Here Is Why Some Indians Continue To Peddle Negative Notions About The Possibility Of #FabInIndia

Arun Mampazhy

Jul 22, 2020, 03:00 PM | Updated 03:00 PM IST

A semiconductor plant in India.  Representative image.
A semiconductor plant in India.  Representative image.
  • Let us hope that the efforts to achieve #FabInIndia do not get nipped in the bud, by a handful of people.
  • These people are either driven by vested interests or by their inability or refusal to come out of their past notions, and end up trying to damage efforts towards the missing piece of #FabInIndia.
  • After commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said that the Government of India was very keen to have a semiconductor FAB plant in India and also that the country would really want to see (semiconductor) FAB (plant) coming up quickly, thereby inviting suggestions on how to go about achieving the same, articles started coming in some media fora about #FabInIndia.

    While some articles like this had a positive outlook and quoted a realistic $2 billion investment needed, some others, which I will not refer or quote here, continue to peddle the myth of why India will not be able to do it.

    Past experience tells me that this kind of negative articles will continue to keep coming and some 'big shot' Indians or NRIs themselves may even try to kill any 'baby efforts' in this direction.

    Mind you, 'big shot' in any other field, even if it is a semiconductor design field, need not translate into an expert on semiconductor fabs.

    In this short article, I present three different kinds of 'people' who spread the negative notion that #FabInIndia will never happen.

    1) There are people who continue to 'believe' that #FabInIndia can happen only with $8-$10B investment. I have written in detail about why India need not aim for a high-investment, cutting-edge tech-node first, but there is enough market till year 2025 and beyond for, let us say, 28nm digital (which may need $2.5 Billion investment) or maybe a 45nm or 65nm analog fab ($1.5 Billion investment).

    I am told that these were also independently confirmed recently by a reputed market research group in a detailed study, done at the behest of a certain group.

    Unfortunately, some 'semiconductor veterans' in India, who come from the design side, have only limited knowledge of fabs, and many times even only specific know-how of even the design world and/or are stuck in past notions but still like to claim themselves as 'fab experts'.

    2) Over the last few months, I have also realised that there are some who, even if told that $1.5 Billion and $2.5 Billion fabs are possible with market studies proving the same, refuse to listen, or, perhaps, have their own vested interests in not seeing a fab take off in India.

    Interestingly, some of them want to claim that they tried hard for 10 or 15 years, and it did not happen. In some cases, it is even questionable as to what exactly they tried, because their current motive and attitude seems to be that #FabInIndia should never happen.

    Whether they don't want anyone else to succeed because in their 'prime time' it did not happen, or whether they never wanted it to happen to begin with itself, is not clear.

    3) Then, there is the crowd, many of who are strong supporters of #AtmaNirbharBharat Abhiyan, but when it comes to semiconductor fabs, are stuck in notions like 'It is too late', 'India is too weak', 'we don't have water', 'we can't get good power supply' and so on.

    By the way, I have presented the water calculations in this article and likewise, every other aspect is solvable.

    Also, better late than never.

    Many times, when an article comes out about #FabInIndia, like a Minister's statement or so, some from this crowd love to display their 'knowledge' or 'notions' of history, with comments like 'SCCL fire was a sabotage and after that it never took off', 'So and so past attempt failed, I know about that'.

    It is beyond my grasp as to what those people are contributing by keeping on talking of past failures, that too, at a surface level and many times mixing up facts with half-truths.

    If anything, only an objective analysis of past failures can be useful, but these otherwise pro-India people, with their 'on the surface', 'more emotionally-driven-than-factually' comments are simply ending up just discouraging FDI without even realising the damage they are causing.

    Whether these three kinds of people are 'with us' or not, those who want #FabInIndia shall continue to look forward.

    Out the 'clusters of five fabs' that I continue to propose, that is,

    1) A 28nm digital ( $2.5 billion investments)

    2) A 45nm or 65nm analog ($2 billion or $1.5 billion investment)

    3) A III-V fab (a $0.3-$0.5 billion investment), especially catering to defence and space sectors

    4) A common R&D fab (a $0.1-$0.3B investment) where, perhaps, all IITs and the IISc can come together

    5) A testing/characterisation facility with some kind of partnership with design houses, product companies, startups etc,

    I do see some thinking and some initial actions 'in the making' on some of those (some had started before I started writing articles, and my articles, I hope, have been independent confirmations and psychological and emotional support that they are on the right path) — while some of them are hopefully waiting for the new fab policy as confirmed by Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and/or are waiting to see if some preferential market access as mentioned in this article can be in place.

    Let us hope that these efforts do not get nipped in the bud, by the 'mindset' of a handful of people, who either due to vested interests or due to their inability or refusal to come out of their past notions, end up trying to damage efforts towards the missing piece of #FabInIndia in India's journey in being #AtmaNirbhar in electronics.

    This is not to say that genuine concerns should be neglected.

    Lack of proper understanding and support, or slowness in action, or too much of 'viewing everything with suspicion' from the bureaucratic set up in India and so on could be genuine, but I hope interested parties propose solutions like this than just repeat their cribs.

    I wish those who are thinking and trying any of the above five, or perhaps are silently working on an even bigger plan, or any other #FabInIndia effort, however small, all the very best.

    I am quite positive that the silent majority — crores of Indians, techies or otherwise — will wholeheartedly support them.

    "Ab ki baar, na maanenge haar".

    Arun Mampazhy has a BTech from IITM and MS from University of Maryland in semiconductor fabrication and over a decade of industry experience. His dreams of seeing a commercial fab takeoff in India has changed from black and white to colour over two decades. He can be reached via email nanoarun(at)gmail(dot)com or @nano_arun on twitter. Views expressed are personal.

    Get Swarajya in your inbox.