We need to exploit talent to conceive products in India

Employability continues to be an issue in the semiconductor industry. This has aggravated due to a tendency among fresh engineering graduates to gravitate toward the glamorous services sector. Engineering design as a career is something which has not really caught the fancy of engineering graduates in India. Though belatedly, companies like ST Microelectronics are trying to neutralize this trend. Vivek Sharma, chats with Dataquest on this. Excerpts

How are semiconductor companies managing their talent pool?
Four to five years back, employees were leaving companies for better
opportunities in the US or Europe. That was the actual brain drain. This trend
is no more there. Companies experience attrition but people remain within India.
This is making design centers to consistently increase their average experience.

People with six to seven years of average experience are bringing huge
competency and capabilities to the industry. They can define the architecture
and the products. This is favorable for India to become a design hub.

What are some challenges in achieving this?
If something has been successful in the past, we do not change it in the
present and the future: service model in India is very well suited. But the
design services have to migrate to the product level. If we are increasing
people competence, they are becoming more experienced. They can do more than
what they used to in the past. The industry must capitalize on increasing
expertise and not be limited to design services. Companies that would be able to
exploit more than the others, will be comparatively more successful.

Vivek Sharma, VP, emerging markets region and director, India design center,

What kinds of competency levels are required for design services?
In design services, when you get a product, you work on it and give it back.
The next level is to the define product, its architecture, and work to make it
more low power and cost-effective. Further, talent in India should be able to
conceive the product, which is not happening right now. There is a product
conceiver and a product developer. It is at the conception stage that tremendous
value can be attached.

There are a few limitations also. Research activities in India are very less.
Everybody is talking about China as a production hub. For having path-breaking
technologies and patents on new technologies, we need research activity in the
country. India is poorly placed in the patent space vis–vis other leading
players. According to a study, there are 7 patents per a million of the
population in India versus 2,300 per million in Korea. Without research we will
not be able to advance and bring good technologies.

Who will take the onus of increasing the research pool in the country?
The government, institutions, and industry are the three entities
responsible for this, and it has to be partnership-driven. Universities need to
be open and be ready to change their curriculum and approach to research. They
also need to become aggressive, so that they can work with the industry.

The industry needs to bring to the university their expertise in terms of
technology. The government has to act as a facilitator. Sometimes, they need to
engage more number of universities and define national level projects and also
invite the industry. The government can also allocate research funds to boost
research activities.

However, they have to be cautious in funding so as to avoid non-serious
beneficiaries. They need to identify meaningful programs. STMicro has also
engaged ex-IIT professors to push this program. This part of the high-end
research activities would also be essential if we want to make India a truely
sustainable design hub.

Sudesh Prasad

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