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India rushes to the frontline

Posted: 07 Sep 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:semiconductor? ic design?

India has long remained in the shadows of the global economy, but this year, the rigid nation's economic growth rate is one the fastest in the world. In-Stat projects India's electronics market to grow at a CAGR of 23 percent to reach $40 billion in value by 2010.

At present, India is providing an IT workforce for high-tech companies around the world and is on its way to becoming the "knowledge center" for the global technology economy.

According to In-Stat, computer engineers in the region are not only writing software applications and maintaining mature computer systems, but they are also managing sophisticated networks, designing web sites and developing software for entire business processes for big Western corporations.

Attracting more chip design

Despite a weak semiconductor manufacturing base and the absence of any wafer fabrication infrastructure, India has attracted a number of semiconductor companies for chip design centers. This year, embedded memory technology provider Emerging Memory Technologies Inc. opened a design center in the region to support its growing business in the Asia-Pacific. The center will offer the company's full set of memory design services and IP products, including DRAM, SRAM, TCAM and ROM.

Texas Instruments Inc. is planning a string of further initiatives in India, said TI chairman Tom Engibous during a speaking engagement in Bangalore marking the company's 20 years of R&D and sales in the country.

Meanwhile, high-speed interface chip vendor Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. is to set up an Indian subsidiary firm called Vitesse Semiconductor (India) Pvt. Ltd. The subsidiary will conduct chip R&D at its center in Hyderabad. Vitesse also inked an alliance with Adaptec Inc. earlier this year to develop and market Serial-Attached SCSI products. As part of the agreement, Vitesse deployed some Adaptec engineers at Hyderabad. Adaptec's work in India will be consolidated at its Bangalore center. Vitesse plans to move more and more chip development activities to India.

Also joining the rush of semiconductor companies opening design centers in India is AMI Semiconductor Inc. The company believes that establishing a new design facility in India will give them access to a pool of talent that can support their worldwide design and development requirements.

Developing talents at home

With the growth in design services, demand for design schools in India is high, as students are willing to pay for the education and recruiting companies are willing to reimburse tuition fees. Pushed to the brink by a severe shortage of IC design engineers, Open-Silicon is teaming up with Magma Design Automation Inc. to start an ASIC design school.

The school will cover various aspects of VLSI design, including architecture and logic design, functional verification, physical design, analog and mixed-signal design, test and packaging. In addition to these, a six-month module with soft skills will be offered to enable students to be productive in a corporate environment.

Altera Corp. recently tied up with the government-owned Center for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) under the Altera Consultant Alliance Program, enabling C-DoT to leverage its IP and system-design capability across global customers. However, Altera does not plan to enroll any local company under its Megacore Partners Program, as it believes that IP companies in India need to develop their infrastructure to be able to support global customers.

FPGA vendor Xilinx Inc. said it plans to boost its funding efforts and long-term research in Indian technical institutes to support the increased use of FPGAs in India and develop tools and methodologies for use about four years from now.

Xilinx said it intends to promote the use of FPGAs among Indian design houses and sharply increase hiring at its development center in Hyderabad, which is run by CMC Ltd.

Low-cost sourcing

India has become the new back office for United States, Japan and Europe with the speediest and cheapest telecom links, investor-friendly policies and many college graduates.

STMicroelectronics, which has been conducting R&D in India since 1992, has agreed to outsource more work to Mumbai's L&T Infotech Ltd. It is also close to completing a similar agreement with another unnamed Indian company. With 1,500 engineers in Noida and 50 in Bangalore, STMicro is looking to build vertical strengths in India.

On the other hand, Motorola Inc. plans to add 1,000 more employees to its R&D efforts in India and has vowed to become a more aggressive player in the cellphone market. With a staff of 2,900 in India, Motorola claims to have the largest number of R&D staffers among telecom companies there. By the end of 2006, the company will add another 1,000 workers to its lab and R&D centers in India.

France's Alcatel is to invest about $600 million in India over the next few years, according to Indian communications and information technology minister Dayanidhi Maran. Reports state that investments will be in manufacturing, R&D and other related activities. Alcatel will expand its India R&D staff from 750 to over 2,000 by the end of 2006, said Sergei Tchuruk, chairman and chief executive of Alcatel.

IBM Corp. is adding 14,000 jobs in India after recently slashing 13,000 jobs in Europe and the United States, according to an online New York Times report.

Local efforts

Talent generation is central to the Indian semiconductor industry's effort to move up the value chain. This can be achieved through a ground initiative that encompasses every facet of the industry and fosters the creation of a supportive ecosystem.

India is attempting to develop its own semiconductor ecosystem with the opening of Semicon Park Pvt. Ltd. The facility is billed as India's first one-stop, post-design and post-fab service facility for domestic chip makers. A test facility is already operational and board-manufacturing facilities will be available by the year's end.

Expatriate Indians working in Silicon Valley are major investors in the facility, which is located on five acres and includes 350,000 feet2 of work space. The park includes a test facility, board manufacturing, a packaging service provider and a system-level programming company.

Furthermore, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) announced plans to create a new semiconductor and electronic design automation (EDA) research consortium. It has also entered into tie-ups with overseas bodies and is in talks with the Fabless Semiconductor Association and the Semiconductor Industry Association as part of efforts to establish a semiconductor industry in India.

In upcoming years, India is expected to continue to gain global eminence by taking on more multifaceted outsourced tasks. While the chip and hardware segments may take a while to mature, In-Stat believes that India will further attract multinationals eager to set up, shop and serve the massive consumer market.

Kathryn S. Gerardino

Electronics Engineering Times-Asia

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