New opportunities for Singapore semiconductor ecosystem – Riding the Make in India mantra

It had been a while since I visited India for biz and my recent trip to Bangalore for the Indian Electronics Semiconductor Association (IESA) Vision Summit 2015 early this month was an eye opener on the vast potential the country holds as an economic power.

All of us are aware of the euphoria building up with the new Prime Minister and his forward-looking pro-business policies. Countries including US, Japan, Australia and others have been pledging very high amount of business interests into India.  The Make in India mantra to transform the country from a consumer state to a manufacturing one has been gaining a huge amount of momentum. A big focus here is the resurfacing of semiconductor wafer fab manufacturing initiative and what better opportunity than this could be for the mature semiconductor manufacturing industry ecosystem in Singapore to take advantage of and look for significantly large business opportunities.

A significantly high profile event, the Vision Summit attracted 600+ delegates. I had the opportunity to share the stage with some eminent industry leaders who shared their insights on this high value manufacturing. The panel discussion, “Semiconductor Fab – The Opportunity, Challenges & Accelerators” was quite lively and interesting.

The place was abuzz with activities and I Iist below a few of my takeaways on the Indian semiconductor happenings.

Focus on Semiconductor Fabs in India

Long been a missing key entity in the Indian semiconductor eco-system, this has got a renewed focus from the Government of India, especially courtesy the alarmingly increasing trade deficit gap for electronic products and components in the country. Most of the demand from the huge electronics growth – fuelled by increasing purchasing power of a large domestic market – is presently being met through imports.  With the present domestic electronics production and services still lagging behind and the demand projected to rise, this gap is expected to widen further. In fact, India’s electronic goods and component import bill is expected to far exceed its oil import bill at this rate. The government is paying attention and fast tracking these initiatives/activities to avoid a future crisis due to this deficit gap.

Last year, the Indian government gave the go-ahead for 2 semiconductor consortia to set up fabs in the country. One consortium includes Jaiprakash Associates, Tower Semiconductor and IBM and the other includes HSMC Technologies, Silterra and STMicroelectronics. The sites for the two proposed fabs (one from each consortium) have already been identified – the former in the state of Chattisgarh and the latter in Gujarat. The setting up of the fabs will open up huge opportunities for ancillary industries too – besides the fab infrastructure, equipment and material vendors etc. Expect to have the ecosystem quickly developing around these fabs once the groundbreaking starts. Singapore with its mature semiconductor manufacturing eco-system has much to offer here. Companies in Singapore have evinced keen interest and are awaiting some clear signals on the fabs’ startup timeline and status.

States wooing businesses and investments

A pleasant surprise for me personally was to see the “men in power” aka state government officials actively wooing for businesses and investments in their states – a 180-degree turnaround from the earlier days! The “Make in India” focus from the Indian government includes several growth and industry conducive policies and incentives as it aims to transform India from a consumption driven market to one with manufacturing capability. Several state governments were present and actively pitching for their states.

MoUs and White Paper

A few MoUs were signed signaling collaboration between industry- academia as well as across industry associations between countries. IESA and SSIA (Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association) signed a MoU agreeing to establish and develop trade and technical cooperation links between the electronics and semiconductor manufacturers of both countries in general and their respective members in particular. IESA and SSIA also jointly released a White Paper on India Singapore ESDM (Electronics Systems Design and Manufacturing) industry collaboration opportunities – the latter is something that I had also worked on, on behalf of SSIA.

Strong presence of Small and Micro-small business entities

This is a rapidly increasing sector and denotes a strong entrepreneur mindset. This includes people previously having worked in MNCs and starting up something in a niche, returning Non resident Indians eager to leverage on the Make in India focus, traditional family run businesses entering the services sector in this space and a sizeable number of experience rich free lance consultants. The government has also come up with initiatives to address this important and, if I may add, “neglected but vital” segment.

Keynotes, Panel discussions, Press briefings

Quite a few insightful and passionate keynotes. Speakers included Dr K. Radhakrishnan, Former Chairman, Indian Space Research Organization, Mr Gururaj Deshpande/Sparta Group, Tejas Networks and top leaders from companies like Seagate, MediaTek, Imagingation Technologies, Rambus, Intel and others as well as speakers for the different state governments (Chief Minister, Secretary to State etc.). There were panel discussions on “Transforming India – movers & shakers”, “Fuelling the wheels of change – the essentials”, “States – The fulcrum of ESDM Policy implementation”, “Realizing smart cities with IoT”, ““Semiconductor Fab – The Opportunity, Challenges & Accelerators” and “Building the ESDM start-up ecosystem”.

The event elicited significant press coverage. Being a part of some of the press briefings, it was heartening to note the interest of the media in this space and especially on the increasing collaboration across countries as a vital path to fast track the growth of the local ESDM ecosystem.

Here are a couple of snaps from the event.

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