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Fab plant in India can give wings to India’s semiconductor startups

That is the reason the govt is pushing hard to create the whole ecosystem here with setting up of chip fabrication plants, says Semiksha MD Vijay Gudi

Vijay Gudi, Managing Director, Co-founder, Semiksha

Vijay Gudi, Managing Director, Co-founder, Semiksha

India is trying hard to be self-reliant in the semiconductor industry. From slew of schemes, it is also actively supporting the startups operating in this space through various incentive programme. Many industry veterans, after decades of experience in the semiconductor industry, have also launched their own startups to boost the growth of the industry.

Semiksha is one such company headquartered in Hubbali of Karnataka, which is a deep technology company in semiconductors chips and embedded product space. In a conversation with the Bizz Buzz, its Managing Director and Co-founder, Vijay Gudi said that the company has two popular embedded products in the market, chips which have been designed and developed by the company.

It also works with many marquee IT and engineering services companies in the services space. He said the company is planning to come up with several IoT-powered products in coming years. Regarded as one of the top three fund ready startups in the semiconductor industry by the central government, the company is now looking to raise capital to fund its future growth

What are your views on the recent development in the semiconductor space in India? Does it provide enough opportunity for startups in the country to grow?

The entire community in the semiconductor space is excited. The growth in India in the semiconductor space is way faster than what the world is thinking or what an Indian industrialist can anticipate. In this development, central government and respective state governments are playing a very vital role to boost the semiconductor industry. All are promoting the India-made chips. This is an era wherein there is going to be a paradigm shift from service-oriented growth to chip-development or product-development growth. The schemes announced by the government are supplementing the growth as they are very unique. The leaders in the central government should be credited as they are trying to promote the industry’s growth from the grassroot level. DLI (Design-linked Incentive) Scheme, Chip to Startup Scheme or PLI (Production Linked) Scheme are promoting the growth of semiconductor industry from the root level. Due to these schemes, we can expect a big revolution in the industry in the next 3-4 years.

India always has been good at the chip design space than services areas. Many companies including big Indian IT firms have played very vital role to bring the best in terms of design. Even Indian engineers have played a very critical role in global semiconductor companies in the design space. Around 50,000- 60,000 skilled engineers are available in India. In my opinion, there is more skilled engineers because there are around 400-500 semiconductor companies in India, which provide services to MNCs like Qualcomm, Broadcom and many others. Hearteningly, the government is consulting all stakeholders including technocrats and industry players to grow the semiconductor industry.

Can you give me a brief overview about the operations of Semiksha? What are the areas in the semiconductor space you work on?

We are building products both in the embedded and semiconductor space. Initially, we started with services as services is the oxygen for all the startup companies in India. Around 90 per cent of the industry is focussed on services. Now, we are moving towards own design, development, innovation and manufacturing areas. This is happening across industries and not only limited to semiconductor industry.

The Karnataka state government has played a vital role in our growth. We were selected in a programme named ‘Elevate 2019’ and we received a seed funding from the state government. Later, we got identified by the central government programme to develop our embedded products. Recently, we got selected in the ‘Chip to Startup’ programme, which is conducted across India.

Then, we started the product development work. Currently, we have two products in the market- community RO unit and another is for safe industry. We have two verticals, wherein one team is continuously working on the embedded products and there is another vertical, which is focusing on the chip development.

We all the founders have many years of experience in the semiconductor industry. We have around 30 people working in the company. In the services side, we have several clients. Many marquee companies are engaged with us in the semiconductor space. However, our focus is on the product side.

India provides ample of opportunities for embedded products with indigenous chips. Can you provide some light on how many products do you currently have? What are the growth plans in this segment?

We have two major products in the market. E-Codes is the product catering to the requirement of sales and manufacturing industry. It is also used in homes, hospitality industry, and related segments. Jalvidha is our another product in the market. In Karnataka, the government-sponsored community RO plants are there. These products are used in these community RO plants. We have six variants of this Jalvidha product. We are also in the process of couple of patents for our innovations.

As far as product development is concerned, we are looking at IoT (Internet of Things) for machine to machine communication. Eventually, we want to focus on mechatronics products, robotics, and renewable energy. We also have future plan to work on the EV (electric vehicle) side. There are a lot of startups in the EV space working on motors, controllers and related components. We want to develop some specific chip sets for EV industry.

Will you look at leveraging AI as a domain in the chip development space?

Definitely, AI and robotics are the two next big things in the world. AI, definitely, is making a very huge difference in the mankind. We will surely look at it. But we have to be matured enough as a technology company before developing those kinds of products.

Where do you get your chips manufactured for these products? Is this done outside of the country?

Yes, it is done outside. We get it manufactured from Taiwan. That is the reason the government is pushing hard to create the whole ecosystem here with setting up of chip fabrication plants. We have seen Micron announcing the setting up of its assembly and test facility in Gujarat. This will definitely help the industry. Startups like us can do testing and packaging done in India itself.

Semiksha has been recognised as the Top 3 Fund ready startups by the government agency. Have you raised any external capital so far and what is your plan going ahead?

We have not raised any external capital. It’s all bootstrapped so far. Recently, we have been recognised by the central government as the fund-ready startup. So, we are looking at raising capital and are in talks with some investors. But, we want to go slow in this process. That is because we want to understand our investors and the investors have to understand our vision.

As far revenue generation is concerned, we have one vertical which is generating revenue for us. Our operational needs are met entirely by this funding. For the R&D, we are utilizing the grants that we got from the central government.

Debasis Mohapatra
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