From what had earlier started as point engagements or doing auxillary services, semiconductor design companies in India are now working on not only the leading edge technologies (which they were still doing in the past as point engagements) but also end to end projects. In doing so, the Indian design engineers have been able to broaden their skill set as compared to quite a few of their international counterparts.
When you don’t have the so called luxury to specialize in certain niches areas and are thrust with the responsibility of doing multiple design tasks in order to get a design out, well, one learns and that too fast! A positive go-getter attitude coupled with a survival instinct honed by the competitive Indian environment (which starts right from kindergarten) also does help.
The early 90’s saw design companies in India getting supplementary work albeit some in leading edge technology. Of course, cost was the major reason. Once they instilled some confidence, it morphed into a bigger part of the design cycle. They started getting not only more designs but the opportunity and the responsibility to execute a design end to end and also complex designs. However technology innovations have still not figured within their purview.
Attrition: While this rate is high and experienced engineers switch jobs, money is not always the major deciding factor. Generically speaking, fresh graduates/ engineers with a couple of years experience rate the work quality and the company branding more than money. Mid range experience engineers value work quality, responsibilities and money. Professionals who return to India after working abroad are looking for challenging opportunities. I am not saying that money is not significant but rather that if the employee retention logic is through money alone, well, mate, you are throwing the wrong carrot…Indians have always had an entrepreneurial spirit (I attribute it to the urge to remove the shackles, something linked with our political history as well as the present political scenario).
Design ecosystem: While some may say that the absence of fabs is not a hindrance to the design scene in India, the fact remains that SoCs of today are not just built on design flow, IPs and library know how. One needs to have the product know how too – and this can become a major differentiating factor. And of course, trying out a new design concept in one country, fabricating in another and waiting for it to come back in order to do the tests, not to mention the red tape which may be involved, is something which one can do without. One of the reasons why Taiwan grew to a semiconductor hub is that it had design, fabrication, packaging and testing right there. So, while presently it may not sound so much of a missing link, it will gain importance if India is to take up China.
The above article was preceded, by just a couple of days, by another article appearing in Electronic business cited India’s niche: semiconductor design services. So if the talents void increases, India risks losing the niche.