PM Modi recognizes the talent in Silicon Valley, and of the Indian Diaspora in particular.

Companies in Silicon Valley run by Indian entrepreneurs have gotten the attention of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Damodardas Modi, who spoke at a reception at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose on Saturday evening September 27th, 2015.

His talk was on his vision of “make in India,” and “digital India.” Mobiveil, founded by Silicon Valley based Indian entrepreneurs with significant semiconductor intellectual property design and development activities in India, was one of the companies invited to attend the dinner hosted by the Ambassador of India, Arun K Singh.  Among others present were the CEOs of Microsoft, Google, Qualcomm, Cisco and Adobe.

Prime Minister Modi said that the Asia Pacific Region will shape the course of this century and that India and the U.S., the world’s two largest democracies, are located at the two ends of this region.

Indian and American Techies have worked together for many years shaping the knowledge economy. A couple of pioneers that comes to mind are, Vinod Khosla, a founder of Sun Micro Systems  (along with Scott McNealy, Bill Joy, and Andy Bechtolsheim) and Prabhu Goel, founder of Gateway Design Automation who invented Verilog that revolutionized semiconductor design. The recent appointment of Indian born Techies to the top positions at Microsoft and Google was widely reported in the media and it augurs well for the US-India relationship on the technology front.

Like Mobiveil, Silicon Valley has many enterprises founded by entrepreneurs of Indian origin who landed in the valley in the ’90s and ’00s working for high tech firms.

I was part of this wave and my journey began in 1989 when I landed in Silicon Valley as a VLSI engineer working on next generation bipolar designs for HP.

After my contract was over, I was hired by Cadence and I worked there till 1997 when I co-founded my first startup GDA Technologies with a couple of my friends.

Ten years later our company was acquired by one of the largest private companies in India, L&T. Our second venture, Mobiveil, was founded in 2012 where we license unique semiconductor Intellectual property to leading fabless semiconductor companies around the world. To me the arrival of the Indian Prime Minister highlighted the contribution of Indian expertise in the development of the high tech world emerging out of Silicon Valley and it was a very proud moment for many of us who were part of this journey for the last two decades.

One has to give credit to PM Modi for recognizing the value of technology, entrepreneurship and the talent in Silicon Valley in general and of the Indian Diaspora in particular.

He commented that while Silicon Valley is one of the last places where the sun sets, the technology companies from the valley have been in the forefront of new sunrise that is changing the way people live, interact and communicate.

It is also worth noting that while PM Modi was embracing Internet, social media and promoting it to improve the lives of the poor in India, leaders of many countries are fearful of their citizens gaining access to information. This is because like in the US, India also has a vibrant democracy and thriving social media with few restrictions and the PM knows that the more people are educated and connected the better it is for the country.

India, too, has been changing over the years.

Between our two startups in 1997 and 2012, I noticed a dramatic shift in the way we set up and run companies in India. The first time when we set up our India operations, it was all about paper work and red tapes. Our lawyer warned us that the process was quite involved and six months for incorporation was not unusual.

Fast forward to 2012, there is no paper work and all applications are online and all communications occur via e-mail.  The infrastructure also got a big boost with private participation in some of the major airports in India.

Now there is permanent VISA for people of Indian origin and VISA on arrival for foreigners from most countries. The dreaded customs clearance at the airport has become much simpler. While there are still many issues to be cleaned up, I can attest that the government has been trying to help entrepreneurship and foreign investment.

The majority of the tech companies in India are limited to providing services to clientele abroad. India has many challenges in moving up the value chain.

First, there is lack of original research in its premier educational institutions. Second, most of the IT and tech companies are comfortable providing services business as it doesn’t require R&D investment. Thirdly, India has very little in terms of electronic manufacturing.

India’s percentage contribution to GDP from manufacturing is less than half of China’s. India’s import bill from electronics imports is skyrocketing and is expected to overtake oil imports.

The trade deficits are accelerating as India imports more and more products from China. For these reasons, it is time to boost the electronics manufacturing in India especially in the fast growing sectors of mobile phones, tablets and consumer goods, etc.

China is a great example of how high tech manufacturing can boost the country’s economy and how it leads to leadership in other sectors like semiconductors. China’s announcement of a trillion Yuan to boost semiconductor manufacturing is partly to replace the imported chips with locally made ones.

A more bold and ambitious effort that India might undertake is to take a major position in the production of state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing by purchasing GlobalFoundries. China is reportedly seeking to purchase the semiconductor giant but is reportedly facing U.S. Government opposition.

A bid from India would probably not incur the same U.S. Government opposition and it would enable the country to become a force in the global high tech world. This along with the $150M fund announced by Qualcomm recently towards “Design in India” will go a long way to moving India into a faster high tech orbit.

Ravi Thummarukudy is CEO of Mobiveil, Inc.

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