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Exclusive Interview – Rajeev Khushu, Director of Corporate Affairs & Government Relations, Texas Instruments and the Chairman of IESA

Rajeev KhushuToday, we are the world’s second-largest manufacturer of cell phones, only next to China. Through policies like SPECS, PLI and cascading of incentives in the ESDM value chain, we could expect to become the world’s largest manufacturer of cell phones in the next 4 to 5 years. As far as the ESDM sector is concerned, the PLI scheme is definitely a game-changer and would greatly help to increase the GDP contribution of the industry cites Rajeev Khushu, Director of Corporate Affairs & Government Relations, Texas Instruments and the Chairman of IESA. During this exclusive interview with Niloy – Rajeev elaborates about his new role, IESA’s policies to boost the ESDM sector, highlights on PLI Scheme and also extends his views on ‘Design in India’ or ‘Make in India’ and much more in this edited excerpt below.

Q1. Holding the chair as the Vice Chairman of IESA, what will be your pivotal focus empowering the Indian ESDM sector.

As the Chairman of IESA, my focus is on boosting the semiconductor ecosystem in the country to be at par with Silicon Valley. Today, IESA is in talks with the Government of India to envision and execute a holistic approach towards the semiconductor space, that places equal weightage on manufacturing, employment generation and providing the right atmosphere for fabless startups in the country. India is a country with tremendous engineering and R&D talent, and we should leverage this talent to build a strong startup ecosystem and generate employment opportunities in the ESDM space.

Currently, we have IESA members mentoring startups across segments in our Bangalore, NCR and Hyderabad chapters, and soon we will be announcing our Silicon Valley chapter as well with several prospective initiatives in our pipeline and constant support from the government, we are on our mission to make India the fabless capital of the world.

Q2. Major schemes initiated by the Govt. of India include the PLI scheme, as a leading association and a backbone for electronics. What are your views on this initiative and the future market for manufacturing hardware in India?

Let us first look at the electronics industry in India. A Frost & Sullivan analysis reveals that the electronics sector in India is expected to grow at 16.6% between 2019 and 2025 and the demand for electronic products would grow at 14.9% between 2019 and 2025. With this increase in demand, electronics exports were also expected to grow at 30.8%. We could also expect generation of over 1 crore employment opportunities, both through directly and indirectly.

While there are other schemes and policies in India that aim to boost the electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country, the PLI scheme stands out as it helps provide the right ecosystem required to set up manufacturing units in the country. It also plays a pivotal role in terms of better leveraging the prospect and growth of the industry. If we include the impact of the PLI scheme as a factor to the Frost & Sullivan analysis, we will see the figures and percentiles drastically going up.

Today, we are the world’s second-largest manufacturer of cell phones, only next to China. Through policies like SPECS, PLI and cascading of incentives in the ESDM value chain, we could expect to become the world’s largest manufacturer of cell phones in the next 4 to 5 years. As far as the ESDM sector is concerned, the PLI scheme is definitely a game-changer and would greatly help to increase the GDP contribution of the industry. In terms of expanding the policy, IESA has been suggesting to the Government of India to extend the scheme to Smart LED Display drivers and power supplies for aircon to better leverage the PLI policy. We are also coming up with the whitepaper on “How India can become part of global fab and ATMP supply chain even before having one in the country” With progression and correct implementation of policies, India could become a part of the global supply chain of semiconductors even before setting up the first Fab or ATMP in the country.

Q3. Is Silicon or say advanced material such GaN or SiC a reality for India? Hence how do you define the future of Make in India, or it will be Design in India. Your key initiatives.

The Gallium Nitride (GaN) or Silicon Carbide (SiC) fabs are specialty fabs that are still taking shape in global semiconductor ecosystem, with prospects for opportunities and growth. However, currently, a few devices are produced in these speciality fabs.

IESA in association with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and state governments of India has planned and executed key initiatives such as the Semiconductor Fabless Accelerator Lab (SFAL) and Karnataka Digital Economy Mission (KDEM). While SFAL is a collaborative initiative between IESA and the Government of Karnataka to drive innovation, create fabless companies in the semiconductor domain and promote a fabless ecosystem in the State, KDEM focuses on promoting the ‘Silicon City’ brand identity for Bangalore and aims to make Karnataka a go-to destination for ESDM. With KDEM, we are also working toward strengthening the growth of electronics and semiconductor manufacturing, designing and R&D in the state. Such game-changing policies in place are enabling us to inch closer to the broader goal of both Make in India and Design in India.

Q4. Challenges and prospects for India stating itself a giant in ‘Semiconductors’?

In order to strengthen India as a semiconductor giant, we need to work towards utilizing and shaping up the ecosystem and market conditions in the country. We need access to three key elements to set up fabrication units in India – clean water, uninterrupted power supply and availability of specialized chemicals and gases. We should incentivize the industry to process raw material for fab and ATMPs. This will create the ecosystem to set up semiconductor manufacturing plants.

Over the last few years, the Government of India has worked towards ensuring availability of adequate clean water and uninterrupted power supply which is important for ESDM industry to prosper. This will help to support the fabs as well. In terms of infrastructural development too, we have come a long way and are continuing to improve the facilities in the country. Now, in order to make India a semiconductor giant, availability of the required environment must be conveyed to global companies. To succeed in the same, we need support from the government in the form of customized initiatives and schemes like PLI and SPECS.

Q5. IESA policies and frameworks in the pipeline?

IESA aims to boost the semiconductor ecosystem, attract companies to set up fab units, leverage the engineering and R&D talent and generate direct and indirect employment opportunities.

To promote fabless units in the country, it is essential to remove any bottlenecks that might slow down the process or restrict the entrepreneurs from scaling up their business expansions, and IESA is working towards addressing these challenges. One of the most common and challenging issues faced by startup units is the lack of adequate funds for access to tools and Electronic Design Automation (EDA). This is where our framework on budgeting needs for startups comes helpful. We have proposed to split the startup budget into four buckets, namely pre-incubation, incubation, acceleration and scale-up. This helps to allocate funds more wisely with ease, apart from mentoring the startups to our full capacity. We are also proposing changes in the engineering curriculum so that we are able to match the requirements of this industry. Apart from these, we are also closely working with various government bodies to ensure cascading of incentives are passed into the ESDM ecosystem. We are also planning to expand the Electropreneur Parks (EP) across India to leverage the diversity of skills and needs of the regions after seeing the success of EP Delhi and EP Bhubaneshwar and HEX Hubli and IoT lab in Bangalore. We have formed the ESDM advocacy team based out of Delhi to work closely with GoI to ensure the sector gets proper attention.

 Q6. IESA’s 1K-10K-100K-1000K Program – an initiative to create Fabless startups and ESDM jobs in India.

Our 1K-10K-100K-1000K program is an ambitious program aimed at strengthening fabless units and ESDM jobs in the country. It stands for creating 1K electronics and fabless startups, 10K IPs (patents), 100K crore of business value and 1000K employment generation.

This program is a key initiative that nurtures engineering talent, promotes fab units and aims to create more ESDM jobs by setting up fabrication units in the country. This program also supports our ‘Design in India’ and ‘Make in India’ objectives, through a subset of key initiatives that provide a strong ecosystem for fabless startups in the country.

Q7. How is IESA providing a strong ecosystem for electronics and fabless startups in India?

The 1K-10K-100K-1000K program in itself brings together a subset of initiatives that strengthen the startup ecosystem in the country. To start with, the Semiconductor Fabless Accelerator Lab (SFAL) is focused on promoting the semiconductor sector within the state of Karnataka. Currently, the model is being considered for pan India execution, with support from MeitY.

SFAL is an initiative that offers fundraising support, business connections and company support services. The scheme has helped raise funding in the form of 1.6mn USD for four companies from five VC funds. Through this initiative, the startups can also avail limited financial support for prototype silicon product development and gain access to EDA tools at nominal costs. So far, 18 companies have been selected for this scheme, out of which 5 are executing active projects and 10 other projects have reached various engagement stages. Currently, 17 more companies are being scrutinized and mentored to avail benefits under this scheme.

KDEM is another initiative that focuses on strengthening the semiconductor ecosystem. The initiative strives to promote Bangalore as the ‘Silicon City’ and Karnataka as the go-to destination for setting up of fabrication units with ESDM employment opportunities. Another key initiative that provides incubation services is the Electropreneur Park (EP) initiative. This is essentially an incubation center for startups and provides access to IPs, samples and access to tools for startup units. Electropreneur Park is a collaborative initiative of MeitY, IESA and the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI). The initiative facilitates regular virtual mentoring, training sessions and monthly virtual workshops to startup units. Currently, the scheme has on-boarded 44 startups, incubated 26 startups and has listed 10 startups in the pre-incubation stage. So far, 18 startups have graduated under the scheme and 11 of them have reached the revenue stage.

EP also adds value to the ‘Design in India’ objective with over 36 IPs, 17 trademarks and 7 patents, and plays an important role in contributing to the ‘Make in India’ objective through programs such as E-Playground, Med Technovation, Indiathon, Agri Tech and EV & Charging.

The above initiatives are instrumental in building a strong semiconductor ecosystem in India, and also to boost developments within the defense, EV, medical technology and electronic innovation space.

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Niloy Banerjee

A generic movie-buff, passionate and professional with print journalism, serving editorial verticals on Technical and B2B segments, crude rover and writer on business happenings, spare time playing physical and digital forms of games; a love with philosophy is perennial as trying to archive pebbles from the ocean of literature. Lastly, a connoisseur in making and eating palatable cuisines.

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