EDA in India

As recently as 4 years ago, I didn’t go to India that often because there was no compelling business reason to do so. Now, there are compelling reasons to go. It’s all about globalization and things happening in China and India. There are over 125 companies who are potential EDA customers in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Dehli, and so on -- wi-max companies, mobile computing companies, and so forth.

Also, the engineering colleges in India are producing more and more advanced-technology engineers, and successfully measuring up to international standards. The IITs are, of course, excellent. But there are also lower-level colleges turning out quality engineers. [In fact], there’s been a sea change in engineering education, and not just in India. Many universities are moving [away from the idea] of a campus and going “worldwide” with web-based training. The IITs are seeing the change and understanding that branding is important, even for universities. There will be even more shifts [in this area] over the next 5 years.

The only thing holding back EDA in India is the training issue, and questions of how you train the resources you need in chip design itself. I’ve seen tremendous progress over the last several years -- government training of VLSI designers with investments from companies like Cadence, Synopsys, and Intel. Training institutes themselves have become profit centers. People are really hungry to learn chip design.

While I was at the Summit, I also talked with [various government officials and professors] and learned that there is a move to make Calcutta a leading-chip design center [to rival] Bangalore. They have millions of dollars for the project and I was amazed -- I have never seen politicians speak so elegantly about technical education. I was really shocked to see such savvy. They are not old-fashioned bureaucrats, but next-generation leaders. Jody Shelton, the executive director of the FSA, was at the Summit as well. She told me that she had never seen politicians anywhere speak so well about technology either.

Brian Lewis from Dataquest was also there, on a panel talking about a key controversy going on in India. Does the country need a 90-nanometer state-of-the-art fab? The controversy actually was a little bit emotional. People were saying, “You guys always told us not to create manufacturing -- first in cars, and then in chips. But we wouldn’t be behind in those things if we had started back then.”

The India Semiconductor Association is raising the capital to create a fab to compete in the market. [However], it’s my opinion that they should not go and chase a fab for the sake of a fab. There are already expert fabs elsewhere -- really, how can you compete with TSMC? Instead, they should focus on applications in India that don’t require 90 nanometers.

For instance, products like the Texas Instruments’ Speak & Spell chip from many years ago was a type of application that had a huge market, but didn’t need next-generation technology. They should let the design community try to find these applications. Let the community find the next killer app, whether it’s solar, or handheld, or an Internet application for farmers, which in itself is a market of 600 million people in India.

One note in all of this discussion about India does worry me, however. Intel is saying to us that they have 2000 designers in India, but they’re not paid on U.S. salaries, so why are companies like Cadence, Mentor, Synopsys, etc. using U.S. pricing for their tools. They’re asking if there shouldn’t be a local cost-of-living adjustment for the tools. That’s definitely a trend we all need to watch out for -- pricing today is based on a worldwide LAN, not on local pricing.

So yes, EDA will continue to grow in India, but the creativity is still in Silicon Valley. Of course, Silicon Valley doesn’t have a lock on creativity. If the developers in China and India want to create their own markets for EDA tools, they can do it.

Rajeev Madhavan, Magma Design Automation

An India-based EDA industry is far from happening -- the domain expertise is just not there to do it yet. And even if they have the domain expertise because some of the customers are there, they have little of the necessary business expertise. It’s one thing to build the technology, and something else altogether to build the business. It will be at least 3 years before I could see it happening, and when it does people will see early-stage companies fail.

Right now there are some companies like SoftJin in Bangalore which do consulting, and there are some companies doing QA, but these companies are providing design services to EDA companies to make their products more stable, better, or more tested. Those types of businesses I can see [succeeding]. But in terms of doing really good EDA in India, not yet. The management talent in India is still extremely weak, with little experience managing customer requirements.

Will that change going forward? Yes, in 15-to-20 years we’ll see as many startups in India as we see in Silicon Valley around anything having to do with IC design. That’s the case already in India in IT. But it’s a pretty aggressive business model in EDA, and [for now] the VCs are only just starting to appear in India.

The EDA industry is one of those places where the “Me, too” [factor] has not changed. You have to be significantly better than the other guys to succeed. You have to know the customers and the business side of the industry, and the execution has to be really good. You have to have productivity and understand the number of people doing chips. This is a business that’s really cut-throat. An EDA startup only has 6-to-9 months to make a dent, or you will become the living dead. If you don’t succeed in that time you will fold. The sad thing is that this is an evolutionary market, not a revolutionary market -- it takes a lot more venture capital to succeed.

Will there be manufacturing in India? Speaking as a person from India and an entrepreneur living here in Silicon Valley -- from an expat’s point of view, India should not get into manufacturing. The only reason to do it would be if the costs would be cheaper than manufacturing in China. [I don’t believe] India can compete with China with a 300 mm, 65-nanometer fab.

Between the amount of investment it would take [to build the fab], the amount it would take [to operate the fab], and the discipline it would takes -- it would require a lot of time to succeed. Even China has not had big successes so far, so what makes India think they can start 10 years later and succeed? I know there’s a lot of patriotic reasons for building a fab, but purely from a technical and business perspective, it doesn’t make sense. 

Daya Nadamuni, Market Analyst

Most of the work being done in EDA in India has been support and R&D, starting with the multi-nationals opening centers in India. But that’s a more recent development that went hand-in-hand with support -- field application support engineers followed the design centers into India as they were established by the semiconductor companies.

Now we see that even the foundries are getting in. There was a small news item recently from TSMC announcing a new sales office in Bangalore. It’s actually surprising that it took so long for TSMC [to make this move] as they’re one of the more popular fabs in India.

From a design-tools and support-engineering point of view, EDA has been gathering steam in India since about 2003. The EDA commercial tools market is growing really fast in India. For instance, SoftJin is one example of a locally-funded EDA tools company. They started out as a service provider, and then commercialized a product. That’s a strong path to follow. [Of course], if there is going to be more and more electronic product design in India, they will need to find the tools somewhere, so we could see some homegrown tools companies coming online in India to support local fabrication plants.

Perhaps in 15 years or so, we will see India-based EDA companies -- or maybe even in 10 years. But a lot of the research that supports EDA development comes out of the universities, and I don’t think the Asian and Chinese universities are yet able to develop breakthrough technologies that can be commercialized. That will be the gating factor that will determine the timeframe within which an Asia-based EDA industry will emerge.

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Review Article
  • India's Technical Education March 18, 2007
    Reviewed by 'P Choudhury'
    India losing tech edge and race
    Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
    Hindustan Times
    Far from having an endless supply of brilliant engineers, India is in great danger of losing the race for tech know-how to the United States and China, indicates a new report. Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University, the lead author of Seeing Through Preconceptions: A Deeper Look at China and India produced by the US National Academy of Sciences, warns: "China is going to eat India's lunch unless India invests in the long term."
    The report says India's much-maligned private colleges are the unsung heroes of the country's existing level of technical education, while its "public education system is mired in politics and inefficiency". It points out that India is also desperately short of PhD holders in engineering and technology.
    The report undermines the oft-repeated claim that the future of technology will shift towards Asia because India and China produce 12 times more engineers than the US. It also destroys a number of myths, including the notion that the US is short of good engineers.
    India's growth in engineering education, says the report, "has been largely bottom-up and market-driven." There are roughly three times more private engineering colleges than government colleges. While the former produces the numbers the new economy needs, their standards vary widely, according to Wadhwa.
    His study shows that China leads the US and India in producing post graduate and doctoral degree holders. It says the Indian Institutes of Technology produce too few graduates. All the IITs together awarded only 2,274 bachelor's degrees in 2002-03. The same is true about India's PhD holders in engineering and technology. China increased its PhD holders five-fold between 1994 and 2004 to almost 10,000. The US produced about 8000 in 2004. India produces less than 1000. The trend has been flat since 1995. "India is in particularly bad shape," says the report

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  • EDAWeekly Feedback March 15, 2007
    Reviewed by 'Vipin'
    This article is interesting to read as most of the Semiconductor industry talks in India have been around Design and Manufucturing; very little around EDA.
    1. EDA development in India: Yes, it is possible and it is happenning. I believe there is technical capability to develop new products. Some of the large players are already doing it.
    Hence, it is possible for an Indian EDA company to grow and develop EDA product in India. But they would need to have a big size of their marketing outside India as the state of the art user are NOT yet in India.
    2. Wafer Fabs: again a lot of hype going on but it will take 10-15 yrs to be able to do create the ecosystem to do state of the art. China, Malaysia and of course Taiwan, Singaproe are already there.
    So this is really going to be the opportunity cost and the benefits of being located in India istead of else where: in term of profits, in terms of understanding the market for delivering for the Indian market.
    Nevertheless, manufacturing is good for the economy as it allows a larger pool of employment with lesser qualitfication to earn more and Hence grow the economy.
    3. High tech manufacturing and ATPkg: these would be where the first phase of manufacturing will come from and would be more viable as it requries lesser investment, lesser stringent infrastructure and easier to find or trian resources from the exisiting pool.
    4. In any case: these are the years of OPPORTUNITY in INDIA for the ones who have the vision and the ability to sustain harship: in this century, the world will be supplied by China and India Or will be selling to China and India to make money out of their business.

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  • Nice numbers.. but tell me frankly March 14, 2007
    Reviewed by 'Hemanth'
    I have to agree somewhat that the projections made by the briefing document from ISA is inflated to bring in the 'feel good' feeling. I think the 75,000 engineers figure also mistakenly included the embedded engineers. Also the estimate of the Indian spending on electronics is bloated and half that figure might be a good guess too. And again this hype about the Indian middle class, no there simply arent 400 million as it says, it's amusing where they got that number from. From my reading, I glean its about 250 million and growing slowly, yes slowly. Now my views are so much in contradiction to the estimates is because I dont live in an ivory tower where I am fed some intelligent data, I am just an average indian working in chip design verification, walking the streets of Bangalore and aware of my sorroundings. I dont want to sound cynical but my hopes are tempered with reality- I think rajeev hit spot on with his assessment of the conditions here and pratap was correct in his evaluation for start-ups. As far as starting new business is concerned India dosent have any problem, infact there are more scrips opened and operated in Bombay Stock Exchange(our equivalent to NYSE) than in any other country. We are not new to business per se but EDA or for that matter even Software is a purely engineering endeavor and closely embraces technology. Technology as we know it is something foreign to us, pardon me, I am not naive but this is the truth. Technology has always been driven from the west and we had a lot of catching up to do in manufacturing before we could stand our ground in the world. This is because technology is basically nurtured and cultivated at the grass roots level by the universities and this symbiotic relationship between universities and industry is a determinant of the strength of technical competence. This is one area where India is thoroughly lacking. I dont know why when anyone talks of Indian education they immediately picturize the IITs. Yes IITs are excellent but do you know the percentage of indian engineers who come from IITs, it's << 1%. With some exceptions the rest of the institutions are mediocre or average at best. They are more like extended high schools in disguise. Poor Vic I wonder where he got his idea of a revolution in indian education from. Yes things are changing but slowly yes I repeat slowly. Things do happen in India but they happen slowly and this propensity for slowlness cant be changed.
    So coming back to EDA since this and software is purely an technical undertaking it faces enormous challenges in India and frankly speaking availiability of skilled manpower in these areas is felt. No doubt EDA veterans comming from abroad and settling here would intitiate the surge of startups but ability to sustain and grow is only dependent on the fundamental needs to be addressed in education and business mindset. No wonder we have billion dollar software companies but they dont do any cutting edge applications, they are mainly into servicing because those are the risk free cash cows at present. To be innovative in business requires some daring and risk taking which are conspicuous by their absence in indian technology industry but again we are learning from others and things are changing but slowly mind you.
    Hmm so Vic you thought that our politicians were tech savvy no doubt. There are competent beauracrats here but our politicians are a diffrent brand, you should listen to what they dont say and I hate to say this but beware most of them dont know what they are talking about.
    Overall I am optimistic about EDA in india not because of all those statistics but because the ingredients are there and I know we are learning and growing and thats a recipe for change for the better. Not that we have to but I dont think we will ever be the silicon valley becasue we are oh.. so different.

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  • Problems of Rapid Growth March 13, 2007
    Reviewed by 'Vishwanathan'
    One of the problems the Indian Chip Design Industry is facing is past legacy.
    The Industry grew very fast in the late 90's with a surge in demand of staff. With no history available a lot of inappropriate staff were selected, which no doubt served the purpose at that time. Ten years later the same people have reached the critical middle management level, where on the one hand they are micomanaging downstream project implementation and on the other hand trying to raise the work being done up the value chain.
    Since not all selections in the late 90s surge were appropriate, the industry is saddled with not the best staff for the job but with many upcoming, able and challenging juniors. Those companies who have been able to recognise this problem and taken corrective measures have done well, while some who have not are getting saddled with an inefficient middle management.
    An interesting challenge for the maturing design industry in India

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  • Number of people March 12, 2007
    Reviewed by 'C V Srinivasan'
    Wonder where the figure of 75,000 VLSI engineers came from ?
    Excluding embedded and software engineers the rough estimates are, for front end and backend included and only, (apologies if any one is grossly wrong) :
    AMD 250
    Conexant 300
    Intel 1,000
    ST 800
    TI 1500
    Freescale 600
    Philips 200
    Marvell 100
    National 200
    nVidia 150
    Samsung 100
    Toshiba 50
    ARM 150
    Service Cos (HCL, Wipro, TCS, TElx, Mindtree, KPIT) 3000
    Sasken 200
    Xilinx 150
    (Add similar numbers for another 25 companies)
    and check your primary school maths adding capability

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