Posted by: Sudhakar Palisetti

Increased importance of VLSI design ecosystem in India for worldwide semiconductor Industry

Semiconductor technologies that has had the biggest impact on society, is stating the obvious. Like in any engineering product, there are two aspects to it, one is the Designing and the other its Manufacturing. Both are driven by synchronized, coordinated, and planned efforts spread across the industrialized countries in various time zones of the world to make progress real-time, 24X7. We understand that India is not a significant player in the semiconductor manufacturing sector, but on the other hand, we have some interesting highlights indicated below that Indian engineers and the engineering operations here, are a significant contributor to VLSI Design profession across the world.

One of the best contributions of early leaders of new nation, post-independence is the focus they brought on higher education characterized by Indian Institute of Technologies and other premier centers of learning, initially with few states and later spread across length and breadth of the country. Investments on human capital in education, has been paying rich dividends and will only increase its impact over time in the knowledge economies of future.

Many of them build the seeds of India’s industrialization even in Semiconductors, with efforts in SCL (Semiconductor Complex Ltd, India’s first Fab which was incorporated even before famous TSMC), BEL (Bharat Electronics Ltd). ITI (Indian Telephone Industries) etc. Many Government and Private companies also made a mark in utilizing chips and meeting strategic & core sector requirements and in designing indigenous computer systems. Many of the highly trained engineers who migrated primarily to United States and grew to be positions of importance in Hi-Tech companies in corporate America. Texas Instrument is considered to be the first foreign semiconductor operations in Bengaluru, India; in the year 1984. We are sure some of the impressive work done by initial migrants and initial building of brand of “Indian Engineer” is what led to start, and subsequent progress made by all of us in the field. This talent pool indeed became the brain bank by reverse migration. What followed over next few decades is the coming together of many pillars to build what can be considered a robust structure, on an equally strong foundation that has been characterized as VLSI design/ Semiconductor/silicon design Industry.

Below are some of the contributing factors, including some comments from our operations as well.

  • Proliferation of Captive design centers of MNC’s: All the multinational companies started, expanded and increased the strategic importance of their Indian Engineering operations. The list is too big to be covered here and we have the big names of the Semicon industry and we are happy to be serving many of these brands.
  • Vibrant engineering services sector: The business solution provided by the engineering sector has given tremendous flexibility in engineering staffing solutions. Though it started off as a staffing in T&M mode, many of the established and bigger players (like Cerium) have graduated to outcome-based project execution, thereby sharing bigger responsibility in overall product design & execution.
  • Proliferation of VLSI education: Large number of universities have adopted VLSI in the curriculum to the fresh graduates. Though there is range of quality of these graduates, we have found them to be productive within a short span with appropriate coaching in the industry, to form about 30% of Cerium workforce.
  • Presence of range of companies: In addition to Semicon companies, all major EDA (Electronic Design Automation) companies like Synopsys, Cadence, Mentor Graphics, a Siemens Company are well represented. Though the R&D & product engineering operations impacted whole world through their products, the application engineering services deepened the competency of all concerned.
  • Training Institutes: Often run by professionals with experience, but a flair for teaching has given an option for additional skilling and an option for mid-career change to enter VLSI profession. The engineers from training institutes form @ 5% of our team.
  • Spread of operations across geographies: Bulk of the work is happening in Bengaluru, Hyderabad & NCR belt of India. There is unmistaken trend to expand to other regions as well. Cerium is also contributing to that effort by its massive expansion plan in Vizag & Kochi. More than 25% of engineering manpower will be in these tier2 cities in near future.
  • Mixing Onshore & offshore: Global Delivery model is attributed to be a unique contribution of IT sector in terms of complex Engineering project execution. VLSI design service industry has adopted it with all the enthusiasm it deserves and has seen its benefits.

Impact of this ecosystem has been felt in the last few decades. During the boom in hardware design startups, Venture capitalists have documented that no consideration was given to proposals without an engineering design operation in India as core of their business plan. Ideated in US, designed in India, prototype & bulk production in Asia was mantra for success. Fast forward now, more and more components (we call them IPs) of most important chips in the world and the complete ownership of key chips that will be driving future technologies rest on engineering operations happening in India. It is these foundational blocks that has enabled Cerium Systems to create a bold vision “to be the key contributor in most important chips being designed in the world.”

Coupled with the strength of our parent company Tech Mahindra, we are well on our way to achieve this. In the process, we will further our contribution to ecosystem. Here is a hooray to all our fellow travelers in this journey.


Sudhakar Palisetti

Sudhakar Palisetti is associated with the High Tech industry primarily working in Semiconductors since 1992. He has rich experience leading and delivering multiple IPs and chips to production at Synopsys (Mt. View, CA) and Cortina Systems (Bangalore, India). In 2013, he Founded Cerium Systems with Jayakumar Gorla which achieved phenomenal growth in terms of revenue and people with a global footprint. About 900 people strong Cerium Systems was acquired by Tech Mahindra in 2020 and since then Sudhakar is the Head of the Independent Business Unit of Tech Mahindra, and is responsible for driving the strategic direction for the Business Unit as well as delivering on company goals