A small step for the government (of India), but a big one for the country's electronics industry?
It may seem no more than a clerical matter, but India has renamed its Department of Information Technology (IT) as the Department of Electronics and Information Technology to reflect the attention the country is starting to pay to electronics manufacturing, even if painfully slowly in the eyes of some!
Industry associations had been at the government for more than three years to have this name change effected (the change was notified in February but the ceremony was held only today) and the steps the government has taken in recent times - notifying preferential market access for local companies, the decision to have a wafer fab facility announced if not started upon this year, the decision to start a network of incubation centers around the country and the starting of a National Electronics Development Fund to encourage innovation - together go to show that the government is finally getting around, though slowly, to foster electronics manufacturing locally.
Clearly, the government had been rattled by the forecast that India's imports of electronics will soon be more than its oil imports, observers said, speaking on the tendency of officialdom to rival the pace of a snail when it comes to taking action to improve the country's meager electronics production.
"The government has had a panic attack when it realized that India could produce only a quarter of its required $400 billion of electronics systems in the next few years. The foreign exchange outgo would have been unbearable," one executive said.
According to government estimates, India’s electronics hardware production was about billion during $32 billion during 2011-12.
In a sense, there’s nothing new, for the organization used to be known as the Department of Electronics till the mid-90s when the country’s booming software exports caused the department to be renamed as Department of Information Technology.
"India’s electronic sector aims to achieve a turnover of about $400 billion, involving investment of about $100 billion and employment to around 28 million by 2020," the federal minister for communications and IT, Kapil Sibal, has said.
He reiterated the government's commitment to announce a wafer fab facility - to set up which there has been interest shown by quite a few organizations - this year itself; besides over 200 electronic manufacturing clusters and significantly upscale high-end human resource creation to 2,500 doctorates annually by 2020 in the sector.
"The renaming of the DIT as Department of Electronics and Information Technology is a reflection of the thrust which Government provides to the electronics sector," he said, adding that the National Policy on Electronics is under finalization.
The government is also increasing the scope of the existing Special Manpower Development Programme for VLSI and chip design to encompass chip to system design and cover 50 institutions and target around 10,000 students including 300 doctorates, starting next year.
"The government has been taking action to encourage electronics manufacturing in the country. Today's rechristening of the department also shows that the focus on electronics which went away when the software industry started to grow, is now back," said P.V.G. Menon, president, India Semiconductor Association, one of the main lobbying groups for the renaming of the department.