Going against the grain and grinning

Date:   Saturday , April 30, 2005

Having nightmares over Verification? Think you will be a grandfather by the time it’s over? Think you will spend your last penny in verification? If you have answered yes to one of the above then think E-Infochips - The verification experts from Gujarat, India.

Tucked away amidst the huge industries of Ahmedabad, Gujarat; eInfochips a provider of ASIC design services, embedded systems solutions and IP cores to global blue-chip technology companies has been quietly making its mark globally. Pratul Shroff founded eInfochips in 1995 with one office, one engineer and rupees 5.5 lakhs. Today the company has grown to 275 employees in Ahmedabad, India and California, USA.

eInfochips provides a one-stop solution for chip design and verification. With ongoing IP development program for design as well as verification IP eInfochips has developed several reusable IP cores that can be rapidly integrated into designs to develop a complete solution.

eInfochips claims that VeriSuite, a complete solution for chip verification, enables rapid building of verification environments for complex, multimillion gate System-on-Chip verification, thereby shortening the verification cycle and saving on development cost. They help build highly scalable verification environments for module and SoC level verification, providing maximum functional coverage. According to eInfochips the principal benefits of VeriSuite includes configurable, scalable verification environment, functional, coverage driven verification and layered, object oriented architecture.

In the late 90’s while the world focused on Y2K and COBOL, Shroff moved away from the trend to focus on embedded systems. “We focused on verification because that’s where the market traction is. We add value by developing a verification sub-system or verification IP,” he says.

After spotting an early trend he adds, “The customer is looking for verification as a solution, so we sell the IP and services as a complete solution. There is a value delivered to the customer… since it accelerates the verification cycle…the quality is a lot better.”

With a rapidly changing market Shroff was quick in adapting to the needs while not blindly following the trend. “We focused on embedded software and I saw an opportunity in terms of the way hardware chip design was getting significantly different due to innovation of high-level languages, such as Verilog,” he says.

Shroff began his career in the early 1970’s and subsequently moved to the Valley to work with Intel. Shroff was one of the founders of Daisy Systems Corp., a Silicon Valley maker of computers and software for computer-assisted engineering. Having started from scratch, Daisy achieved $125 million in sales and employed around 1200 people with operations around the world within five years of its founding. Shroff moved back to India at a time when people were moving out. His zeal to ‘to do something’ and be closer to family are one of the reasons.

After a few years of doing business in Industrial Control Automation, Shroff cashed in his stake to pursue something more exciting and global. Before venturing out on his own, he pursued an executive MBA from IIM. Equipped with knowledge and years of experience, he started eInfochips focusing on the global market when India was barely liberalized in the open market. “From the beginning I was clear that I would focus on the exports and not the Indian market alone,” he says.

At a time when the semi-conductor industry was hardly developed in India as an ecosystem to support such a venture, Shroff threw a challenge to his engineers to make a difference. “In 1997-1998 I got some cheap tools in the PC for our engineers to work on. There were a few mavericks that took up the challenge,” he says. “We knew we wouldn’t have anything to fall back on. There was no educational programs or any other competitor and there was no one to turn to if there were any questions or technical problems. I told my engineers that their focus and model is equilibrium,” he adds.

With most of their customers from the U.S., eInfochips has survived the IT boom and bust. “Luckily we started in 1997 and 1998, and along came the IT boom in 1999. The market was open and there was a heavy lack of manpower,” Shroff says.

While challenges with work force apart, the risks involving selling to a global market is huge. Shroff says, “That is where my experience in the Silicon Valley came in use. My network of people was very helpful in establishing the company in the valley.”

He says, “Selling in the U.S. involves two phenomena. Services business is intangible because you don’t know the product until you buy the product. Knowing people in the valley goes a long way. They know whom to trust and whom not to.”

For organizations long-term relationships are beneficial as they grow, keeping this in mind Shroff conscientiously switched from a one-time to long lasting projects. “We initially targeted toward project-oriented offshore contracts and not a long-term relationships.

Then we transition from transaction to long-
term relationship business with multi-year and multiple projects,” he says.

eInfochips has partnered with Tensilica and Qlogic, to operate design and development centers in India. The company has opened design centers in Pune, India and hopes to expand soon. eInfochips has received funding from Gujarat Venture Financial, which owns five percent of the stake, while the 275 employees in India and the U.S. own 15 percent.

Our challenge is now finding and managing people in India. “We are scaling up a lot. In March 2004 we had 130 people and in March 2005 we have 275. We have doubled in size, and our challenge lies in the management of people.

How do you go from 280 to 550 next year?” he asks rhetorically. “We are looking to expand in Europe in the future, but right now we are focusing in the US. We have made some headway in Korea and Taiwan,” he says.

eInfochips management team consists of professionals who have returned from the U.S. and the home grown specialists are sent to the U.S. to learn the processes. The vision to be an innovative IT company, which will transform society by creating leaders of tomorrow reveals the philosophic trait of Shroff.