India's manufacturing push, backed by favourable policies, is timely and positions the country strongly to grab a massive opportunity in the electronics hardware space amid COVID-induced supply chain disruptions and global trust deficit around China, according to HCL co-founder Ajai Chowdhry.
Chowdhry -- who is part of the IT ministry-constituted advisory panel of experts that will steer objectives and provide guidance on the semiconductor program -- exuded confidence that India can emerge as a "reliable partner" for the world when it comes to hardware production and chip-making.
The policy push around manufacturing has set a fertile ground for transforming the country into a global powerhouse for electronics and semiconductor production, he believes.
"All in all, I think it is a fantastic policy. And I think it has become more critical in the current situation. The global trust deficit around China means there is a great opportunity for us not only to sell semiconductor chips from India but also hardware products that are made in India," Chowdhry told PTI.
India needs to now move swiftly to grab the opportunity, and position itself as an alternative to China for semiconductors and hardware.
"The world is looking for alternatives in this situation where supply chains are becoming very difficult, and India can emerge as a reliable partner, because we are recognised like that," he said.
Globally, the recurring waves of COVID and geopolitical implications of the Russia-Ukraine war have cast uncertainties over the costs and supply chains, but this has also delivered an unexpected "tailwind" for manufacturing.
"For electronics, I think it is a tailwind because, in a manner, it is going to drive us to do more in semiconductor and electronics hardware," Chowdhry said.
Chowdhry is one of the six founders of HCL. For the last five decades, he has been at the forefront of building the electronics industry in India. He is also a member of the newly-formed advisory committee that will provide necessary guidance to the India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) executives.
The panel will also provide insights and suggestions to develop a sustainable semiconductor and display ecosystem in India, while offering inputs for building a resilient supply chain, promoting investments, financing mechanisms, global engagement, and research and innovation for the semiconductors and display ecosystem.
The government has rolled out an ambitious Rs 76,000-crore program for the development of the semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem in the country. It aims to provide financial support to companies investing in semiconductors, display manufacturing and design ecosystem, in a bid to cement India's growing clout in the global electronics value chains.
The program has four key schemes that cover setting up of semiconductor fabs (fabrication plants) in India; setting up of display fabs; a scheme for establishing compound semiconductors/silicon photonics/sensors fab and semiconductor assembly, testing, marking and packaging (ATMP) facilities in India; as well as a Design Linked Incentive (DLI) component.
As it is, the global semiconductor industry has been facing shortages due to supply chain disruptions during the COVID period. Experts say the Russia-Ukraine war may cause extra disruptions and affect supply chains of semiconductors, as the warring nations are major sources of neon and hexafluorobutadiene gases (essential element to manufacture semiconductor chips as these are used in the lithography processes for chip production).
An IT industry veteran, Chowdhry has teamed up with fellow HCL founder Arjun Malhotra and semiconductor industry expert Satya Gupta to launch EPIC Foundation, a not-for-profit organization with the aim to revive the Indian electronics industry by creating indigenous products and brands.
"Our aim is to take Indian electronics to real Atmanirbharta, from design of electronics products to manufacturing, and design and manufacturing of semiconductor chips. We will work closely with all industry associations, academia, industry and government to achieve EPIC Foundation's mission," said Chowdhry, who is the chairman of the newly-launched foundation.
EPIC Foundation is driving two main objectives -- creating Indian electronics products and brands in high-impact/high-volume categories, and driving demand for semiconductor chips by scaling the volume for the Indian electronics products.