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India is a key chip design market, Qualcomm says, as Modi makes semiconductor push


In an exclusive interview, Qualcomm India’s president said that the company is already creating semiconductors in India, leveraging the country’s outstanding engineers.

“We already have chips that are actually designed completely end to end in India and we are shipping those globally,” Savi Soin, president of Qualcomm India told CNBC.

The American chip giant creates semiconductors and wireless telecommunications devices. Qualcomm is best known for its Snapdragon processors, which power some of the most popular Android smartphones in the world.

Qualcomm, like other chip designers, does not manufacture its own chips. Instead, it depends on chip manufacturers like TSMC, Samsung Electronics, and GlobalFoundries.

“We have more engineers in India now than we have anywhere else in the globe,” Soin remarked. “We have a lot of engineers here doing end-to-end chip design.”

According to a report from the Semiconductor Industry Association, the chip design process is “highly complex,” requiring “years of R&D, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, and thousands of engineers.”

Chip design, an essential component of the semiconductor manufacturing process, specifies the requirements for the chip’s architecture and system, as well as how individual circuits will be put out on the chip.

In January, local media claimed that Qualcomm is expanding its activities in Chennai by establishing a new wireless design center.

The 1.77 billion rupee ($21.3 million) investment will also help Qualcomm fulfill its commitment to the Indian government’s objective of “Make in India” and “Design in India.”

“We recognized India 20 years ago as a fantastic R&D center of excellence with a large pool of talent. “We see India as a great market and [a] great opportunity,” Soin told CNBC’s Sri Jegarajah.

“We are currently in discussions with a number of semiconductor backends and manufacturing facilities that India is attempting to establish. “Our CEO promised two years ago that if India set up semiconductor manufacturing, we would help bring volume to it,” Soin stated.

India’s Chip Push
India’s semiconductor ambitions have advanced significantly, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration sanctioning three semiconductor projects in Gujarat and Assam, with investments totaling more than $15 billion.

“India already has extensive expertise in chip design. With these units, our country will enhance its chip production capabilities. According to a government statement issued on February 29, advanced packaging technologies would be developed indigenously in India.

India hopes to become a major chip hub to compete with the United States, Taiwan, and South Korea, and has been courting global chipmakers to establish facilities in the country. Countries like India stand to benefit as global chipmakers seek to diversify their operations amid geopolitical uncertainties.

To increase local manufacturing capabilities and exports, India has promised billions of dollars in production-related incentives to “attract investment” in crucial areas and cutting-edge technologies, as well as to make India “an integral part of the global value chain.”

Ashwini Vaishnaw, India’s minister of electronics and information technology, railroads, and communications, said CNBC in March that the country intends to be one of the top five semiconductor manufacturers in the world over the next five years.

“What we have seen is – for example, the PLI benefits – it certainly has brought manufacturing of more and more smartphones into India,” Soin went on to say.

“So we’ve seen some good incentives for IT, telecom, and telecom equipment manufacturing here. There are several disputes on the design elements. So we’re hopeful that more and more items, including portions of our products that leverage our technology, will be designed in India,” Soin explained.

In response to geopolitical concerns between the US and China, Apple has expanded its manufacturing activities in India. According to Bloomberg, Apple currently assembles roughly 14% of its iPhones in India, more than doubling the amount produced there last year.

Nikkei Asia reported in February that Google intends to begin producing Pixel smartphones in India by the second quarter.












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