Making India the chip hub: the IIT way

By SiliconIndia   |   Tuesday, 26 October 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Forget the chip on the shoulder. Former IITians are chipping in with chips of another kind to give back to India as good as they got.

In another instance of brain drain becoming brain gain, IITians who went to top-notch universities like MIT, Berkley, Cornell and Stanford, are now coming back to India with cutting-edge technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID) chips.

This has numerous uses in retail, defence, aerospace and pharmaceuticals.

Is it any wonder that Infosys chairman N R Narayana Murthy recently said, "Given India's global acceptance in software services , it is only natural that the next step would be for innovative, high-end software products. I see exciting times ahead in the product landscape."

It all started in the US in 2001 when three IITians got together to start an RFID company in Massachusetts.

It had as its chief technology officer, Dr Sanjay Sarma, who led MIT's Auto-ID centre, where retail majors such as Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard, Gillette, pharmaceutical companies and the US Department of Defence used microchips to their advantage.

These professionals, numbering 20, are now setting up an office in Bangalore.

"Almost 25 per cent of our India office is made up of IITians. It's time India goes from being just a services hub and also became a location for world-class software product development. Our intellectual property is our strength. IITians need no longer go abroad for product development; it can be done right here in India," says Jasjit Mangat, head of consulting, Asia, OAT Systems.

Other companies such as TCS, too, are gearing to tap this huge market.

In fact, 2005 could well be the year of the RFID with supply chain giants like Wal-Mart installing this technology in 100 companies, says Sarma from Boston. Earlier, bar codes were used.

It is estimated that $91 million spent in the US in 2003 on RFID could grow to $1.8 billion by 2007.

And with the retail industry in India set to zoom, the microchip could truly have macro gains.

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