Monday, August 25, 2008

What India brings to the table for semicon world! And, for Japan

This semicon blog's title has been inspired by some queries, largely from friends in Japan, who are looking at the Indian semiconductor market. The topic of great global (and Japanese) interest is: What does India bring to the table for the semicon world to go to India!

Interesting! The world has been keenly following the Indian semiconductor and fab policy, and can gather a lot of information off my blog itself! For those who'd like to know it all again in specifics, here we go again!

Indian semicon and fab policy
Around September last year, the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and IT, Government of India, came up with the Special Incentive Package Scheme (SIPS) to encourage investments for setting up semicon fabs, and other micro and nanotechnology manufacturing industries in India!

The "ecosystem units" have been clearly defined as units, other than a fab unit, for manufacture of semiconductors, displays, including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products; and assembly and test of all the above products.

What has happened since?
Lots! Initially, there were two major proposals from HSMC and SemIndia for setting up wafer IC fabs. While those haven't really taken off yet, more investments have since happened in India.

Quite recently, the Indian semiconductor and fab policy attracted 12 major proposals, worth a whopping Rs. 93,000 crores! The Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, has set up a panel of technical experts to evaluate these proposals.

Ten (10) of these proposals are for solar/PV. One is for a semiconductor wafer -- from Reliance Industries worth Rs. 18,521 crores, and another for TFT LCD flat panels -- from Videocon Industries, worth Rs. 8,000 crores.

The 10 proposals for solar/PV are from: KSK Surya (Rs. 3,211 crores), Lanco Solar (Rs. 12,938 crores), PV Technologies India (Rs. 6,000 crores), Phoenix Solar India (Rs. 1,200 crores), Reliance Industries (Rs. 11,631 crores), Signet Solar Inc. (Rs. 9,672 crores), Solar Semiconductor (Rs. 11,821 crores), TF Solar Power (Rs. 2,348 crores), Tata BP Solar India (Rs. 1,692.80 crores), and Titan Energy System (Rs. 5,880.58 crores). This is as far the latest developments are concerned!

Solar fabs have also been announced earlier by leading firms such as Videocon, Reliance and Moser Baer, etc. (Two of them are figuring here again!) There are also talks about developing solar farms in India, which is good.

What are India's strengths?
The clear strengths of the Indian semiconductor industry are embedded and design services! We are NOT YET into product development, but one sincerely hopes that it gathers pace.

The market drivers in India are mobile phone services, IT services/BPO, automobiles and IT hardware. India is also very strong in design tools, system architecture and VLSI design, has quite strong IP protection laws, and is reasonably strong in concept/innovation in semiconductors.

Testing and packaging are in a nascent stage. India will certainly have more of ATMP facilities. Nearly every single semicon giant has an India presence! That should indicate the amount of interest the outside world has on India. In fact, I am told, some key decisions are now made out of the Bangalore based outfits!

Electronics manufacturing
In the electronics manufacturing domain, India's strength lies in hardware, embedded software and industrial design, OEMs, component distribution (includes semiconductor and box build), and end user/distribution channel, as well as more than moderate strength in product design and manufacturing (ODM, EMS).

India is likely to witness $363 billion of equipment consumption and $155 billion of domestic production by 2015. India's electronic equipment consumption in 2005 was 1.8 percent. It is likely to grow to 5.5 percent in 2010 and 11 percent in 2015, as per a joint study conducted by the ISA and Frost & Sullivan.

The Indian semiconductor TAM (total available market) revenue is likely to grow by 2.5 times while the TM (total market) is likely to double revenues in 2009. The TAM is likely to grow at a CAGR of 35.8 percent and the TM is likely to grow at a CAGR of 26.7 percent, respectively, during the period 2006-09.

Telecom, and IT and office automation are the leading segments in TM and TAM. Consumer segment occupies the third fastest growing area in the TM, and the industrial segment is the third fastest growing area in the TAM.

The major semiconductor categories of interest include microprocessors, analog, memory, discretes and ASICs, while the major end use products include mobile handsets, BTS, desktops, notebooks, set-top boxes and CRT TVs.

India, the embedded superstar!
India's embedded design industry has been going from strength to strength. An IDC-ISA report forecasts the revenues from India's VLSI, board design and embedded software industry to grow to $10.96bn by 2010 from the current $6.08bn in 2007.

India is also focusing on moving up the semiconductor value chain. It is emphasizing on end-to-end product development, investing in IP development, developing India specific products, and partnering with OEMs to understand the market needs. Also, be aware that several leading EMS firms are present in India as well.

What should investors do?
Certainly, invest in India! The Indian semicon policy clearly defines the "ecosystem units." Global manufacturers of displays, including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; including SSDs, solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products, should certainly look at investing in India, and consider manufacturing here!

Lots of solar fabs are likely to come up, so there will be a great demand for solar related equipment, chemicals, testing, etc. We hope that one wafer IC fab comes up as well, so there will be opportunity for semicon equipment manufacturers. However, do be prepared to wait as things may not move as fast as some may expect.

There is lot of opportunity for fabless companies and in ATMP as well. There are several Indian firms, small ones, who may be interested in partnering. Some trading companies may find India of interest, especially in the solar/PV and ATMP segments.

Keep an eye on the IT/semicon policies some states, especially, Karnataka have in store. A host of opportunities could become available, once Karnataka comes up with a policy. More states may follow suit!

Well, do contact me in case you need further assistance.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Japan semicon firms seek close ties with India

The India Semiconductor Association (ISA) recently organized the India-Fukuoka (Japan) IT, Embedded Software and Semiconductor Business Workshop 2008. A host of companies and institues from Fukuoka, Japan participated in the workshop seeking partnerships, alliances, and business in the semiconductor space in India.

My first impression was that all of the Japanese firms present at the workshop are quite interested in the Indian semiconductor market, and especially in the embedded space. Besides, some of them may look at investments, should the opportunity arise. Some of the participants are also looking at the direction fabs are taking in India, besides the solar/PV market.

The participating companies and institutes at the workshop were:

1. Daichi Institution Industry Co. Ltd
2. DISCO (Dai Ichi Seitosho Co. Ltd) Corp.
3. Fukuoka University
4. Fukuoka Industry, Science & Technology Foundation
5. Inoueki Co. Ltd
6. Invest Japan
7. JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization)
8. Kyushu Economic Research Center
9. CLAIR (The Japan Council of Local Authorities for International Relations), Singapore

Masane Saito, Chief, JETRO, said that the total trade between India and Japan was worth $9.9 billion during 2007, a 25 percent growth. India's strengths included knowledge-based services, high-quality talent, etc. He added that Japan required a lot of embedded systems engineers, perhaps, hinting at Indian engineers and the opportunity that lies ahead of them.

Todd Takaki, Director, Inoueki, clearly highlighted that his company was looking at the manufacturing segment in India. A semiconductor trading company, it delivers chemicals to IC fabs, among others. He added that companies from Japan needed to see the inroads being made in India, both frontend and backend. While Inoueki is also looking at making investments in the country, Takaki stressed the need to have a developed market.

Akihiro Kawaguchi, International Science Technology Co-ordinator, Fukuoka Industry, Science & Technology (IST) Foundation, highlighted the Fukuoka Cluster for advanced system LSI design and development. He also touched upon the Silicon Sea Belt Fukuoka Project, which streches from China, covering South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, right up to Bangalore, India. This belt has the potential of the world's largest semiconductor market (60 percent), emerging car industry market, ever-developing wireless market, and the world's largest population of engineers.

The Fukuoka IST is also part of the Knowledge Cluster Initiative, a national program carried out by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), in co-operation with the local governments.

Dr. Hajime Tomokage, professor, Fukuoka University, touched upon the semiconductor business network via the MAP (microelectronics assembling and packaging) and RTS (reverse trade show) programs.

The Kyushu silicon island has a 6 percent share of the global IC production with over 20 percent raw wafers. SUMCO has four fabs in Kyushu. The silicon island also has 16 fabs, including those of Renesas, Toshiba, Sony, NEC, Yamaha, etc. Overall, it is home to nearly 650 semicon related companies. Kyushu is now looking for Asian customers, and specifically, from India.

Some other features include the national project on SiP (system-in-a-package) and MEMS, which have been place since 2002, as well as the SiPOS (System Integration Platform Organization Standards) platform.

Keiji Honjo, Leader, Product Innovation Sales Group, DISCO Corp., touched about his firm's business. DISCO's activities revolve on: manufacture and sale of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines; maintenance of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines; training in the operation and maintenance of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines; disassembly and recycling of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines; lease of precision cutting, grinding and polishing machines, and sale of used machines; manufacture and sale of precision diamond abrasive tools; and for-fee processing. It is also seeking business interests in India.

Yutaka Akagawa, Executive Director, Daichi Institution Industry Co. Ltd, said the company is also into 8Gen LCD business. It transfers the glass substrate for the LCDs. The company highlighted Clifter, a device, which carries the wafer cassette, LCD cassette, and so on, vertically, with the holding cleanliness to the clean room on the up-down floor.

Interested Indian companies desirous of tying up with these Japanese companies are welcome to send in their queries.

In my next blog, I will discuss specifically what India brings to the table for the semicon world to go to India, and especially, Japanese companies, since we are on Japan! This is also a request from a friend from the Far East!! I may be a bit inaccurate in my assessment, but I will try my best.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Xilinx on microprocessor trends, solar/PV

This semicon blog will basically examine the key trends in microprocessors, as well as whether companies such as Xilinx -- a key player in FPGAs -- has any kind of role to play in the solar/PV domain.

For the record, this is the concluding part of the discussion with Vincent Ratford, Senior Vice President, Solutions Development Group, Xilinx.

First, on to solar/PV! We have been reading and hearing a lot about the rapid advances being made in solar/PV. With so much investments in solar/PV happening globally, is there a role for Xilinx to play in this segment?

Ratford said: "Perhaps! Our devices are great for prototyping new ideas and often find their way into new markets. In base stations, our devices are used to reduce the power up to 50 percent. In signal processing applications, we have a decided performance/power advantage vs. discrete signal processors. Many of these 'Green' applications require some form of signal and embedded processing." Interesting, and this point needs some further examination!

Another area of main concern within the global semiconductor industry is low-power design. According to Ratford, there are a variety of ways to save system power.

He added: "We are designing features in our new products that will reduce active and standby power. We also have power-estimation and optimization tools. I would say, there is a lot more to be done in this area at all levels, software, IP and silicon."

Ratford was however, tight-lipped about Xilinx's product roadmap beyond the Virtex V. Obviously, we need to remain very tuned toward this!

Key microprocessor trends
Now this is another interesting area. A few weeks ago, I had received a great article from TI, which mentioned about five key microprocessor trends today.

Microprocessors have always been among the key areas of interest for semiconductor design and development. On being quizzed on what could be the five major trends for microprocessors, Xilinx's Ratford said: "For our embedded customers it is:

* Rising adoption of Linux.
* Increasing use of multi-core and some multi-processing.
* Accelerating trend to increase the connectivity, bandwidth and reduce the latency between the processor and the FPGA.
* Improve the OOBE (Out of the Box Experience) for non-FPGA developers.
* Reduce power.

Before signing off, my thoughts also veered toward LTE and TD-SCDMA, one 4G and the other, a 3G technology. Both these technologies have been very much in the news lately, especially, TD-SCDMA, which is currently in use at the Beijing Olympics.

As expected, Xilinx has also forayed into both LTE and TD-SCDMA spaces!

Ratford said: "Yes, we have complete reference designs for LTE and TD-SCDMA and have secured most of the prototype sockets for these air interface standards with Virtex-5. We have a very strong IP portfolio for the radio shelf and baseband and our Sytem Generator and AccelDSP tools are used extensively."

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Indian fab policy gets 12 proposals; solar dominates

Just about 10 odd days ago, I had blogged about building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)! I had also mentioned how solar/PV will be the next big story in India, with BIPV right up there at the very top!

Well, according to a published report on India Infoline, the Indian semiconductor and fab policy has attracted 12 major proposals, worth a whopping Rs. 93,000 crores!

A Press Information Bureau (PIB) release says that the Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, has set up a panel of technical experts to evaluate the proposals.

The promoters will come up to the Appraisal Committee for sanction of subsidy under the scheme once they have reached the threshold limit of investment, as indicated in the guidelines of the Special Incentive Package Scheme.

A majority of these proposals -- ten (10) -- are for solar/PV. One proposal is for a semiconductor wafer -- from Reliance Industries worth Rs. 18,521 crores, and another for TFT LCD flat panels -- from Videocon Industries, worth Rs. 8,000 crores.

The 10 proposals for solar/PV are from: KSK Surya (Rs. 3,211 crores), Lanco Solar (Rs. 12,938 crores), PV Technologies India (Rs. 6,000 crores), Phoenix Solar India (Rs. 1,200 crores), Reliance Industries (Rs. 11,631 crores), Signet Solar Inc. (Rs. 9,672 crores), Solar Semiconductor (Rs. 11,821 crores), TF Solar Power (Rs. 2,348 crores), Tata BP Solar India (Rs. 1,692.80 crores), and Titan Energy System (Rs. 5,880.58 crores).

Does the Indian solar/PV story now start making some sense? It is very much in line to become the next big success story for India after the Indian telecom story!

Evidently, Reliance Industries is the major player in all of this, having proposed both a semicon wafer fab as well as a solar/PV fab. Lanco Solar, Solar Semiconductor, Signet Solar, Videocon, and PV Technologies are some of the other big players proposing to enter the Indian semiconductor/fab space.

Well, this is really great news for the Indian semiconductor industry! Further, it comes close on the heels of the announcement of the 3G spectrum policy and MNP policy by the government of India.

A few weeks ago, Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, president, Applied Materials India, had mentioned that taking the solar/PV route was perhaps, a practical route for India to enter manufacturing. How true are those words!

Late June, I too had proposed, among others points, that Karnataka (and other Indian states) look at having some solar/PV fabs.

Dr. Pradip K. Dutta, Corporate Vice President & Managing Director, Synopsys (India) Pvt Ltd had also mentioned late June that it was too early to write off the Indian fab story. We now have the answer to that question of having fabs in India!

All of this should also excite those investors looking to enter India. The huge interest and subsequent proposals for solar/PV can also lead to India having some of its own solar farms as well!

The India Semiconductor Association should be congratulated for having made this happen. It is soon going to a year since the Indian government had announced the semiconductor policy. Now, with these mega proposals in place, maybe, we will see more investors in the Indian semicon and solar/PV fab spaces.

Top 10 Indian semicon companies review
Another interesting thought! Last year, around this time, I had prepared a list of the Top 10 Indian semiconductor companies. This particular blog has been among the most accessed.

Perhaps, a review is in order! Besides, several Indian players are beginning to make a mark, like Cosmic Circuits, SemIndia, etc. The list of August 2007 mostly had Indian design services companies. This feature of Indian design services companies dominating a top 10 list will probably continue for some more time, till all of these proposals bear fruit into concrete, productive fabs.

I am sure, with those mega investments coming into the Indian semicon wafer IC fab and solar/PV fabs, most of the companies would soon figure in any top 10 list!

Surely, 2009 should be quite exciting as all of this means a very positive future and outlook for the Indian semiconductor industry.