What is the focus for IESA for 2021?
IESA had set its focus on electronics and semiconductor design and manufacturing in the past and for the last 4-5 years manufacturing has been steadily picking up in India, especially the mobile phones, set top boxes and other such gadgets. Now, since the Government of India is taking steps and inviting plans and other manufacturing facilities, IESA will slowly start putting more emphasis for promoting and working with government agencies for manufacturing. At the same time, IESA will also focus on the fabless semiconductor industry. In the semiconductor ecosystem, there are very few companies that have their own fabs. All the top companies in the world like Qualcomm, Broadcom, and AMD, don’t have fabs. So, India should focus on the fabless ecosystem. We should start creating our own fabulous semiconductor companies, designing our own products for the Indian market and that’s where IESA should also focus, on creating the ecosystem.
How do you see India shaping up with the govt’s push in the ESDM and the Semiconductor industry?
We have witnessed a few initiatives from the government side. As I said, most of the companies in the semiconductor side, do not have their own fabs. They design the chips, get them fabricated in TSMC or other global foundries and then get them packaged and tested under a segment called ATMP. Finally, they ship the products and chips to the system manufacturers. On the system side, India has done reasonably well, especially in the mobile phone manufacturing space with a million smartphones or future phones in India, and I expect this growth to continue. These are not only being used for internal consumption, but also for export. India has become the second largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world with TVs and set top boxes being imported. India is slowly trying to get them also locally manufactured. Similarly, on the semiconductor side, almost every chip that goes into these gadgets is very important. To have our own fabs in India to make these chips is quite a challenge. It’s a lot more complex than just making cell phones in India. There are only two fabs in the world right now, which are the leading technologies. India has recently invited proposals for setting up fabs in India and willing to fund from the government side. India should continue try to bring some fabrication in India. They also included ATMP in their recent policies, like the specs policy. We should have some of that stuff going on in India in the next two years. So, slowly, we will create an ecosystem that will lead to having our own fabs in the future.
Role of AI in the growth in indigenous, manufacturing and innovation in the country
This is a relatively new field, and people are all excited about it. In the 70’s and 80’s, PCs have fueled the growth in semiconductor side, with the chips that were going into PCs. This created a huge growth in the semiconductor space. After this the networking chips, in all these platforms and the Internet came into the scene where a lot of connectivity was needed. Thus, here, the networking chips kind of fueled the growth. With the evolution and popularity of mobile phones, there were new semiconductor companies that came up making chips for the same. This aided the semiconductor industry in the last few years. After the mobile phones surge, there were not really many new semiconductor startups or much VC funding going into semiconductors. However, suddenly AI started getting lot of attention and focus. There were a few successful semiconductor startups creating chips only for AI applications with over 150 startups that were funded in globally in the last three-four years focused on creating semiconductor chips for AI applications. For instance, China has been heavily investing in this space. India too can invest in manufacturing locally to unleash several growth opportunities. Since we did very well, in the IT sector, creating software applications for all multinational companies, having design centers here. However, the country can now invest and come up with our own software applications, our own software, specifically focusing on AI, algorithms and AI applications to make a bigger contribution.
Tell us something about the two-day AI summit that got concluded today.
When we formed the Hyderabad chapter a year ago, we wanted to focus on the emerging technologies to help educate the community in terms of business opportunities and growth. Thus, we decided to focus on AI which worked well for us, as the Government of Telangana declared 2020 to be the year of AI and created the AI mission for Telangana. This announcement further paved the way for us to go ahead for this Summit along with focused webinars for the student and the entrepreneurs.
We started with conducting 5-6 webinars led by leading companies like Qualcomm, Intel to name a few. In fact, a 4-hour long class was led by Intel. We wanted to focus on the technology aspect of AI and thus divided the theme into four different sessions with different focus areas. The first session focused on semiconductors and how AI has started becoming accessible to the common man due to advancements in the semi-conductor industry. The second session focused on AI as the software enabler, as AI needs special algorithms and tools for developing these applications. The third session focused on system level to understand how companies like Google and Amazon use AI in the real-life applications and the final session focused on what India can do in terms of creating the talent pool and the ecosystem for startups.
We had over 1000 participants and delegates from all over the world – China, US, Singapore. We had some eminent speakers like Mr. Dado Banatao, Managing Partner, Tallwood Venture Capital. Concluding the first Hyderabad chapter, we feel that it was a successful event, and we hope to keep up with this momentum with better content and speakers in future.
Tell us about your journey with MosChip
Prior to shifting my base in India, I used to reside in Silicon Valley for the last 30 years where I had my own startup focused more on semiconductor and IT. In 2018, MosChip was struggling and was looking for a new CEO to set the strategy and direction to rebuild the company and I took this opportunity and relocated in 2018. MosChip has a 20-year track record in the industry. They are the first fabric semiconductor company in India to design their own chips and get them fabricated in Taiwan and sell over millions of those chips. I made a few strategic changes focused on opportunities for growth. We optimized the resources and cleaned up the struggling areas. From the past one year, we witnessed good results, especially for the first three quarters. We will be announcing the quarter results very soon. In general, I feel that the company is back on track and we see a great future for MosChip.
Role of corporates in skilling the youth
Corporates do have some responsibility towards skilling the youth. Most of the corporates look for engineers to come onboard and start contributing right away but in reality, it’s different. Primarily, because most educational institutions focus on teaching the basic engineering skills and as a result, these new joinees require a lot of hand holding and training before they become productive. For instance, chip-designing is more specialized and thus it takes one to two years to train these people. Hence, I feel that leading companies should set aside a budget every year to train students and fresh graduates as interns. At MosChip, we have our own training centre where we run training sessions in specialized areas like chip layouts, analog layouts, digital design to name a few. We train the students for 3-4 months and then we hire the top performers from there.
Thus, the industry must be more proactive and involved and work closely with academia to create a talent pool. AI is an emerging field, and there are a lot of opportunities leading to an increase in requirement of skilled professionals.