BANGALORE, India — An announcement last week by locally based Cosmic Circuits that it has shipped 12 million ICs so far didn't garner a lot of attention internationally, but made waves here because it marks the first time an Indian chip company has attained such numbers.
Cosmic’s two main areas of focus are sensor ASIC (analog companion chips for sensor applications) and PMASIC (custom power management solutions for portable electronics).
"I cannot think of any other Indian semiconductor product company that has shipped so many ICs," said Ganesh Ramamoorthy, a research director at Gartner Inc.
According to Ramamoorthy, Cosmic's success is rare in India because it requires understanding what the market wants, developing a product that addresses a market need, and addressing a niche market need. Cosmic's MEMS-based ICs, which are comparatively inexpensive to manufacture, help OEMs and chip vendors reduce system cost, he said.
Cosmic ‘s CEO Ganapathy Subramaniam, a former Texas Instruments engineer, expects the company to ship another 4 million ICs in the next four months.
"In our case, three out of five ICs we have in production are used in tablets, cell phones and MP4 players," Subramaniam said. "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."
Ittiam Systems, an embedded media processing systems company, also based here, is another of the few Indian companies that have had success with its IPs.
"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," said Srini Rajam, Ittiam's chairman and CEO.
Ittiam embeds its IP (RTL and software) in its customers’ products (both DSP and end- equipment). 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," said Subramaniam. "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."
Subramaniam said it's time for the 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," Ramamoorthy said. "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]," Ramamoorthy said.
Cosmic Circuits entered the Silicon 60, EE Times'
list of emerging startup companies at version 12.0 in 2011. The
latest edition of the Silicon 60 is version 12.5, which is the subject
of a detailed technology and employment digital edition which can be
accessed via http://e.ubmelectronics.com/Silicon60/index.html
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