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.
I was really happy to see a comment on my blog post: “What India now offers to the global semicon industry,” left by Tom Morrow, author of the SEMISpice blog, and Vice President of Global Expositions and Marketing, SEMI. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Tom.
You said: Your description of India’s Special Incentives Package Schemes for setting up and operating semiconductor fabrication as a “debacle” is off the mark. Is it really wise for the country to join an already crowded semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem when it can apply its scarce resources to join 30-50 year boom in solar, something the country desperately needs for both domestic and export development?”
“The move to solar is the right one. India had nine manufacturers of solar cells and about twice as many module makers. Most of these proposals have been in response to the Government’s announcement of a Special Incentives Package Scheme under the 2007 Semiconductor Policy.
“About 70 percent of India’s solar cell and PV module production has been exported. This is likely to change in the near future as government policy provides the push for PV deployment and following the recent release of guidelines for grid connected solar generation. Several states in India, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal have also announced their own solar policies, plans and incentive packages in recent months.
“ISA and SEMI has recognized the great opportunities in solar and have taken supportive leadership positions. While both organizations would love to see a domestic semi fab industry emerge in India, given the overcapcity in the industry today, the transition to solar has been swift, thoughtful, and right on the mark.”
First up, Tom, I did not formulate SIPS or the Indian semicon policy! I too thought India would soon build a wafer IC fab! Several delegations have visited India, in the past, with companies hoping to work with these so-called wafer IC fabs in India. I am merely a small time blogger, offering my opinions. And I love my country, no less than any other Indian!
Perhaps, you should see some of the press these ‘so-called fabs’ received! All the talk of a wafer IC fab only died down with SemIndia late last year!
If folks read my posts carefully, I’ve discussed how India has been doing fine before the semicon policy and post the policy, fab or no fab! Some knowledgeable experts have even said that fabless India shines brightly! It has shone before, and continues to do so!
Neither do I have anything against solar and the solar industry! It is a great way to trigger off manufacturing in India. Did I say otherwise?
I work closely with ISA, in fact, was present, when ISA was born, back in October 2004, and also know Sathya Prasad at SEMI India quite well. It’s a great initiative that’s going on in solar in this country. So, yes, the move to solar is a very correct one!
Still on wafer IC fabs, one expert even goes on to say that India could look at skipping the current node of technology and make an entry into the one that will be prevalent after few years.
However, my focus is essentially on semiconductor manufacturing! As many industry experts never fail to say at conferences, India needs to move up the semicon value chain! We need more semicon product start-ups!! And, that’s not happening fast enough!
Perhaps, we can just discard all of these ideas and go on being a leading player in design services (which, we already are), a much easier option.
I would still go with what Malcolm Penn of Future Horizons’ says, that India needs to re-think its semiconductor strategy! It cannot survive on chip design alone!
Even the recently held ISA Vision Summit had a session: “Indian design influence: Ideas to volume”! Speakers discussed how India should seize opportunities, especially in this downturn, and that, it is time for the Indian semiconductor industry to step up, put the right innovations in place and grow.
I am very interested in hosting an event in India on this topic — Time for India to step up: Put right innovations in place and grow! However, as I said, I am merely a small time blogger, trying to make a living. I hope I can find some support to host such an event at least once in India.
I am simply delighted that my post has drawn the interest of such a senior person at SEMI. Thank you, sir!
The picture here shows the ISA Vision Summit 2009 being inaugurated by the Guests of Honor, Dr. Debesh Das, Honorable Minister-in-Charge, Department of Information Technology, Government of West Bengal and Dr. Arunachalam, Chairman & Founder, Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Bangalore. Standing by are Jaswinder Ahuja, ISA Chairman, and Ms Poornima Shenoy, ISA President. Congrats on putting up a great show to the India Semiconductor Association, despite all the recession around us.
The opening day was largely built around sessions such as Local Products: Emerging Opportunities; Indian Design Influence: Ideas To Volumes; and Embedded Software: Its Growing Influence on the Hardware World! Yes, all of these were very interesting sessions.
However, there was no word on the Indian semicon policy, or even about India’s plans to have (OR not have) a fab! There was very little about how to incubate and handhold start-ups, and help them grow bigger! And, even less about how to go about building a successful product company in India!
It is in all of these areas, I felt, that the ISA Vision Summit 2009, lacked the punch! Last year, the enthusiasm was quite evident! The Indian semicon policy had been announced in late 2007, and the fab plans looked very much in line! However, it seems, this year, no one’s willing to bet on fabs, or rather, even speak about them!
One gentleman discussed my post on the possibility of an Indian investor buying Qimonda, and even cited examples of how looking at certain memory fabs in Taiwan won’t be quite out of line! Yes, this is exactly the time to invest and think really big, India!
Let me also highlight a comment left on my Qimonda article on CIOL by a reader, who calls himself/herself as “The Edge”. BTW, dear friend, I have not at all back-pedalled! Rather, I have been screaming hoarse, and loud enough to perhaps, land in the bad books of some industry folks 🙂 Well, here’s what “The Edge’ says:
“Ed, I happened to read your blog and notice that you have already back pedalled a bit (though the outrageous comment has not provided reasons as to why he/she feels that way.) I’ll provide some reasons as to why India should look to invest NOW and not two years later when the markets start to look up.
1) Fabs are shutting down or idling at the moment: In this scenario, equipment vendors will be more than happy to get rid of inventory even at huge losses so as to keep some business going.
2) Onus on product development: This is evolutionary and will come along with experience; akin to a baby crawling before it begins to walk! How about jumping into the foundry business first and playing a minor role in product development for the time being? The role and the direction of development will evolve over a period of time. Just as importantly, one has to be in total control of the full life-cycle of the product. Else, there will be that missing link/experience between optimum design and subsequent efficient manufacturing.
3) Technical know-how: Reverse brain-drain and attracting of expats to move to India is easier during the downturns, when intelligent folks might get laid off and would be available for a lot lesser (if at all) compared to the boom-times. Most importantly India has NOTHING to lose. This can be the first serious foray into the semicon manufacturing sector, if the money goes in now. NOT two years later, because by then, the set-up costs would be that much higher and personnel/partners/acquisitions would be hard and expensive to come by in a good market scenario. An early start, i.e., right away, will position the semicon manufacturing industry (along with whichever partner/acquisitions) to be ready to make full use of the next peak in the industry. That big name might well be Qimonda or maybe some other innovative company that might have been reduced to a pauper during this downturn.”
This is absolutely something I agree with and am passionate about! Even though others called my post out of line, and outrageous, it does not matter. I have high hopes for the Indian semicon industry, and as I was telling an industry friend today: I will continue to write about what I think should be done!
Coming back to the ISA Vision Summit, this morning, Nandan M. Nilekani, Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors, Infosys Technologies Ltd, in his keynote, highlighted communication, healthcare and energy as the key domains for semiconductor industry to leverage for potential business. The solutions should be scalable and low cost. Quite rightly so! Indian solutions to solve Indian (and global) problems are the need of the hour. Nilekani touched on India’s demographic dividend, which gives the country the rare advantage over the rest of the globe.
However, I wonder whether developing these solutions alone will be enough to pull the Indian semiconductor industry right to the top! A lot of people at the event wanted to hear my views, and as far as I am concerned: A lot more needs to be done!
Prof. Rajeev Gowda, IIM-Bangalore, the moderator for the opening session, Local Products: Emerging Opportunities, struck the nail on its head, when he said in his opening remarks that while Bangalore had become an IT center, it had yet to become a knowledge center. He stressed on the need to get people to think creatively and innovatively. If only, this was as simple as it seems!
Can the Indian semicon industry innovate? Or, will it find it hard to get out of the rut it seems to have run into, as far as fabs are concerned? Will it finally find some way of incubating, building and growing product companies? I am still awaiting a good answer, rather, any answer!
Just about 10 odd days ago, I had blogged about building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)! I had also mentioned how solar/PV will be the next big story in India, with BIPV right up there at the very top!
Well, according to a published report on India Infoline, the Indian semiconductor and fab policy has attracted 12 major proposals, worth a whopping Rs. 93,000 crores!
A Press Information Bureau (PIB) release says that the Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, has set up a panel of technical experts to evaluate the proposals.
The promoters will come up to the Appraisal Committee for sanction of subsidy under the scheme once they have reached the threshold limit of investment, as indicated in the guidelines of the Special Incentive Package Scheme.
A majority of these proposals — ten (10) — are for solar/PV. One proposal is for a semiconductor wafer — from Reliance Industries worth Rs. 18,521 crores, and another for TFT LCD flat panels — from Videocon Industries, worth Rs. 8,000 crores.
The 10 proposals for solar/PV are from: KSK Surya (Rs. 3,211 crores), Lanco Solar (Rs. 12,938 crores), PV Technologies India (Rs. 6,000 crores), Phoenix Solar India (Rs. 1,200 crores), Reliance Industries (Rs. 11,631 crores), Signet Solar Inc. (Rs. 9,672 crores), Solar Semiconductor (Rs. 11,821 crores), TF Solar Power (Rs. 2,348 crores), Tata BP Solar India (Rs. 1,692.80 crores), and Titan Energy System (Rs. 5,880.58 crores).
Does the Indian solar/PV story now start making some sense? It is very much in line to become the next big success story for India after the Indian telecom story!
Evidently, Reliance Industries is the major player in all of this, having proposed both a semicon wafer fab as well as a solar/PV fab. Lanco Solar, Solar Semiconductor, Signet Solar, Videocon, and PV Technologies are some of the other big players proposing to enter the Indian semiconductor/fab space.
Well, this is really great news for the Indian semiconductor industry! Further, it comes close on the heels of the announcement of the 3G spectrum policy and MNP policy by the government of India.
A few weeks ago, Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, president, Applied Materials India, had mentioned that taking the solar/PV route was perhaps, a practical route for India to enter manufacturing. How true are those words!
Late June, I too had proposed, among others points, that Karnataka (and other Indian states) look at having some solar/PV fabs.
Dr. Pradip K. Dutta, Corporate Vice President & Managing Director, Synopsys (India) Pvt Ltd had also mentioned late June that it was too early to write off the Indian fab story. We now have the answer to that question of having fabs in India!
All of this should also excite those investors looking to enter India. The huge interest and subsequent proposals for solar/PV can also lead to India having some of its own solar farms as well!
The India Semiconductor Association should be congratulated for having made this happen. It is soon going to a year since the Indian government had announced the semiconductor policy. Now, with these mega proposals in place, maybe, we will see more investors in the Indian semicon and solar/PV fab spaces.
Top 10 Indian semicon companies review
Another interesting thought! Last year, around this time, I had prepared a list of the Top 10 Indian semiconductor companies. This particular blog has been among the most accessed.
Perhaps, a review is in order! Besides, several Indian players are beginning to make a mark, like Cosmic Circuits, SemIndia, etc. The list of August 2007 mostly had Indian design services companies. This feature of Indian design services companies dominating a top 10 list will probably continue for some more time, till all of these proposals bear fruit into concrete, productive fabs.
I am sure, with those mega investments coming into the Indian semicon wafer IC fab and solar/PV fabs, most of the companies would soon figure in any top 10 list!\
Surely, 2009 should be quite exciting as all of this means a very positive future and outlook for the Indian semiconductor industry.
A very interesting question was recently thrown at me: what sort of semiconductor policy should Karnataka adopt as a state! I shall attempt to highlight some of the activities the Karnataka government can look at implementing in the semicon/EMS space.
Let us first go back to last September, when the Indian government issued fab guidelines. Besides wafer IC and solar/PV fabs, the Indian government is seeking investments in ecosystem units for LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, photovoltaics, solar cells, storage devices, advanced micro and nanotech products, etc.
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 the above products.
For starters, the Karnataka state needs to have a long-term semiconductor policy in place, running 20-25 years or so. This cannot be a short-term plan! It would be prudent to have the top Indian leaders from Indian firms and MNCs, e.g., Ittiam, MindTree, Synopsys, Cadence, TI, Analog Devices, as well as the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) and some other leading technology institutes, be the part of a core state semiconductor policy team to oversee the implementations. Future state governments would only need to update the status and keep it rolling forward.
Incentives need to be built in as well, including more tax holidays, etc. Whether it needs to be 25-30 percent or higher, is to be debated. Next, the focus of a semicon policy should be aimed at solving some particular local problem, which can go on to solve a much bigger national problem.
All of this should be done with, keeping in view to improving the infrastructure in the state, such as roads, water, electricity, etc. Foreign investors would shy away if infrastructure issues were not tackled first.
In this context, the Karnataka government should first look at having some solar/PV fabs in the state, as well as those in the nanotech space. Next, it would be prudent to pursue a policy of attracting companies in the verification and testing domains. Rather, have companies in the ATMP space, a pointer, which has been coming up in most of the discussions.
As an example, last year, an Israeli company — Nova Measuring Instruments — was keen on entering India. Nova develops, produces, and markets advanced monitoring, measurement and process control systems for the semiconductor manufacturing industry. It should be pursued to start assembly and testing of products in the state.
Wafer IC fabs are going to be a tough act to follow. Unless a company can get the requisite funding for a 300mm fab, it is not advisable to follow that path. However, there is room for developing 200mm fabs, or even 150mm and 180mm fabs. These can be used to develop indigenous and simple applications. If such fabs are developed, those companies offering fab-related services can be attracted as well.
The Indian semicon policy statement speaks about having ecosystem units. It would be advisable to attract smaller companies and look at setting up manufacturing units. As an example, Synopsys’s Subhash Bal had once pointed out how RFID can be used in a host of applications. That’s not all. Why not pursue companies in the OLEDs/LEDs and PDPs spaces as well, besides those manufacturing LCDs, even if smaller-sized.
Finally, consider attracting and promoting companies in the fabless space, as it looks to be the way ahead for the semiconductor industry.
Here is a 10-point program for the Karnataka government to consider as a likely semiconductor policy.
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 the PDP, OLED/LED space to set up manufacturing units.
10. Promote and set up more fabless units.
There should be some steps to create specific zones for setting up such units — for fabs, fabless, ATMP, manufacturing, etc., all spread equally across the state.
On a personal note, I would be keen and willing to work with the Indian/Karnataka government, or the concerned parties, in formulating such a policy, should I am invited. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing India, and Karnataka, shining in the semiconductor space.