When Cosmic Circuits, based here, announced last week that it has shipped 12 million ICs so far, it may not have been been given much attention in the global semiconductor industry, for these numbers are next-so-insignificant given shipments by overseas IC companies.
But, in India, this made waves, for it is the first time that a company here attained such numbers. Cosmic’s two main areas of focus are SensorASIC (analog companion chips for sensor applications) and PMASIC (custom power management solutions for portable electronics.
“No, I cannot think of any other Indian semiconductor product company that has shipped so many ICs,” said Ganesh Ramamoorthy, research director, Gartner Inc. "The reasons why a company like Cosmic is rare in India has to do with understanding what the market wants, developing a product that addresses a market need, and moreover, address a niche market need. For instance, in the case of Cosmic, it is MEMS-based ICs, which are not too hard on cash to manufacture and at the same time help OEMs and chip vendors reduce system cost,” Ramamoorthy said.
Cosmic ‘s CEO Ganapathy Subramaniam, an ex- Texas Instruments engineer, expects the company will take the numbers shipped to 16 million ICs in another four months. “In our case, 3 out of 5 ICs we have in production are used in tablets, cell phones and MP4 players. Once the products get qualified, it is natural to expect volumes go high as the markets for these are big. Our solutions in all cases are differentiated and solves a specific problem and so, their adoption rate is high,” Subramaniam said.
Ittiam Systems, an embedded media processing systems company, also based here, is again, one of the few Indian companies that have had success with its IPs. Says its Chairman and CEO, Srini Rajam: “Cosmic would definitely be one of the few Indian companies to have shipped this volume of ICs since it is shipping the finished product (IC) and not many Indian companies are engaged in this business model of delivering the chip.”
Ittiam embeds its IP (RTL and software) in its customers’ products (both DSP and end- equipment) which gets shipped by its customers. It has a run rate of around 20 million units per year of its customer product shipments. The cumulative volume of units shipped by its customers with Ittiam’s IP embedded has crossed 50 million units.
But in a country better known for providing software services, a company that develops IP does not get easy acceptance in the global market. “Customers worldwide are fully bought in with India’s services industry model and had certain assumptions based on that experience. In the initial years, it took lot of efforts to convince customers that serious IP work can be done from India. It was a big challenge though many start-ups in the U.S. and Europe have big engineering teams in India and yet did not believe that IP can be created by an Indian company,” said Subramaniam.
“I think the time has come for Indian government to come with policies to help product companies from India in electronic system design and manufacturing. It is very important to act without any further delay,” he said.
Gartner’s Ramamoorthy believes that what is missing (in India) is a ‘product’ idea. “What’s missing is the willingness to take risk that comes with a product business while balancing it with practical business acumen. What’s missing is a lack of understanding of the implications of emerging technologies and an ability to transform them into products that appeal to the system vendors (from the cost point of view) and to the end-consumers (from the point of view of being able to provide new added features and functionalities),” he observed.