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Will India miss out again? However much we sing the Indian technology paean, the reality is that the misses have been far too many. Until hit really hard on our face, we don’t tend to react, unfortunately technology is not tuned to a late or no response, it has and it will always be a proactive game. Having missed out in the Industrial Revolutions earlier, we seem to be hitting the same fate again with the Industrial Revolution 4.0. The software industry is yet to make any claims to the software, it has created for world. Those have been running stories, what is emergent is the manufacturing of computer chips. The weak underbelly of the well-oiled chip industry and its supply chain seems to be out in the open in the pandemic. Can the world still rely on the same geographies, or is it risking the future of lot many industries and also its unimaginably disastrous fallouts.

The world today faces a severe chip shortage unheard of in recent times and the darker side is that it can get repeated. The first issue is when will the present one get over? Computer chip industry is part of technically complex chain which at the end of the day is half a trillion-dollar ecosystem. This ecosystem has thousands of companies globally. Unfortunately, only a handful of facilities build these chips and the usage as we all know is from mobile phones to satellites. ”These fabrication foundries, or ‘fabs’ are linchpins of the semiconductor industry,” given the precarious availability now, are in sharp focus. Where does Aatmanirbhar Bharat come into the picture? Do we want to gain the lead?

From Fabless to Fab is the journey we will have to take. As of now there is whole ecosystem of ‘fabless companies’, which make and sell chips without their own manufacturing. Indian chip design capability is outstanding, what does is mean in the changed scenario, when all the fab work is happening is East and South East Asia. Our chips are also made in the same fabs, including the ones used in the critical areas as defence, space, railways, and finance. ”Once we send the chips out for fab, we have share the designs. It no longer remains your IP. The security risk is always there.” Given the criticality of this product, it is unimaginable how India has been able to live without chip manufacturing till now. ”Our semiconductor dream has been sabotaged by red tape, lack of infrastructure, bureaucratic lethargy, and lack of visionary leadership.”

As per a recent article, we were just two years behind in this technology in 1987, today we are 12 generations behind. We have missed the bus any number to times, but the time of reckoning has come, now or never. Our economy is fairly mature now. The need for chip fab is visible to even to a non-techie and the bureaucrat. ”The time is ripe for India to join the semicon revolution and have its own fab.” We have all the wherewithal to make it happen. The govt. has announced incentive schemes for electronics manufacturing. Four well thought schemes have been announced in Dec 2021. There seems to a positive environment to attract industry. The largest chip manufacturer TSMC is being wooed by many nations. We should see to it that we create an ecosystem, where TSMC finds India worth setting fab. Reports are that TSMC might partner with the Tata Group. This is the best thing that could happen. Hope it does!


Sanjay Sahay

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