It’s now or never for India to take lead in semiconductor industry: SEMI CEO

PTI, Jun 7, 2023, 10:45 AM IST

India has almost everything needed to have a successful semiconductor industry but it still needs to work to reestablish credibility, the head of the world’s top advocacy group representing the semiconductor industry has said.

From near-zero levels just a year and a half ago, India is now well on its way to having 100 semiconductor design startups by 2024. The Rs 76,000-crore incentive scheme for chip-making, the large talent pool and the skilling programme is playing to the country’s strength and mark India’s rise as a semiconductor nation.

“It’s now or never (for India in the semiconductor industry),” Ajit Manocha, president and CEO of Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International or SEMI told PTI in an interview.

“Because it takes years to come to the speed and this is a time to do it. Also if we don’t do it now, I think we’ll lose credibility forever,” he said, adding that there might be a couple of announcements before the US visit of the prime minister which would put the Indian semiconductor industry on the right track.

“India, in my opinion, has almost everything you need to have a successful semiconductor industry in the country. We have talent, we have democracy, the largest democracy in the world. We have a market. The population is the market. We are 1.4 billion now bigger than even China. And language is a big plus. Virtually everybody speaks English. Plus, we comply with international laws. So what more do you need, you have everything to really attract industry’s equal ecosystem,” he said.

“We are fortunate now that the country has two leaders, two ministers who are doubly background like Rajeev Chandrashekhar and Ashwini Vaishnav. Then we have leaders like Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, who is very visionary and a very pro country. So, I think the, all the stars are aligned finally,” he said.

Based out of Silicon Valley, SEMI has more than 2,500 member companies and 1.3 million professionals worldwide to advance the technology and business of electronics design and manufacturing. Over the last few years, there has been close cooperation between India and SEMI.

The recently announced policy is a starting point on this front, he said.

“But I think, India still has to really work with the rest of the industry to reestablish credibility. The policy is definitely a starting point,” said Manocha who is a member of the India Semiconductor Mission (ISM).

“I’ve been involved with several meetings with ISM. They are approaching the right way. We have evaluated a few applicants. I can’t share the details yet because they are not public knowledge. But it’s looking promising that at least one or two announcements will, should come,” Manocha said.

The United States, he said, can play a key role in helping India build its semiconductor industry.

The US probably has many more segments of the semiconductor industry as a leader. The US is a leader in the design, and leader on the equipment side, which are two very important areas.

“Also, the US has strong leadership in materials. Japan is probably the bigger leader than the US. The US also has leadership and strong marketing,” he said, adding that the US can help India with technology.

“Next steps are to really inspire the world to come to India and India will roll out the red carpet and support these programmes like subsidies that they have for the entire ecosystem, not just for wafer fab. Just having a wafer fab is not a solution. You need the entire ecosystem. Wafer fab will not survive,” he said.

Manocha said there’s a lot India has to learn from the countries who will collaborate with it and help them.

“There is no competition with anymore on this one because the growth of India from half a trillion dollar to one trillion dollar gives opportunities for many partners to come. You cannot really grow in one country in the next seven years. It’ll require multiple countries to really participate and try to see what areas where India can play a bigger role,” he said.

“One good thing about India is they produce a lot of good green talent. The US can help with the help having those people trained to get them a fast start,” he said.

According to Manocha, a couple of announcements before the US visit of Prime Minister Modi will actually create enough hype and will create the right credibility with the tier-one companies in the US and in Europe, and other countries in Asia.

“But that’s the message Modi has to really deliver that we are moving ahead, we will make sure that we serve the companies coming into India and that they grow their business; just like we’re supporting their design houses. That message has to come very clear,” he said hoping that the announcement comes before the visit.

The Indian Government, he said has to play a big role, no matter which company wins the bid, to make sure that they’re successful. “Don’t leave them alone. Because they will struggle,” he noted.

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