Last week, I was chatting with someone at LSI, who asked my opinion on the Indian semiconductor industry. Interestingly, in one of my groups on LinkedIn, a member has started a discussion on 'whether it is ripe for India to get a silicon IC fab'!
Complete contrast -- an industry friend recently narrated an incident where this friend was asked by someone else -- whether the Indian chip industry was dead! Wow!! Someone's got to be kidding!
First, I can't really determine what's the expectation level among people regarding India's semiconductor industry. It seems that the interest is starting to build up, at a very slow pace. However, folks need to understand that the semiconductor industry is extremely complex. You can't get away by making some sort of statement about this industry! There is much more to semiconductors than someone merely writing a headline -- "recovery is in sight" or "recession hits semicon" or 32nm is a great process node"!
Why aren't more headlines like "overcoming ASIC design productivity roadblocks," or "What lithography tools are doing for the photoresist market" doing the rounds? Or even: "Are designers as conscious of yield as they should be?" If you can spot the difference, you can make some comment on the semicon industry!
Two, the Indian chip industry CANNOT BE DEAD! It never was, never has been and never will be! Most people would find it tough to answer when Texas Instruments first started operations in India! Why did it choose to start so early? Simply because it backed India as a center! Naturally, the Indian semiconductor goes back that early!
Some folks perhaps relate more to the semiconductor industry with the advent of the India Semiconductor Association. The Association is an industry body, fulfilling its need. However, a lot of work has been going on in semiconductors before ISA came into being. I wonder whether folks have really cared to track this industry in India. I do remember when I first starting covering semiconductors in India, in the early 2000s, there were lot of curious glances from others! :)
Made in India for the world
Coming back to the Indian semiconductor industry, from 'Made for India', it has moved on to 'Made In India'. Isn't that a significant shift?
As for silicon IC wafer fabs in India, or for that matter, any fab in India -- yes, it is still a good time to have one! Perhaps, the last time around, patience seemed to run out! And that's a hard lesson to learn for those looking to invest in fabs -- there is NO quick turnaround time in semiconductors!
Moshe Gavrielov, Xilinx's President and CEO, recently said in EE Times that venture capital would not return to the semiconductor industry, even after this recession. If this does happen, it would be very unfair! Where would all the start-ups go?
Again, this statement brings clarity to the subject of semiconductors -- this is a very complex industry, and definitely unlike IT/ITeS. We in India are so much into services that we fail to see the wood from the trees!
People love to compare China with India. Friends, do visit China or even Taiwan! Try to find out how they went about building their semiconductor industry, and manufacturing and R&D ecosystems. There are several lessons to learn, numerous role models to follow.
I strongly believe India can very well go the same route! We need some good startups in India as well. If and when those happen, please do not expect fast turnaround times. Please believe in India, and believe in its semiconductor industry. It needs your support.