The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

India: The Promising Vista for Semiconductor

Eureka Bharali
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Eureka Bharali
25 years earlier, India found its first software design center from the multi-national player, Texas Instruments, which had a special eye on simple analog design. The operation started small, creating software to automate chip design. Currently, it has become the company’s largest R&D center outside the U.S., designing chips end-to-end. Over the years many followed suit and today, India is an R&D hub for each of the semiconductor players including Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom and NXP, and electronic design automation firms such as Mentor Graphics, Cadence and Synopsys. The country has come a long way since then and there’s more for it. “Typically semiconductor firms have expertise on designs with silicon but now the differentiation will be created through softwares, device structures, system architectures. In fact, to cut the chip design cost there would be embedded software automation and distributed model based designs,” says Walden Rhines, CEO and Chairman, Mentor Graphics. In this new paradigm, India stands to gain. The country has always been strong on software and with more software creeping into the chip designs, India’s competency is leveraged.

Initially, it was the low cost that turned the chip industry on, now, as Rhines says, “It is more about finding the software rockstars for product building in the opportune land.” Half of the masters and 71 percent of the PhDs in electrical engineering from U.S. universities are foreign nationals. In 2000, the number of foreign nationals who remained in the U.S. after they finished their doctorates was about 97 percent. However, while contributing to the companies and the U.S. economy, these highly educated graduates must wait for years for their green cards, putting their lives in limbo. As a result, there has been a massive transition since, and today, a number of foreign nationals with PhDs are increasingly heading back to their own motherlands, especially to China and India.

Thumbs Up to more Startups
The author of ‘The World is Flat’, Thomas Friedman, once while reasoning out the importance of the high-tech foreign workers for a more competitive America said, “Not only do our companies need them now, because we’re not training enough engineers, but they will, over time, start many more companies and create many more good jobs than they would possibly displace.” Silicon Valley is a living proof of that. But those high-tech rockstars are steadily returning back, enhancing the product talent pool, who are being readily absorbed by the MNCs, with India being the best place.
Rhines pinpoints, “It was always preferable to hire Indian engineers than their Chinese counterparts as, if you hire and let 5-6 Chinese engineers work in a process for six months, they would spin off and start their own company. Now, a similar trend is catching up among Indians too.” This implies a chain of product startups lining up in the near future.

And why not? After all, as Rajiv Kapur, Managing Director, Broadcom India says, “The revenue per employee is the highest in the country compared to anywhere in the world.” It’s an encouraging statistic, for anyone to start-up in India. In fact, for those who are mulling on a product start-up in the semiconductor realm, there’s more good news. The industry is rapidly climbing up, for instance, it grew 15.6 percent in 2009 while the global market shrunk by 11 percent.

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