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What should India do to boost electronics manufacturing?

February 3, 2014 Comments off

The IESA 2014 Vision Summit opened today in Bangalore, with the one key question: what does India need to do to boost electronics manufacturing? Here are some words of wisdom from some industry icons.

SR Patil

SR Patil

SR Patil, Minister for IT-BT, Science and Technology, Karnataka, remarked that at present, we are not able to find any significant place in global hardware arena. We are heavily dependent on other countries to import electronic goods – that may be computers, chips, mobile phones and the list goes on.

“If I am right, our import bill of electronic goods has surpassed $30 billion previous year. It is calculated to be $42 billion by next year if we don’t initiate sincere measures to boost the domestic manufacturing. I don’t have any hesitation to say that we must learn lessons from small countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Israel on this count.”

The main objective of the Karnataka ESDM policy is to make the state a preferred destination for ESDM investment, and emerge as the ESDM leader in the country.

Patil said: “We aim to generate around 2.4 lakh jobs and 20 percent of the country’s total ESDM export target of $80 billion by the year 2020. We are preparing a ground for setting up of ESDM clusters – both that of Brownfield and Greenfield.”

As many eight ESDM companies have registered with the IT-BT Department recently and obviously they are entitled for various incentives and concessions under the new policy.

Dr. Om Nalamasu, senior VP and CTO, Applied Materials Inc. added that establishing a high-value manufacturing industry as semiconductor chip fabrication will have transformative effect on the overall electronics industry in India.

This will have a very strong multiplier effect that will result in major strides forward in the value generated from all sectors within the semiconductor ecosystem – one of the biggest being the growth of high-tech and high value-add employment opportunities this will generate in the country. The historic significance of this approval will be felt for many years to come. Manufacturing in India will soon witness a new frontier.

A strong manufacturing base is critical for high-growth economies. There are successful examples in South East Asia where advanced manufacturing has resulted in strong GDP multipliers. In India, there’s a strong electronics market opportunity, driven by telecom, IT, consumer and industrial electronics; 65 percent of these electronic products are imported today. The disposable income of the growing middle class in India and China will continue to drive electronics market growth.

The point is: all of these words have been spoken over and over again! The first semicon policy was announced in 2007-08, followed by a revised policy in 2010-11. In between, the first Karnataka semicon policy was announced. However, there have been very, very few, or no takers! Even the first semicon fab policy announcement went unaccounted for! Later, last year, there was another announcement regarding two fabs that are said to be coming up!

When will India deliver? One hopes that happens soon!

What should India do to boost semiconductors?

February 4, 2013 11 comments

I’ve already written a lot on the Indian semiconductor industry. Now, there’s nothing new to say. Even then, I am literally coaxed to say what I think the Indian semiconductor industry should do! As though the industry will listen to a nobody like me! 🙂

First, the industry should stop wasting time running here and there, and focus on getting the job done! Semiconductors isn’t a new area, and has been in existence even before the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) came into being in 2005.

There have been talks (ongoing since about 2006) about building fabs in India. Well, where are they? Back in 2010, I wrote a post titled Indian industry proposes to extend deadline of India’s semicon policy up to March 2015! One sincerely hopes that has actually happened!

India could consider building 150/180/200mm fabs that tackle local problems via indigenous applications. And, there are scores of local issues that need to be dealt with! I’ve said before, and am repeating myself at the sake of repetition — the semiconductor industry is NOT the IT industry, but it appears to being treated like one, especially in India!

Indian companies could consider developing firms in the assembly testing, verification and packaging (ATMP) space. Very little has happened so far and a lot more needs to be done. There could be some attempts to attract and invite companies in areas such as RFID to address local problems and develop local applications, unless India has given up on RFIDs.

I really have very little idea whether there is any interest in India to pursue global companies in PDP, OLED/LED space for setting up manufacturing units. Although, I can safely bet that if it is the Chinese companies that Indian firms are setting themselves up to take on, we would have a very long way to go!

India also needs to kindly forget about the ‘states race’! It has not helped anyone so far, nor will it help anyone in future!! In the end, we are all looking to develop India, aren’t we?

I didn’t even know that there is so much time required for setting up a pan-industry panel that will determine the top five products that are important for India! Seriously!! Anyone, who resides in India, should be able to tell you that the key sectors in India are automotive, consumer, industrial, medical and telecom. Agree that automotive and certain medical electronics areas can be expensive. Well, there are still three areas to pursue!

If anyone had simply bothered to send me an email or even call me, I’d have very happily told them about the top five product lines that are important for India and much more! 😉  There is a pressing need to develop a robust Indian semiconductor industry, led by local companies! Many would agree that all of this seems very easy to say, but difficult to manage! 😉

Synopsys on outlook for global semicon 2013!

January 17, 2013 1 comment

Thanks to Sheryl Gulizia, senior manager, Worldwide Public Relations, Synopsys Inc., I was able to connect with John Chilton, senior VP of Marketing and Strategic Development, Synopsys. We discussed the global (and Indian) outlook for the semiconductor industry in detail. Dr. Aart De Geus was apparently away on a business meet. 

John Chilton.

John Chilton.

According to Chilton, the semiconductor industry has repeatedly stared down the daunting technical challenges caused by the necessity of Moore’s Law and the inevitability of the laws of physics. Every time, the industry has risen to the challenge and delivered silicon that is smaller, faster and cheaper, and the design and systems companies that were quickest to exploit the new technologies reaped the great benefit.

Power dissipation challenging
One trend that has proven to be especially challenging is power dissipation. Although transistors get smaller, faster and cheaper, chip power keeps increasing. Increasing power and decreasing size could have caused device-melting energy densities, but the industry rose to the challenge with more innovative physics along with smarter design methods and tools.

This time around, the challenge seems more fundamental, with the new nodes offering either better performance or lower power, but not both at the same time, and maybe not at a lower cost. The fundamental driving factor behind innovation has been smaller, faster and cheaper transistors, with the cheaper part making the migration a no-brainer. Unfortunately, this time the new node is not expected to be cheaper.

App processors to drive move to 20nm
Application processors for mobile and cloud-based services will drive the move to 20nm. These applications have the volume and power/performance needs to justify the expected investment required to embrace the 20nm node. Recent product announcements at CES underscore the emergence of the ‘cloud to mobile client’ trend in consumer electronics.

Dell and Wyse unveiled the project Ophelia. Ophelia is a USB memory stick-sized thin client that will plug into any compatible TV or Dell monitor. The device will boot into an Android OS and turn any TV into a portal to access a computer somewhere else. Ophelia works by taking advantage of the MHL protocol and works with any MHL-enabled display. Over 100-million MHL-compliant chipsets have already been shipped, so the opportunities for this type of interaction are growing.

MHL, along with established standards such as USB and HDMI or even future short-range wireless standards, will enable consumers to plug their cell phone into any monitor or TV and consume content via their phone on a larger, more satisfying display.

Coincidentally, on the same day, Samsung announced consumer displays that utilize voice and gesture recognition. These emerging technologies will begin to redefine the way we interact with the cloud. Instead of carrying a laptop, you may end up waving and talking to a TV. In a futuristic presentation, Lexus showed a prototype of a laser-scanning system that is small enough to be mounted on a grill and makes 3-D maps of the environment surrounding a car. This kind of embedded vision technology will make its way into more devices as processor performance increases.

Chilton said that developing such complex systems and applications require a robust verification solution. Chip designers already use complex and exhaustive test benches to test individual blocks and subsystems. Verification engineers will need to move up to the next level and handle the full verification of the SoC within a target system.

Verification of an integrated system will require an integrated verification solution that includes not just simulation but also acceleration, emulation and formal debug. A new, integrated verification platform should combine these existing discrete technologies to offer the productivity needed to realize complex systems with predictable, manageable schedules.

Delivering the hardware simultaneously with a working OS and development kit will require virtual prototypes, which will be used by software developers prior to the release of working hardware.
Read more…

Can being fabless and M-SIPS take India to top?

August 6, 2012 Comments off

The other day, I was engaged in an interesting discussion regarding the Indian semiconductor industry. The obvious question: can fabless semiconductor take India to the top?

Well, it all depends on the definition of ‘top’! Does it mean the role of India-based semiconductor companies as a percentage of the semiconductor market globally? Or, do we take India as a system/gadget maker and thus, as a percentage of that market??

Fabrication is increasingly expensive, much involved and the actual global fabrication players (i.e. those who (also) own a fabrication plant) are declining and will be about three to four companies, and about 10, if we include all off those Chinese fabs.

And, India continues to slip back in having a ((proper) fab!

Now, India’s contributions to global electronics and semiconductors will continue to increase as the MNC subsidiary companies’ hub, and not quite as India-based companies, who are coming out with something that will shake the world in terms of that chip(s)!

If India has domestically consuming gadgets, that are more India specific, that could need devices available less outside. For that purpose alone, a local fab could be essential. However, such requirements appear less each day!

So, yes! Fabless semiconductor could be the way forward for India, in terms of contribution to its economy. However, in terms of India becoming a global player through such chips conceptualized in India, for India and the world, the chance is lesser, for now!

Well, hasn’t the Indian semiconductor industry been shouting ‘fabless’ from the rooftops for some years now? Let us see how India has progressed so far!

One, in terms of having local fab, the answer is NO! Two, in terms of increasing its percentage of contribution to global semiconductors, electronics from India, YES, an increasing role and value (though these are embedded software too).

In terms of having India-based companies working toward developing chips, YES again, in terms of smaller, analog, components that are crucial (like Cosmic Circuits), and YES, in terms of having IP-based companies (like Innovative Logic India for USB3.0) and, YES in terms of increasing service companies.

Many more companies are coming up, and some started directly here in India, such as Apsconnect, Techvulcan, etc. In terms of the actual solutions, YES again, as we have developed solutions in medical, automation, etc.

However, the answer to the question remains NO in terms of having chips come out of India, as yet!

Now, what happens to the fab-lite strategy? Well, it continues, globally. From an India perspective, it is actually in a way, validation of the earlier belief. There is less direct importance to manufacturing from themselves, but more about the actual value add they do OR can do.

Now, given this situation, let us also look at the key growth drivers in Indian electronics, especially, since we are talking about fabless and fab-lite.

The obvious one is to develop solutions for the India market. It is likely that these can be for outside markets as well. This ability will actually make India develop solutions for global markets. Also, these are not semiconductors per se, but, (embedded) solutions based on them.

The above situation can slowly lead to a fabrication and manufacturing ecosystem in India. India should also try to position itself at the higher end of the solutions, markets, services, etc., so that its value contribution can be much more.

Friends, is there a way out of the current situation that India finds itself?

Actually, this is normal process of growth in the chosen path. India continues to think about low end, less (or no) risk options of services. There is only so much growth, revenue, profit possible in those areas unless one goes up the market.

India has not done that as it could be, as an ecosystem in all. India should focus on its own internal requirements. That could mean growth and an increasing role for India, globally, as well!

Besides manufacturing, the big issue lies in marketing of such products. A senior statesman from a leading Indian electronics firm once asked me, “How will India compete in marketing of these products compared to the Chinese or Taiwanese manufacturers, who have more than 30 years of experience in these industries?”

How one wishes that India had at least two wafer fabs by now, what with the technology nodes constantly upping their ante. Even if someone does decide to put up a fab, it will be extremely expensive and has to be cutting-edge. However, as I said, one should never give up hope!

And then, there is the Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS).

The newly announced M-SIPS is long awaited and much needed. The key is to now turn this ‘gazette notification’ into implementation, by the regulators, and utilisation by the industry.

It is understandable that the government can only do so much, particularly, under the given circumstances. With that kept in mind, this is a yet another good start! Hopefully, instead of just commenting on this policy, the industry sincerely works to benefit from it by properly utilizing it.

Why just think of digitalization of TV! The number of set-top boxes required across the country will be huge! Or, think of electrification of roads all over India. The number of LEDs required are likely to be massive. These are just two examples of the many possible. The Indian electronics industry needs to move fast, and now!

Hasn’t all of this been very easy  to say, difficult to manage! 😉

Round-up 2011: Best of semiconductors

December 31, 2011 Comments off

Right folks! This is the last post for 2011!! Here’s a look at the good, bad and ugly, that the year had to offer in semiconductors. Enjoy! 😉 Happy new year, everyone!

Dec. 2011
Round-up 2011: Best of semiconductors

Video and mobility drivers for global semicon in 2012

Future materials and devices for power electronics

SuVolta solving power problem in SoCs across multiple CMOS process nodes

Global semiconductor industry keeps consolidating; 28nm will be stable: Dr. Wally Rhines

Synopsys acquires Magma! And, another one bites the dust!!

Nov. 2011
Lattice intros low power ECP4 FPGAs

Global semicon sales forecast at $329.4 billion for 2012! — What about this one? A well-read piece! 😉

MEMS Executive Congress 2011 round-up

Global semiconductor market will be $313 billion in 2012: SSIA — It seems 2012 will pan out this way! 😉

MEMS market overview: IHS iSuppli

NXP licenses Broadcom’s BroadR-Reach Ethernet technology for in-vehicle networking

MEMS devices driving healthcare apps!

Updated global semicon sales forecast 2011′s estimate falls $2.74 billion

Oct. 2011
DIT outlines initiatives to promote ESDM in India

Game changers: New paradigms for future of electronic product realization

Designing systems to thrive in disruptive trends!

Realizing EDA360: Charlie Huang, Cadence — Focus on EDA360! 😉

What’s happening with ISA and Indian semicon industry? — Defining piece! 😉

Altera launches SoC FPGAs

Emerging piezoMEMS apps and ion beam etch solutions for next gen MEMS and sensors

ESDM all over again? When will Indian semicon and electronics industries learn??

Semiconductor supply chain dynamics: Future Horizons @ IEF2011

Sep. 2011
India has restricted itself to only semicon design and R&D!

ST launches STM32 F4 series of MCUs

ARM connecting the world!

Renesas enhancing localization of products in India!

Magma announces Silicon One strategy

Need to work toward sustainable future: imec

Aug. 2011
Freescale launches first ‘base-station-on-chip’ products!

Semicon industry at inflection point of innovation: Rich Beyer

NXP launches CAN partial networking solution for automotives

Fabless fables and all that! Is India listening?

What’s happening with global semicon industry?

2011 global semicon sales growth likely to trend downward for rest of year? Read more…

DIT outlines initiatives to promote ESDM in India

October 21, 2011 Comments off

The Department of IT, Government of India, recently organized a workshop on electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM), conducted by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA). Dr. Ajay Kumar, joint secretary, Dept. of IT, Government of India, touched upon some major initiatives to promote ESDM. These include:

* Setting up two semiconductor wafer fabs for manufacture of chips.
* Introducing Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme to encourage manufacture of high-priority electronic products in India.
* Provide incentives for setting up of electronics manufacturing clusters.
* Setting up of the National Electronics Mission (NEM).
* Providing Preferential Market Access to domestically manufactured electronics products for government procurement and procurement by government licensees.
* Setting up of “Electronic Development Fund”.

Some of the other initiatives to promote ESDM include:
* Draft National Policy for Electronics, 2011 released for public consultation on October 3, 2011. Comments invited till end October.
* Additional items  included under ESDM for benefit of Special Focus Scheme under the Foreign Trade Policy recently.
* Mandating health and safety standards for 16 major electronic items under finalization in consultation with BIS.
* Private sector participation in human resource development being promoted.
* Sector specific initiatives for set-top boxes, medical electronics, avionics, industrial electronics, automotive electronics, LEDs, strategic electronics for defense, space and nuclear.
* Awareness creation and interest generation domestically and globally.
* Renaming the Department as Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY).

The semiconductor design industry in India consists of VLSI design, board/hardware design and embedded software development. The size was estimated at $6.5 billion in 2009 and is expected to log a CAGR of 17.3 percent over the next three years to reach $10.6 billion in 2012. Nearly 2,000 chips are being designed each year and more than 20,000 engineers being engaged in various aspects of chip designing and verification. Read more…

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.

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