Samsung’s memory business continues to maintain its top market share for close to three decades. Niloy from BIS gets alongside the very man behind this success story – Balajee Sowrirajan, Head of Samsung Semiconductor India R&D Center (SSIR) as he unfolds the strategies, propelling culture for innovation and his cognizance about the Indian semiconductor business.
1. Balajee, you have been leading the Semiconductor India R&D Center (SSIR) business for long now. Kindly elaborate about India’s semiconductor business and your strategies for the indigenous market.
The semiconductor industry is niche and high-tech in nature and is crucial for driving technology innovation across industries, from electronics to automotive. Most of the world’s leading semiconductors companies have their R&D centers in India, so we can say with pride that Indian semiconductor talent has the opportunity to impact the entire ecosystem. However, today, we largely contribute to products for the global market and there is scope for designing and developing for local needs and partnering with local customers.
There is immense potential in the country to grow into a product design and R&D hub especially given the ‘Make for India’ focus. Currently, we don’t have too many end-to-end product development catering to India and it is time to start owning this development, straight from architecture to implementation and set-up. India can then become home to numerous opportunities, from building products for smart devices and data centers to smart factories and smart cities.
I also feel that for growing indigenous capacity, long-term perspective of research and product development has to be appreciated. There is also a need for semiconductor companies, academia, industry bodies and startups to come together and intentionally drive this for India.
2. Semiconductor-development organizations are on a spree to enhance capability into their respective designs. Functionality, performance, compact yet powerful and bandwidth all are major reasons. Hence time-to-market for product development companies is on the edge. Ahead of these challenges how does SSIR keeps the culture of innovation while brining products and solutions rapidly in the market.
There is a constant focus on incremental innovation during product development as product development cycles are getting shorter. We are driving innovation for market segment products in the areas of camera solutions and mobiles processors, like our 108-megapixel (MP) Samsung ISOCELL mobile image sensor has been the first mobile image sensor in the industry to go beyond 100 million pixels and offers premium mobile imaging experiences.
For new product development with a longer cycle, there is more time and scope for innovation as we go through the stages of ideation, creating POCs and then commercialization. To drive the culture of innovation we have started a strategic initiative of ‘Scale up and Level up’, where scale-up focuses on operational excellence and continuous improvement, level up drives building for future, cross-team collaboration and value creation to customers.
3. Many readers and profound interest-seekers would love to know how it will be like spending a day inside SSIR?
At SSIR, our core competency lies in product development, from architecture to implementation. A typical day in the life of a researcher revolves around focusing on the active product development for current and next-gen products in consumer electronics space. We lay great emphasis on reaching product milestones for this, with continuous focus on enhancing quality and reducing the cycle time. We intentionally carve out some time and dedicate effort to incremental innovation, exploring what could be the next possibility in developing POCs. Another key aspect of the day includes literature studying which involves market research on the latest trend patterns, user analysis and current product analysis. In addition to focus on technology, we also prioritize time to discuss strategic priories and culture to make SSIR a place for growth, inclusion and innovation.
4. What are the major focuses of SSIR in India and key challenges you face given the Indian market?
Our journey in India began in 2003, with a small team of software engineers with a focus on software development surrounding smart TVs and digital television. Gradually, we expanded our portfolio to include various aspects of product design and development such as Circuit Design, IP Design, SoC Design, Mobile SoC development, associated software components, Storage solution development and more. Today, we own end to end product development for many business-critical products
Attracting and developing talent for continued growth is the biggest priority and challenge at the same time. I feel having a talent strategy and roadmap is the need for semiconductor companies to remain competitive in the changing technology landscape.
Having said that, a mindset change is also required on the prospective employee side- ‘from what’s next and new to depth for differentiation’, given that the industry needs the specialized and advanced skills. They should consider possibilities for technology innovation that this industry can drive and plan for long-term investment in building domain expertise and creating their career paths either as a subject matter expert or tech & people leaders.
5. Being a leader in the Memory biz, what are the trends you foresee to nurture this space, sectors adopting your technology? Lastly, any SSIR flagship solution you want to highlight.
In the connected intelligent world, Data and AI are the trends that will influence memory technology and solutions. Social media and cloud have been creating a huge amount of structured and unstructured data and with big data on the rise, the cutting-edge storage solution is evolving. The shift from cloud to edge AI where decision making is real-time is also shaping the storage requirements for devices. DDR solutions are being optimized for big data applications in data centers, LPDDRs are enhancing user experience in mobile and automotive solutions and solutions like HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) with high performance is enabling the next-gen technologies like high-performance computing and AI.
I am happy to share that Memory Solutions team at SSIR played a key role in the development of Samsung’s recently introduced 870 EVO SATA SSD, which uses sixth-generation Samsung V-NAND (3D NAND) and an improved controller. It is the best-in-class consumer SSD with higher performance and capacity of 250 GB to 4 TB