What’s happening with ISA and Indian semicon industry?

October 17, 2011

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.

  1. A Ravin
    October 17, 2011 at 11:25 am

    This is correct! What has ISA done for India? Nothing. You go to vision summit and there are presentation from Wipro, Infosys, who have no presence absolutely in semiconductors? Indian semiconductor companies are not even invited to speak, especially. We don’t have that money. No money, no honey!

    All ISA does is do events and make money! Even the office bearers are from foreign companies! There is no vision!

    • October 17, 2011 at 11:31 am

      Hello, while I cannot comment on what the ISA Vision Summit should or should not do, perhaps, you should get in touch with the ISA separately. Best wishes.

  2. Dr. MP Divakar
    October 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Pradeep, thanks again for continuing to hammer home your message on this topic. I sent you a link for an article in your LinkedIn update. According to that (The Hindu) article, we will be importing $400B worth of electronics, while the domestic capability (the best forecasts) will not even serve 1/4 of it. It claims the imports of electronics would be about two-and-a-half times the current oil imports!! The article even quotes PVG Menon, president, Indian Semiconductor Association, whom, I assume, you tried to contact and get the accurate info!

    We have many companies in Bangalore, Noida, Pune, etc., that do designing, verification and embedded software, etc. But, very few that do concept to finished product because we lack the ecosystem, personnel & resources. You have heard me umpteen times on getting these addressed by taking the lower investment approach of MEMS and backend, packaging & test. The world is rapidly moving in this space, but we in India are getting good at pontificating as usual!

    Dr. MP Divakar

    • October 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm

      Sir, many thanks for the comment. Mr Menon’s comment came very late, and is pasted at the end. However, I agree with you. I really wonder what’s happening with the Indian semicon industry. Have written so much about this, but it seems NO ONE is paying any attention. What do I do? 🙂 Regards!

  3. Bevan
    October 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I am very amused by Memon’s comment! How long has he been ISA head? Two-three months? He should study global industry first.

  4. October 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Sir, let us wait and see what happens. Maybe, the Indian semiconductor industry might take off big time. Best wishes.

  5. Pinaki Mukherjee
    October 20, 2011 at 12:17 am

    A just and apropos call on a matter of very high magnitude. I would like thank the author for his effort.

    Really, what’s happening with Indian Semiconductor Industry (if there is one that is)? From the look of the things it’s becoming as Gartner’s G. Ramamoorthy predicted sometimes ago – India is becoming more of a consumer than provider when it comes to semiconductor tech. I know building up state-of-the-art fabs is one the most difficult technological challenges but surely one can’t fail without trying.

    China and Taiwan are already miles ahead. As you’ve mentioned, one has to be awed by the tremendous growth that manufacturers like TSMC has achieved! Today, at least five of the top 15 chip/SoC designers are depending on TSMC for their high-end nex-gen products.

    When will our policy makers realize that it takes more than SIPS (Special Incentive Package Scheme, 2007?)/EOI to take on such an important mission? Only 25 Indian companies? Really? Surely, this joke can’t continue for long, but I’m afraid the damage is already done. Fabs like TSMC, UMC, etc., are going through a lot of transitions and modifications every year while spending huge amounts on R&D. Technological advancement doesn’t wait, and the later you join the race, the more wheels you’ve to break.

  6. Thomas
    October 22, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Hey Prad, why are you wasting time writing about Indian semiconductors? You were so good in Hong Kong and China and Taiwan. Come back to Asia Pacific region, if possible. The global semiconductor industry needs you badly!

    • October 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm

      Hey Thomas, thanks. Perhaps, I should return to the Far east. What say? 😉

    • October 30, 2011 at 7:23 pm

      This is really strange! Wonder what some people have against me from returning to the Far East! 😉

  7. Raxas
    December 31, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Why has the Indian semicon industry taken the path of ‘least desirable’? Remember, in early 2000, when there was no ISA, the industry was still doing ok. Now, all one sees and hears are more MNCs coming in, which is fine. But where are the Indian semicon companies?? Or, are they only formed to provide ‘services’? Something must be done!!!

    • December 31, 2011 at 8:41 am

      Hello, thanks for the comment. I don’t really know how to respond! Perhaps, there will be better times for the Indian industry in the years ahead.

      Best wishes for a great 2012! 😉

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