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January - 2009 - issue > Company Spotlight
Mandate For Collaborative Semiconductor Product and IP Development
Jayakishore Bayadi
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
When companies that provide semiconductor design services claim to have “end-to-end capabilities” in IC design and development, N. Ramakrishnan (Ramki), President and CEO of Mandate Chips and Circuits Pvt. Ltd., has a strong contention

His view is that this really is not the case and capabilities are exaggerated. Even large semiconductor MNCs with captive facilities in India do not normally embark on projects involving full chip product development work due to a variety of reasons. “However, our aim is to be different. We want to be seen by our customers as a preferred partner for collaborative product and IP development,” says Ramki.

Mandate (derived from Mixed, Analog, Digital and Advanced Technology) is a growing company with strong background and expertise in the Analog and Mixed Signal (AMS) semiconductor space. Its founders and core members have vast knowledge and experience in the semiconductor field, particularly for automotive, hi-tech, and electronics industries.

Mandate’s capabilities encompass the entire gamut of activities for semiconductor product development and lifecycle management. This includes requirements gathering, specifications finalization, system design, and circuit and layout design leading to tape out and beyond - including prototype testing, verification, and product engineering (engineering sample iterations) leading to mass production. In addition, support, maintenance, variants, and derivates are also catered for. “Our approach is to have long term engagements with our customers and be relevant to their business,” says Ramki.

Customer Success – not just Customer Satisfaction

“Our customer’s success is our success,” is the mantra of Mandate. What makes Mandate different from other companies is the ability to have foresight and be ahead of the curve. The company aims to leverage the collaborative approach to engage with its customers (directly) and its customer’s customers (indirectly) to participate, add value, and help make them successful. In fact, this is one of the key differentiators of the company. Today, companies that are collaborating are more successful than ever before. This is because collaboration not only drives rapid growth but leverages innovation as well. According to Ramki, “Our business model entails being a key partner for holistic collaborative product and IP development in the value chain - and we have set the bar high for this.”

Business Benefits - not just Cost Arbitrage

Mandate’s strategy is to bring business benefits to its customers, not just cost arbitrage. It is not about taking specifications from customers and delivering tape outs. Mandate’s philosophy of expanding a customer-vendor relationship into a partnership level engagement enables close working and participation with the customer, which in turn leads to transformation and improvements in the customers’ business performance. While all this sounds simple and easy, execution requires a great deal of expertise and hard work, and it is also a very involved process. “We have to get under the skin of the customer and take the onus upon ourselves,” explains Ramki.

Engagement Models and Approaches

Mandate has been engaging with several leading semiconductor companies (tier-1) that are among the most well known and respected names in their respective fields. These tier-1 companies enjoy international recognition and acceptance and engage with leading OEMs and brands worldwide that in turn drive the industry roadmap for the next four to five years. “Through our collaborative engagement and partnership model, we develop semiconductor products indirectly for some of the top worldwide OEM brands, on a long term basis,” says Ramki.

The company also has the ability to vary its collaborative product development model and functions as an extended arm of its customer (joint development) or do the work across multiple locations (distributed development). This is normally done when the relevant skill sets, talents, or facilities are not available in a single location to carry out the entire work there. “We vary the model accordingly to deliver value to the customer,” says Ramki.

Domain Focus and Specialization

Mandate is privately held and currently has strength of 40 people, with a presence in India, Singapore, and Japan. With over 30 analog design engineers in its team, the company is focused on AMS in a big way and is a strong player in this field. In the recent past, the company has been specializing in the power management IC space and has built a name for itself with prolific output and an envious track record in this field. “In fact, we are the industry’s best kept secret with one of the best power management IC teams in the country today,” says Ramki.

“Our exposure to multiple foundries and extensive experience with them serve as an added advantage to ensure quick turn around time during prototype development and iterations, which finally lead to mass production. We have achieved and surpassed significant milestones with several foundries using state of the art manufacturing processes for our cutting edge designs,” explains Ramki. We are well equipped to support the customer at any point or level of the semiconductor product lifecycle. And with a solid team of richly experienced managers and engineers, we provide uncompromising project management, execution, quality, and security to the customer,” explains Ramki.

Emphasis on Knowledge and IP

Mandate’s IP (intellectual Property) portfolio includes a large number of proven patents and IPs in the AMS and power management space. These include IPs in high-speed serial communications, data converters, PLLs, general analog subsystems, and power management. State-of-the-art technology, complete circuit and layout details, and documentation are available. These IPs can be reused, upgraded, migrated, or retargeted to the required foundry depending upon customer requirements.

The company also holds 11 US patents, with four more in the pipeline which are pending grant. These are in domains such as electrostatic discharge protection, clock recovery circuits, serializer-deserializer circuits, and die anti tampering sensors. Three new patents have been filed in the India patent office in the power management domain. “We give a lot of importance to knowledge creation and new inventions. For a company of our size, we have an unusually large number of patents and IPs and are rightly proud of this,” explains Ramki.

The Road Ahead

Today, Mandate is growing steadily and adding new customers, which include some of the world’s top tier-1 and OEM brands. The company would like to continue building a strong world-class team organically and have sustained growth. For this to happen, it will continue its focus on collaborative product and IP development in its core focus areas, viz. AMS and power management, for applications in the areas of consumer electronics, automotive, medical electronics, and the like. The company also plans to leverage its patents and IPs to help achieve its goals.

“Despite the slowdown in the economy, we have put in place plans and strategies to increase our customer base and talent pool and ensure that our company’s objectives are met. And with our well-defined differentiators, we are positive that we will be able to weather the downturn and meet our long-term objectives,” assures Ramki.

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