian market share in percentage terms is said to be lesser than 2 percent of the world TAM (total available market). According to the companies, this calls for tremendous growth opportunities for components distribution in the Indian market.

Naturally, the India advantage comes into play!

India, with the second largest population in the world, and a huge talent pool of engineers, is a promising market. Especially, in the R&D activities, there are a lot of technology companies in major cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, etc.

Mouser will focus and continue to put an effort into developing this market. Mouser is very excited about the growth in the Indian market and the opportunity to bring its world class product line card to the region.

AqTronics’ strategies to tap Indian market with Mouser
AqTronics and Mouser have aggressive plans for the Indian market.

According to Ranga Prasad: “Mouser will re-inforce resources in India by increasing its presence through partners, e-marketing through the Internet, e-magazines and appropriate search engines. Mouser’s focus is on bringing the ‘newest parts for the newest designs’, and ensuring that the engineering community is best served with all of the latest parts.

“To support this, AqTronics, and also Mouser, will update their website daily with new parts and components from over 390 major manufacturers. There will also also be a fully updated catalog in India every six months.”

Warehouse in pipeline
Entering India in the electronic components space also calls for having a dedicated warehouse at some point of time. Since customer support is one of Mouser’s strength, the company is serious in its approach toward India, and will provide its best services for after sales support.

Putting appropriate resource to support customers is Mouser’s belief. Therefore, it will not neglect the needs of adding a warehouse wherever and whenever required. It also partners with FEDEX for international operations and has a three-day shipping from Texas, USA, to its customer base in the region.

Companies represented by AqTronics
AqTronics represents the following companies:

Mouser Electronics: Catalogue sales distribution.
Digi International: Leaders in device networking and M2M.
SST: Serial/parallel Flash, NAN drive (solid-state drive), 8051 microcontrollers.
ISSI: Synchronous SRAM, DDR-II, asynchronous SRAM, DRAM, automotive and industrial versions.
Fujistu: Thermal printers, interface boards, touch panels, Bluetooth modules.
Upek: Capacitive type -– large area, swipe sensors, controllers, RSA tokens.
Ember: Zigbee chipsets.
ORing: Ethernet switches.
Sarantel: GPS Geo Helix antennae.
iWatt: AC/DC ICs, DC/DC ICs, Advance power solutions
Tysso: Magnetic swipe readers, keyboards, bar code readers/scanners, POS systems.
Everlight: LED lighting solutions.
MPS: Monolithic power systems — regulators, low drop regulators, battery, chargers/protection, transformer based power supplies.
Narda Batteries: Batteries for telecom, UPS, power, solar energy, emergency lighting and power systems, mobile communications, radio, railways.

Taking on competition
India is also home to leading electronic components and distributors, such as Farnell. Contending with such stiff competition is key on the agenda.

Ranga Prasad adds: “In addition to the strategies mentioned earlier, we would like to re-inforce and strengthen our relationships with the universities’ research teams, and ensure that the engineers are aware of Mouser’s services and support when they are still in the universities.

“Mouser’s focus is driven by ensuring that the latest components are always available. Its stock profile is focused on electronic components, and not on other peripheral ranges.”

Pretty ordinary bloggers survey leaves several unanswered questions!


The Bangalore, India, arm of Text 100, a well known PR firm, sent me a presentation this Friday, which is about a global bloggers survey! This survey received inputs from 449 technology, news and lifestyle bloggers across 21 countries.

On receiving it, I wondered why I was never part of this list? This puzzled me a lot since the Text 100 India team is always speaking with me at least once a week for something or the other! Perhaps, I am a blogger from India and not so important! :) Never mind! The folks at Text 100 India will always remain my good friends!

The survey results however, are quite predictable and hardly surprising! There’s nothing new in it and that’s disappointing! For those interested, the results are:

1. Growing influence of bloggers — Corporations are increasingly recognising the influence of bloggers.

As though this point needed any acknowledgement or a survey! TechCrunch, Engadget, etc., don’t need any introduction! There are several other bloggers of repute and their words definitely count!

2. Social media releases — Corporate news releases are out: Social Media Releases will experience far greater usage!

I wonder if the second point is true! Given the mountain of releases I receive, I don’t really know what to make it! To accommodate those, I spun off several other blogs. Bear in mind that PR companies think nothing of this effort! If you talk about charging for hosting releases, they shy away! In fact, I was most amused when a PR firm recently called me up to inquire about my blog’s traffic, saying it needed that figure for ‘internal usage.’ Wonder what that means!!

3. RSS is key — If your company is not making their information available via RSS feeds, you are missing opportunities.

Again, this one seems a bit like — too much, too late! RSS has been around for quite a while now! If people don’t bother to use them suitably, who is to blame? Whether PR folks use RSS at all is something I won’t know.

4. Part-time bloggers: The majority of bloggers are still part-timers — adjust your strategies accordingly!

Quite accurate and already known! Only the very brave give up full-time jobs to blog, with or without any financial or other support!!

5. Cultural differences — Despite being global, there are still cultural differences to be respected.

Even the rest of the findings are ordinary. For instance, computers, technology and the Internet are the subjects most blogged by surveyed bloggers. The preferred content is news and reviews of new products, opinionated comments on their blogs, and interviews with key people. Corporate news announcements are of least interest.

What the survey doesn’t mention!
What the survey hasn’t mentioned or spoken about is how can PR firms help bloggers make some financial gains out of blogging! Nor is there any mention of any such methods that could be adopted by bloggers and PR firms.

The absence of this critical piece of information renders this survey ordinary! If it were a part of the survey, bloggers would have really appreciated the effort. Sadly, it completely misses or overlooks this extremely critical point!

Several bloggers, including yours truly, offer a variety of services, to make some financial gains. Even this aspect is completely missing from the survey!

It would have been good to cover this aspect as it would educate everyone about the kind of services offered by bloggers. In fact, it would inspire more people to take up blogging as a career — another aspect given a complete miss by the survey!

Need to answer basic questions
There are basic questions that need to be answered, such as:
1. Why should anyone choose blogging as a career?
2. How can he or she make money by blogging?
3. What are the services he or she can offer via the blog?
4. What kinds of services are being made available by bloggers?
5. Should bloggers get advertising? What types? To what extent and duration?
6. What would be the advertising charges? Would it be different from print media or the Web portals?
7. How can PR firms work better with bloggers?
8. How can PR firms develop a win-win situation and help bloggers gain financially?
9. Should bloggers charge a fee for queries received from elsewhere?
10. How good or popular are sponsored posts? Are PR firms doing anything to boost this and help bloggers?
11. There are so many blogs (including mine) on Blogger and WordPress. Is it still a blog or a web site — especially when PR firms look for online coverage?
12. Which blogging platform is more preferable?

Am sure there are several bloggers out there with a whole lot of other questions I may have missed!

One other point carried in the survey is a comment from a blogger in Ireland, which says: “Press releases don’t work for bloggers, we are not journalists, we don’t need to copy and paste nonsense we get sent. Plus, the big issue with coverage on a blog is being first. If you are sending the same release to the press, why would I want to blog about it? I am not unique then and am the same as a paper.”

The headline — Don’t bombard bloggers with press releases — could actually work very well in favour of the PR companies IF the PR folks worked out various strategies and ways of helping bloggers. They seriously need strategies, where currently, none seem to exist!

On the other hand, this survey also tells me — perhaps, I should close down all of my other blogs — which I recently started to host all of those press releases that I get bombarded with — a point mentioned by some other well wishers as well!

What do you think friends? Should I? :)

Categories: bloggers, blogs, India, PR firms, Text 100 Tags:

Indian chip industry dead? You’ve got to be kidding me!


I was recently chatting with a friend at LSI, who asked my opinion on the Indian semiconductor industry. Interestingly, in one of my groups on LinkedIn, a member has started a discussion on ‘whether it is ripe for India to get a silicon IC fab’!

Complete contrast — an industry friend recently narrated an incident where this friend was asked by someone else — whether the Indian chip industry was dead! Wow!! Someone’s got to be kidding!

First, I can’t really determine what’s the expectation level among people regarding India’s semiconductor industry. It seems that the interest is starting to build up, at a very slow pace.

However, folks need to understand that the semiconductor industry is extremely complex. You can’t get away by making some sort of statement about this industry! There is much more to semiconductors than someone merely writing a headline — “recovery is in sight” or “recession hits semicon” or 32nm is a great process node”!

Why aren’t more headlines like “overcoming ASIC design productivity roadblocks,” or “What lithography tools are doing for the photoresist market” doing the rounds? Or even: “Are designers as conscious of yield as they should be?” If you can spot the difference, you can make some comment on the semicon industry!

Two, the Indian chip industry CANNOT BE DEAD! It never was, never has been and never will be! Most people would find it tough to answer when Texas Instruments first started operations in India! Why did it choose to start so early? Simply because it backed India as a center! Naturally, the Indian semiconductor goes back that early!

Some folks perhaps relate more to the semiconductor industry with the advent of the India Semiconductor Association. The Association is an industry body, fulfilling its need. However, a lot of work has been going on in semiconductors before ISA came into being. I wonder whether folks have really cared to track this industry in India. I do remember when I first starting covering semiconductors in India, in the early 2000s, there were lot of curious glances from others! :)

Coming back to the Indian semiconductor industry, from ‘Made for India’, it has moved on to ‘Made In India’. Isn’t that a significant shift?

As for silicon IC wafer fabs in India, or for that matter, any fab in India — yes, it is still a good time to have one! Perhaps, the last time around, patience seemed to run out! And that’s a hard lesson to learn for those looking to invest in fabs — there is NO quick turnaround time in semiconductors!

Moshe Gavrielov, Xilinx’s President and CEO, recently said in EE Times that venture capital would not return to the semiconductor industry, even after this recession. If this does happen, it would be very unfair! Where would all the start-ups go?

Again, this statement brings clarity to the subject of semiconductors — this is a very complex industry, and definitely unlike IT/ITeS. We in India are so much into services that we fail to see the wood from the trees!

People love to compare China with India. Friends, do visit China or even Taiwan! Try to find out how they went about building their semiconductor industry, and manufacturing and R&D ecosystems. There are several lessons to learn, numerous role models to follow.

I strongly believe India can very well go the same route! We need some good startups in India as well. If and when those happen, please do not expect fast turnaround times. Please believe in India, and believe in its semiconductor industry. It needs your support.

ISA Vision Summit 2009: Indian design influence, ideas to volume


This post is slightly delayed given the fact that I’ve been travelling! Here it is: Session 2 of Day 1, ISA Vision Summit 2009!!

The still quite young, Indian semiconductor industry has come a long way! Making his opening remarks during the session: Indian Design Influence, Ideas to Volume, Jaswinder Ahuja, Corporate Vice President & MD, Cadence Design Systems India, and chairman, pointed out that earlier, it used to be ‘made by the world, FOR India.’ However, globalization of design has now put India on the world semiconductor map. Today, it is ‘made by the world, IN India.’

The picture here shows Ahuja making a point, while Freescale’s Ganesh Guruswamy, TI’s Dr. Bobby Mitra and Intel’s Praveen Vishakantaiah are all attention.

The electronics systems production is clearly moving eastward. Even though the chip fabs may not happen in India, systems manufacturing is certainly happening. The emerging markets today offer a $5 trillion opportunity. However, the transformative challenge is: how to marry low cost, good quality, sustainability and profitability simultaneously!

Fantastic opportunity for investing in technology
Praveen Vishakantaiah, President, Intel, added that India has a fantastic opportunity ahead for investing in technology. He cited Intel’s examples, such as: products designed in India for global market — Intel Xeon 7400 processor; designed in India for India and emerging markets — Classmate PC, which was prototyped in India; and designed in India and customized for the local market — PoS retail kiosk solution.

Internal factors related to volume development include: unique market needs, designing for reliability, enabling customers — standard globally but varied in India. External factors include: access to customers — which can be challenging in a varied market such as India, access to employable talent, predictable supply chain, robust infrastructure — digital infrastructure should scale simultaneously with design and development, and proactive policies and regulations.

According to Vishakantaiah, there is a need for a call to action and seize opportunities. This means, capitalizing on opportunities for local and global product designs, increase the impact and build end-to-end competencies, and to continue to move up the value chain. There is a need to address the internal factors. This would enable increasing the quality of products and extend local products into global markets. There is also a need to focus on the enabling the local market for global product companies.

As far as the external factors are concerned, there is a need to be proactive to remove barriers. There is a need to also encourage research, faculty development and new curriculum. India also needs to build energy efficient power, logistics and manufacturing capabilities, and also reduce e-waste and think green for all product designs.

Downturn creates huge opportunities
Ganesh Guruswamy, Director and Country Manager, Freescale Semiconductor India, remarked that even the deepest downturns can create huge opportunities for companies and countries. “Continuing to innovate during the downturn is important,” he added. It is therefore, time for India to step up, put the right innovations in place and grow.

He stressed upon several custom solutions for emerging markets, such as two-wheelers, which dominate, e-bikes, which are said to be the future, LED lamps, power inverters, irrigation pumpset powered by solar, smart energy meters, and solar/PV base station and carrier based equipment for telecom.

Medical tourism is an emerging focus area for India, as it is growing by 30 percent each year. Medical tourism is likely to bring $1-2 billion to India by 2012. In this context, Guruswamy highlighted Freescale’s ECG-on-a-chip solution. According to him, the way forward would involve moving away from a design mindset to a product mindset!

Don’t be dwarfed by glamorous industries!
Dr Bobby Mitra, MD, Texas Instruments India, said that India is witnessing a change in its semiconductors agenda — from R&D to R&D + market growth. If followed properly, it can become a game changing agenda. “India has nearly 2,000 OEMs designing electronics products. That’s the untapped potential,” he said.

Most of the customers are smaller companies — the proverbial long tail. They know semiconductors and electronics very well. Such companies need to be measured by the firebrand innovation going on at those places.

Dr. Mitra said: “The products have to be the right kind of products. If they are complex, it is incidental.” He cited defense and aerospace as very strong spaces, while industrial is also an equally strong opportunity area. “We should not be dwarfed by glamorous industries,” he cautioned.

In the near term, the Indian semiconductor industry needs to develop two new stripes. These are: a high degree of customer centricity so it can be brought into the R&D engineer’s minds, and have an application mindset — India is very good in design work; it now needs to develop applications in the current context.

Dr. Mitra also called upon having research as an agenda for the industry. This can be done in areas that would assume importance in future. “By working with customers, we can make products more intelligent, by adding electronics and semiconductors,” he advised. “All of us have a key role to play in this transformation.”

SMEs, in particular, have a major role to play. Intel’s Vishakantaiah said that MNCs would need to mentor and coach such companies. Freescale’s Guruswamy added that MNCs can either help them grow or buy them out.

Dr. Mitra advised that even if customers didn’t provide business, it would pay to remain close to them. He also referred to TI’s Beagle Board, an open and low-cost platform, which enables development of applications. However, he advised the industry to be realistic about mass customization.

Can the Indian semicon industry dream big? (And even buy Qimonda?)


I had ended one of my previous blog posts by saying whether the Indian semiconductor industry was hitting the right notes?

In a continuation to that specific thought, it is necessary to first examine where India stands in the global industry. We are very strong in embedded design and design services — our traditional strengths. While these will hold good for a long time, these are probably not enough to really help India make a serious mark at the global level.

The Indian semiconductor industry, in its current state, needs a rethinking as far as strategy is concerned. Maybe, it cannot survive on chip design alone. Especially in times of downturn, the global semiconductor industry players would be looking for new markets and even customers, rather than low-cost production centers.

Consider these points: In the current economic environment, is the interest in developing new business relations with India really a top priority for overseas companies? Probably not, at this very point of time!

India is also seen more as a source of resource; and the extra resource is the last thing firms need at the moment, given the recessionary climate. What global firms are looking for are new markets and customers, and these points, along with its infrastructure, have been the areas of Indian weaknesses. Maybe, all of this will change, but definitely not overnight! And it needs some more planning.

That leads me to an interesting comment from a reader of my article on CIOL, who went on to suggest that an Indian investor could consider buying Qimonda!

Now that is some serious thought and vision as far as mid- or long-term planning is concerned. However, will there really be any takers for this? If this really happens, fabs can be built in India for memory production. If these fabs perform well, it just might turn out to be a good investment in the mid-term future of the Indian semiconductor industry. Definitely, it will make the world sit up and take notice. The other players would surely give India a look-in thereafter.

Quite a thought! This suggestion of investing in Qimonda is indeed a vision. Can the Indian semiconductor industry develop the courage to show and work toward making this kind of a vision a reality?

What should India do to develop products?
Speaking with Anil Gupta, managing director, India Operations, ARM, is always a pleasure.

I asked him: Does India have the capability to sustain or even build a product development ecosystem? What needs to be done?

He said: “We need the following for this:

* Entrepreneurs committed to product development and willing to take that risk;
* Investors willing to take risk on product development companies;
* Consumption, and this will happen as the economy improves any way, and
* Deep enough technical/technological knowledge/know-how to put reasonably competent end products together.”

According to him, all of these qualities exist in India, and he cited examples of companies such as Sukam, Tejas, etc.

Well, there you have it!

We need enterprising entrepreneurs in India who are committed toward product development and willing to take that risk, especially in semiconductors. We need investors who can believe in things like even buying Qimonda, or some other company. After all, isn’t this what everyone’s been saying: this is the time to buy!

Dream big, India!

Seeking jobs in embedded! Can anyone help?

January 7, 2009 1 comment

Ever since I have blogged about embedded companies in India, I’ve received a few messages, regarding jobs in the embedded segment in India. Some others have dropped hints about companies who haven’t made my list!

It seems the companies are not hiring, or they’ve put hiring on freeze. Does it mean that not many projects are going on currently? Or, is there a way for freshers to make a start somewhere? For starters, those who want their companies listed in any top 10 list, are they even trying to help freshers or those looking for better jobs in the embedded space? What is their policy for hiring?

Or, are they too dependent on design services, so much that they do not have enough products to work on or develop! Or, maybe, they don’t have many ongoing projects? I have had so many people tell me “India should do product development in semiconductors!” So, is that really happening? Or, is it merely a statement?

I did come across this web site called Dev Seeker, which is said to list jobs in embedded. DevSeeker also has a page that lists some of the embedded companies in India.

I also came across a blog on Monster, which lists several posts from some freshers, as well as some others who have actually asked folks to send in their resumes.

There is another web site from KBS Consultants, which has listed some jobs in the embedded segment. Another site, called GotAChance, also has links to jobs in the embedded space. Another search led me to a site called ITJobs.

By the way, I’ve no way of knowing whether any of the sites are updated, or, if they are, how frequently are those getting updated with the latest information. Sincerely hope that all of these sites are getting updated frequently!

Whenever I speak with semiconductor professionals, they don’t stop raving about India’s might in embedded. If that’s the case, why are so many talented people not being able to find jobs? Or even worse, how do freshers get to make a start? I am not sure if companies offer freelance work for embedded software engineers. However, it is an option that could be considered.

There are several companies in China and Japan who are seeking fresh and good talent in the embedded space. A Japanese delegation visited India last August for the India-Fukuoka (Japan) IT, Embedded Software and Semiconductor Business Workshop 2008. Some of companies are:

* Daichi Institution Industry Co. Ltd
* DISCO (Dai Ichi Seitosho Co. Ltd) Corp.
* Inoueki Co. Ltd
* JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization)
* Kyushu Economic Research Center
* CLAIR (The Japan Council of Local Authorities for International Relations), Singapore

Prior to that, last May, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) and the UK Trade & Investment and Science & Innovation Network launched a study titled “Scope for collaboration between India and the UK in semiconductor driven industry 2008.

I am also aware that China and Taiwan require lot of talent in embedded software and systems. They can surely make use of the talent available in India.

I am sure that all of these folks would be able to help out at least some of those looking to make a career in embedded systems and software. Otherwise, what’s the end result of making such trips to India and talking about India’s talent in embedded! Freshers need to make a start somewhere, so please help as many as possible.

To all of those freshers starting out to make a career, try and get the relevant experience, and the money will follow. Do not pursue it the other way round.

This is a request to the global embedded systems and software fraternity — there are quite a lot of talented and fresh engineers in India in the embedded systems and software segment, who are also seeking jobs. Give them, or at least, some of them, a chance! Can you kindly help them?

Outlook for solar photovoltaics in 2009!


Friends and dear readers, this is my last blog post for 2008! Indeed, what a year this has been!!

Let me bid this year goodbye with a general outlook on the global solar photovoltaics industry for 2009.

iSuppli had recently put out a report on solar eclipse coming in 2009! I had blogged about the possible solar sunburn ahead, as well, earlier last week!

Another point that has interested me is: what happens to the top 20 global solar photovoltaic companies, based on iSuppli’s analysis! This blog post has perhaps been the most popular in recent times.

I was very lucky to re-associate with Dr. Henning Wicht, Senior Director, Principal Analyst, iSuppli Deutschland GmbH, in Munich, Germany, for this discussion, thanks to the efforts of Jon Cassell and Debra Jaramilla!

How bad is solar?
The first and the most obvious question: how bad is the global solar market right now and why?

According to iSuppli, bringing an end to eight consecutive years of growth, global revenue for photovoltaic (PV), panels is likely to plunge by nearly 20 percent in 2009, as a massive oversupply causes prices to drop!

Worldwide revenue from shipments of panels will decline to $12.9 billion in 2009, down 19.1 percent from $15.9 billion in 2008. A drop of this magnitude has not occurred in the last 10 years and likely has not happened in the entire history of the solar industry.

Dr. Henning Wicht says that the upstream part of the solar business (cell, module, etc.) will suffer from price decline due to strong oversupply. The downstream side will benefit (installation, end-user, investor, etc.) by lower system prices.

Therefore, what can the solar players do to get over this coming bad phase in 2009? Well, three things: improve the cost structure, improve the sales side, and diversify downstream… These points hold strong for all fully integrated and non-integrated solar panel suppliers as well. By the way, fully integrated solar panel suppliers are likely to suffer less severe losses than non-integrated competitors.

There must be some way around to to bring about some balance within the current imbalance in the demand and supply situation. While Dr. Wicht agrees this is a difficult one to answer this early, he adds that supply and demand are diverging heavily. “With the current trajectories even in 2012, 100 percent more modules are produced than installed,” he says. I promise to discuss this question again with the good Dr. in another six months time.

Word of wisdom
There are various support programs in place, and it is important to know whether they will continue to remain beneficial, both to support markets to become independent sustainable and to develop the regional industry.

Dr. Wicht believes the support programs are still required and beneficial. “If China, India, Mexico and other sunny regions would start to support solar installations, that could change the picture drastically,” he notes.

A note of warning for new entrants in the solar photovoltaic space! Be aware that this warning has been earlier highlighted in the global semiconductor outlook for 2009! In tune with what the various analysts have maintained earlier, iSuppli also forsees newcomers in the solar photovoltaic line having problems in getting the required credit for their projects.

What next for Europe, emerging regions?
According to iSuppli, the short-term boost in demand from Spain and Germany has kept the installation companies busy, and solar orders and module prices high. But this boom is over. So, what’s next for European players?

According to Dr. Wicht, Germany and Spain should continue their leading role as solar installation regions, even after the boom. France, Italy and Czech Republic are attractive, but still much smaller markets, he maintains.

iSuppli has also mentioned that the race to larger manufacturing scale comes to an end when the production is not sold anymore! In that case, what’s the case for the emerging nations, like China and India? Aren’t there buyers in such places?

Dr. Wicht says: “Demand in the traditional solar markets is not elastic enough to absorb all of the solar production. Potential new markets, for example, China and India, do not yet have installation capacities and administration to significantly change the global solar demand short term.”

iSuppli also feels that the newer Chinese and Taiwanese suppliers will be hit particularly hard during 2009. The reason being, many suppliers have expanded their production capacities heavily without securing equally the sales/downstream part.

Global top 20 rankings to change?
Now to the most interesting part! Most of you have read about the top 20 global solar photovoltaic suppliers. Following the iSuppli warning of a ‘solar eclipse’ in 2009, there is every likelihood that there will be changes in that table!

Dr. Wicht adds, “However, the top 10 companies are typically better placed than the competition regarding their cost structures, downstream integration and vertical integration.”

Obama’s solar plans!
Now on to yet other interesting point! The US President-elect, Barack Obama’s, New Energy for America plan could well have a significant impact on the US solar industry.

The plan’s provisions include:

• A federal renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires 10 percent of electricity consumed in the US to come from renewable sources by 2012.
• A $150 billion investment over 10 years in research, technology demonstration and commercial deployment of clean energy technology.
• Extension of production tax credits for five years to encourage renewable energy production.
• A cap-and-trade system of carbon credits to provide an incentive for businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Wicht says: “We all know that Obama is in favor of renewable energy. However, he will not change a 160 percent oversupply of solar panels in 2009.”

Bumpy ride to grid parity?
On another note, and a pretty favorite one: Is it going to be a “bumpy road” to grid parity? How will the subsidies be kept going?

Dr. Wicht notes: “Subsidies will continue. It will always be a bumby road because the ramping cycles differ heavily among silicon, cells, modules and the installation capacity. Please remember that the installation business will now benefit from low module prices. It will recover some of the margins it has lost in the last years due to high module prices.”

Also, up to when will polysilicon constraints last? iSuppli had earlier indicated PV strategy changes. According to Dr. Wicht, the polysilicon prices are coming down already. “Our indication from October 2008 seems to be fairly good,” he says.

Lastly, will iSuppli be still sticking by solar, semicon investments being equal by 2010?

Dr. Wicht says: “Please let me cite again our interview in October: The investments for solar production raising up to several hundreds of Mio USD, up to 1 Bio $ per production site. That is coming close to a semiconductor fab. The total capex of semiconductor is still 10 times larger than PV. However, PV is rising much faster.”

That will be all for this year, folks!

Look forward to sharing much more captivating moments in semiconductors, electronics, solar photovoltaics, telecom, etc., in 2009!

Wishing all of you a very happy, prosperous and successful 2009. Be safe and look after yourself! See you next year!! :)

Why solar/PV is good for India? An ISA perspective!

December 25, 2008 1 comment

Recently, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) held an educative briefing session on the potential of the solar PV market in India, which was conducted by Rajiv Jain, Director, Government Relations, ISA.

This meeting was held well before iSuppli issued a warning that there could be global solar sunburn in 2009! I am sincerely hoping that most of the points mentioned by ISA’s Jain still hold good in the coming year, and that India really does well and takes off in solar photovoltaics.

The ISA’s vision: To help make India an attractive global destination for PV manufacturing and a world leader in solar energy.

Starting with the basics of photovoltaics, he said that it is a package of solar cells used to convert energy from sun to electricity. In simpler words, photons from sunlight knock electrons into higher state of energy, thus creating electricity. The electricity can be used to power equipment or recharge a battery. A typical PV system mainly consists of a PV module, battery, inverter, controller and junction box.

Focusing on the technological landscape, he touched upon the two key technologies for solar: crystalline and thin film.

Crystalline silicon is said to be the most mature Si wafer technology, with the largest market share. Though, high on cost, it has a typical efficieny of 14-18 percent. Crystalline silicon is said to suitable for rooftop applications.

Thin film is nothing but thin layers of photosensitive materials on glass. It is currently on high growth due to silicon shortage, and very low on cost due to low material consumption. The efficiency is about 6.5-8 percent.

A third technology, nanotechnology, is the future technology for cost reduction. It is more in the R&D space as of now.

Present scenario for solar
So what’s the present scenario? In 2007, of $71 billion invested in new renewable energy (RE) capacity globally, 30 percent was in solar PV. It is the fastest growing area in the energy sector, with a CAGR of 47 percent over the last five years.

Grid-connected solar PV has been high growth market segment in 2007 (50 percent increase). Also, 86 percent of the PV installations are largely in four countries, with Germany at 47 percent being the outright leader.

Market drivers are said to be attractive feed-in tariffs, national PV market development and acceptance, RE obligations through solar PV, access to cheaper mode of finance, manufacturing incentives as well as strong R&D.

Why solar for India
I have addressed this in an earlier blog post. Here’s what Jain had to say, and it is mostly in line with the earlier discussions.

First, India has among the highest solar irradiance globally. It also has the best quality reserves of silica in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. India has also established itself low cost producer and assembler of solar PV cells and modules.

The major challenges include attaining scale and integration for cost reduction, and, R&D for development of the industry.

Solar insolation in India
To start with, the daily average solar energy incident varies from 4-7kWh per m2. Next, we have multiple sites with solar irradiation >2000 hours per year. In contrast, Germany has 900-1,200 hours per year. Further, most parts of India have 300-300 sunny days in a year translating into a potential of 600GW. Also, potential in some states like Rajasthan is 35-40 MW per m2.

It is well known that the Indian semiconductor policy of 2007 has triggered off the now well publicized efforts in solar initiatives. The government of India has received 16 applications with investments envisaged at app Rs. 1,55,000 crores.

The investments in solar PV manufacturing exceed Rs 1,25,000 crores. Generation based incentives (GBI) are going to be key.

Potential market segments in India
There are quite a few, actually. In rural electrification, the government of India’s target is to achieve ‘Electricity for all by 2012′. About 18,000 remote villages will likely be electrified through RE. About ~25 percent of the remote villages, i.e., 4,500 villages, form a very viable market.

Next comes telecom back-up power! PV is a cost effective alternative to diesel generators (DG) for back up power for shorter duration, as DG based systems suffer from several disadvantages.

Another key market could be grid connected solar PV based generation. Current tariffs do not provide attractive IRR to developers. Decreasing system prices are however, likely to improve the economics.

Finally, roof based BIPV is said to be an alternative to reduce the cost of power procured by commercial buildings.

ISA’s recommendations
The ISA has also made salient recommendations via its report on the industry. These include areas such as manufacturing: with an aim to encourage companies investing in ‘Scale and integration’, provision of capital subsidy to larger number of units, availability of funds at a cheaper rate, and an emphasis on R&D.

Also, the ISA has recommended that GBI be given for a tenure of 20 years, with the present period being 10 years. Further, it has suggested an accelerated depreciation along with the GBI scheme, and the availability of GBI for an unlimited capacity for a period of five years. The ISA has recommended an enactment of the RE Law requiring utilities to progressively increase power purchase from RE.

On its part, the ISA has been working with the government of India and various state governments as well. It has a sound rapport with concerned ministries – MNRE, DIT and NMCC.

The ISA has also assisted in the technical evaluation of solar PV proposals received in Fab City, Hyderabad. It has also drafted a semiconductor policy for the government of Karnataka, which should be out early next year, hopefully. The ISA is also working with several other state governments to promote the industry in their states.

The second ISA Solar PV Conclave is scheduled for November 2009 at Hyderabad.

Very good intentions, all of these! Now, for the Indian industry and the government to deliver, and walk hand in hand!!

Saluting Mumbaikars and Indians — we rock, despite cowardly, terrorist acts


Fellow Indians, it is really tragic to see the unfortunate events happening in Mumbai live on TV. Very thankfully, all of those that I know are safe and sound in the city. Salute to all of those brave Indians who laid down their lives in the line of fire, and to those innocents who lost their lives in this cowardly act.

India and Mumbai will not be overwhelmed by these events! We are a proud, strong and resilient bunch of people.

There are forums on the Web, such as Facebook — ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ and on eCademy, there’s a forum where emails have been literally pouring in. Am sure, there are several fellow bloggers posting live stuff on the happenings in Mumbai.

The terrorist act was meant to destabilize the Indian financial system, if you may, or even the hospitality and travel industries, and the IT/hi-tech industries. Yes, those carrying out these acts may have succeeded in the very near short-term.

Yes, the situation is much better than before. However, the gun battles rage, and it is soon going to be a full 24 hours since the terror attacks started — actually, in another 25 mins from now.

All Indians and Mumbaikars stand united. We will not allow such acts to overwhelm us. There are critical hostage situations that still need to be dealt with first. The presence of security personnel has been very comforting.

I was very pleasantly delighted to receive an invitation today from the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) for its forthcoming Vision Summit in early 2009. The theme of this summit is aptly titled “India: Gateway to Future Markets.”

Yes, indeed! There is the famous Gateway of India in Mumbai, right in front of the Taj Hotel. That’s where most visitors go — to soak in the breathtaking view. It is literally the gateway to India’s financial capital, which is Mumbai

The ISA Vision Summit is also the gateway to future markets in India! There are so many of those Indian product design companies, who are ruling the roost globally! Not to forget, the very strong Indian line-up within the Indian semiconductor and embedded design industry. Solar/photovoltaic is also coming up in a big way, and there will be lot of interest in the potential of renewable energy in India.

Get the message?

You can also see many articles from captains of the Indian industry pointing out how this attack will only have a very short-term impact on India. There may be small breaks in activities with minimal effect, but it will not stop India Inc. from marching forward, despite these cowardly, terrorist attacks.

India is strong and rocking! And beautiful!! Proud to be an Indian!!!

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