Semiconductor Industry in India - Current Industry Scenario & the Way Ahead

An IIT Madras alumnus, Manish has also completed his MS and PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to joining Silicon Labs in 2021, he has successfully handled key roles across Qualcomm, Iridigm and Schlumberger.  In a recent conversation with Siliconindia, Manish Kothari, SVP - Software Development, Silicon Labs shared his insights on the current semiconductor ecosystem in India and various other related aspects. Below are a few key extracts from the exclusive interview 

How do you see the current semiconductor industry in India?

The semiconductor industry is very critical to other industries including electronics, telecommunications, space, defense aerospace and automotive to name a few. According to a recent report from IBEF, India is currently home to 200+ semiconductor design and embedded software companies. This presents a huge opportunity for India to become the semiconductor design hub of the world. Meeting the nation’s growing demand for semiconductors highlights an urgent need to expand the pool of skilled labour available to support the industry. The Indian government has taken a number of steps with the necessary policy interventions because it recognizes the importance of the semiconductor industry. To encourage semiconductor manufacturing in India, the government has sponsored a number of programs such as ‘Make in India’ and Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the electronics industry, which contains a $1.7 billion incentive package for businesses that establish semiconductor manufacturing facilities in India.

Explain a few latest technologies disrupting the semiconductor space.

60 percent of the Indian semiconductor market is driven by three industries - automotive components, smartphones & wearables, and computing & data storage. India is a unique market and the software needed to run these chips efficiently will require a considerable amount of innovation and manpower from the country. The first clear technology trend is that of AIoT. With IoT devices demanding smaller size and lower power consumption, AI and IoT will together provide sensors and circuits that can handle a myriad of use cases while consuming less power. Also, combination of analytics and IoT will increase security and efficiency of the devices, while increasing visibility into production operations.

Secondly, with the need for novel architectures at an all-time high, companies are now building nanotech infused chips, non-volatile memory chips, integrating 3D designs and putting-in more efforts to simplify processes to aid with parallel information computing. This ensures less power usage and less manufacturing costs. Thirdly, the hardware requirements for 5G technology demand low-latency connectivity, reliability for indoor & outdoor networks, and more edge computing support. Technologies such as Wi-SUN can greatly help with these needs, while also aiding better connectivity of different devices. Lastly, sustainable manufacturing will be the norm as we move forward due to the growing need to scrutinize emissions along the supply chain while using alternative fuels and recycled materials to decrease carbon footprint. The future will see a completely climate-friendly environment for chip manufacturing, and this trend is already taking shape.

Throw some light on the importance of semiconductor industry for India’s Make in India initiative.

The Make in India initiative has evidently increased the nation’s potential and contribution in the electronics and manufacturing sector, while also providing a boost to job opportunities and innovations in India. The semiconductor industry forms the foundation of modern technology in various sectors, including electronics, telecommunications, automotive, healthcare, and more. Being a fundamental component of integrated circuits (ICs) that power our smartphones, computers, smart home devices, industrial equipment, and IoT devices, the growth of the semiconductor industry is crucial to every nation. By developing a robust semiconductor ecosystem within the country, India will reduce its imports and create a self-sustaining manufacturing infrastructure with well-equipped R&D suited for India and the world, paving way to the formation of a global ecosystem through technology transfer, research, skills training and development of cutting-edge solutions.

What role does the government play in improving the semiconductor ecosystem in India?

The government plays a crucial role in improving the semiconductor space in India by implementing policies, providing incentives, and creating a conducive environment for the growth of the industry. Recognizing the critical role of the semiconductor industry, the Indian government has taken several steps to support its growth. Initiatives such as the National Electronics Policy, Electronics Manufacturing Clusters Scheme, and Production-Linked Incentive Scheme have been implemented to attract investments, promote local manufacturing and strengthen the semiconductor ecosystem. Additionally, the government can also formulate and implement advantageous policies going forward to address the specific needs of the semiconductor industry.

In your opinion, what does the future hold for semiconductor industry in India?

The Indian semiconductor industry is at a tipping point with three wheels in motion - a strong R&D foundation that’s been here for over two decades, growing semiconductor manufacturing, and increasing direct end-market consumption alongside India’s GDP. The need for large-scale design needs for the myriad of use cases presents a huge opportunity for India to become the design hub of the world for semiconductors. Apart from various government initiatives and widespread adoption of IoT, 5G devices at scale, the future will see 3nm and 5nm nodes being used widely for better performance. A clear evolution that I predict is prioritizing power management and overall efficiency. Scaling techniques such as adaptive voltage scaling and dynamic frequency scaling can help in this regard.

In terms of autonomous vehicles and healthcare, we will see widespread use of LiDAR, radar and biosensors to improve sensitivity and accuracy. Meanwhile, AR and VR applications will break out of their traditional gaming industries and will move to everyday lives for entertainment, training and simulation.