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BV Naidu quits SemIndia; what now of Indian fab story?

September 26, 2008 1 comment

There’s this report on DNA Money about BV Naidu, managing director of SemIndia Systems Pvt Ltd and SemIndia Fab Pvt Ltd having quit his job! This immediately begs the question: What now of the Indian fab story? Or, has it sunk without a trace?

There have been several questions raised in the past, as well as in the recent past, such as:

1. Is India’s fab story going astray?
2. Why have fabs in India in the first place?
3. Can an Indian based fab take on the might of established global fabs? How will it be profitable in this climate?
4. What can an Indian fab produce unique, that other fabs cannot?
5. What has the Indian semicon policy achieved, when the Indian semicon industry was doing well, prior to the announcement of the policy?
6. What does India bring to the semicon world?
7. Why move to solar, when there’s been no action of note for wafer IC fabs?
8. Why convert the Fabcity in Hyderabad, to Solarcity?
9. Solar/PV isn’t exactly semiconductors, so why this hype about solar fabs? Is this being done to hide the lack of any success in semiconductor fabs?

Right! I am not here to provide the answers to such questions, nor am I qualified enough to address these! These are questions, if they are justifiable questions, to be answered by the industry! Rather, I will try and analyze what India has done and can do in semiconductors!

May I add here that according to the India Semiconductor Association, BV Naidu remains an active member of the Executive Council. BV Naidu himself informed me that he will be continuing at the board level at SemIndia, moving away from executive responsibilities. And, he will be continuing at the ISA. So that’s good news!

Now back to the discussion!

First, yes, before and post the Indian semiconductor policy, India continues to do very well in semiconductors. Nearly every single MNC has its presence here; and no one that I know, has said that it has no plans to expand in India! Two, we have been traditionally very strong in design services and continue to remain so! Three, India is the emerging (or already emerged) embedded superstar!

Having a wafer IC fab isn’t such a big deal, is it? So many folks have already moved on to fab-lite anyway! Yes, having one wafer IC fab would surely prop up India’s image in the global semicon market, but well, not having one, won’t sully India’s image either!

If we do not get a fab, then let’s just all accept that India was not ready for one, and let’s move on! Life in semiconductors is much more than wafer fabs, as India’s brilliant design services companies keep proving day in and day out!

I’ve said before in one of my blogs that doing product development is probably not India’s strength! Design services surely is! Let’s focus on our strength!

Will the moving out of BV Naidu from SemIndia effect the Indian industry? Why should it? Actually, far from it! Some companies in IP and other embedded areas are doing very well anyway. Let’s give such companies their due credit! They’ve been present, much before the India Semiconductor Association was formed, or way long before the Indian semicon policy was born!

I interact regularly with the length and breadth of the Indian semiconductor industry. I’ve been covering this industry much before the India Semiconductor Association was even formed! If I remember correctly, I was among the three journalists present on the day the ISA was actually launched! Coming back to my point, I’ve yet to come across one person from the industry who does not understand the dynamics of this industry!

If a fab does not happen or someone leaves a company, that does not mean that there’s been a failure. Maybe, it was a wrong choice to start off with! Perhaps, it just coincided with the turbulent global semiconductor industry. Or, simply, semiconductor was mistaken to be a commodity, which it is not!

India has had several investments in solar. Two days from now, there’ll be a major solar/PV conference in New Delhi. Solar is within the ecosystem units of the Indian semicon policy, and it has attracted major investments. Yes, solar has to do with energy security, and in that regard, India could well be on the right path. However, that’s just one small part of the complete story of the semicon policy!

As to whether India should focus on semicon OR solar, I am not the right person to comment or judge! Nor am I qualified enough to comment on ‘why convert Fabcity to Solarcity’. Maybe, solar is being hyped in India right now. If yes, like any other industry, once it matures, the solar bubble will burst and consolidation will happen.

There are several other ecosystem unit definitions in the semicon policy. Some may and will happen. For those who are not aware, the “ecosystem units” have been clearly defined as units, other than a fab unit, for manufacture of semiconductors, displays including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products; and assembly and test of all products.

The Indian semiconductor industry, as I see it, remains strong as before, fabs or no fabs! I don’t equate solar with semiconductors, and maybe I am wrong here, but I do believe the two should be treated separately. Not a single solar company will probably feature in India’s top 10 semiconductor companies! At least, not in my list! And, if a top executive leaves a company, why should it hamper the overall industry?

Frankly, it is the Ittiams, the MindTrees, the Cosmic Circuits’, the eInfochips, and the SoftJins who continue to remain India’s pride, even though they may be quite small in comparison to the global giants! At least, they have done India proud in their own way! Doesn’t matter if these companies do not make great media copy! These are among the Indian semiconductor companies that continue to matter!

The India semiconductor story is something like this: Lots of high-end designs are being done here. In fact, lot of key decisions are now being made out of India. The talent pool is very much intact and growing! We are leaders in design services and embedded, make no mistake.

Now, does all of this indicate a recession or depression in the Indian semiconductor industry? Or, is it an indication of India’s growing success — fabs or no fabs? You decide!

India fab story not disappearing: SemIndia

June 24, 2008 Comments off

According to B.V. Naidu, managing director, SemIndia Systems, and Vice Chairman – India Semiconductor Association (ISA), the Indian fab story is well on track. Here, he speaks about the FabCity, the status of fabs in India and SemIndia’s initiatives.

On the status of setting up of IC wafer fabs in India, he says that a couple of companies are in the process of raising the money for setting up the wafer fab in India. We still do not know the timelines for the same.

On India’s fab story is disappearing, Naidu feels that it is always difficult to raise the money for such large capital-intensive projects, which are happening first time in the country. “One of the large industrial groups also announced their plans to set-up the fab. This shows that the fab story is not disappearing,” he says.

The Andhra state government had recently sent notices to SemIndia and NanoTech over FabCity. Pertaining to the status of the project, he adds that any capital-intensive new projects of this kind will take some time. It is also quite natural that the government generally issues such notices more to put pressure so as to expedite the project implementation. It is good that the governments are closely monitoring the progress of the project implementation.

According to him, SemIndia’s ATMP project construction has started. The FabCity has already come-up and many solar PV fabs are being set-up in the FabCity. This shows that efforts of SemIndia, ISA and the government of AP have yielded the successful results to make FabCity a successful project.

The India Semiconductor Association (ISA) can only indicate that such government communications are common for wherever there is government support. The ISA will continuously put in their efforts for attracting the new investments to India and work along with the governments to make sure that their efforts are fruitful.

“SemIndia’s ATMP project construction has started and we are still looking for the investors for their fab project,” says Naidu.

So, what sort of planning is now required from the Indian semicon industry? As per the SemIndia managing director, the Indian semicon industry should continuously work with the government to make sure that the government of India’s semicon policy is successful and efforts are various state governments in attracting the new investments in this area are fruitful.

The ISA will continuously strive for creating the balanced eco-system for the semicon design industry, high-tech manufacturing and talent nurturing.

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