After nearly two years of push , followed by several tweaks to the incentives by the Government of India to encourage manufacturing of semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country, India has finally embarked on its journey in the semiconductor space. Earlier this year, Micron Technology announced setting up of a new facility in Gujarat with a 2-phased $825 million investment into assembly and test manufacturing unit for both DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and NAND products for India and other markets. With the semiconductor market in India estimated to grow to over $100 billion by the end of the decade and having seen the success with smartphone manufacturing/assembly, India is now looking to catchup with other major players like the US, Taiwan and Japan. More importantly the current US-China geo-political tensions has presented a unique opportunity like nevr before, for an industry caught in a chicken and egg situation. In an exclusive interview with Fortune India, founding Managing Director of Micron India Anand Ramamoorthy speaks about the future of semicon industry in the country and the innovation at the company. Edited excerpts. 

What has Micron’s journey been like so far in India and could you tell us about the progress of your new plant being set up in Gujarat ?

We came to India a bit later than most of our peers. Unlike other companies that have been operating in India for almost a couple of decades now. We started full scale operations in 2019. So we are a little over four years old in the country, but we have been ramping up and leapfrogging very fast. Today, we are over 3500 professionals, including our engineering contractors, and growing steadily in spite of what I call some headwinds for the industry in the last 12 months. We have development centers in Hyderabad and Bangalore to design our memory chips for multiple applications. India also is a big innovation site. In less than 4 years, the India site has contributed to over 300 patents and is growing in many areas of memory design. Our leadership team felt like we could also leverage the growing Indian semiconductor ecosystem and we made the announcement to set up our back-end manufacturing plant in Sanand early this year and that work has started and is underway as we speak.

How do you view the current Indian semiconductor ecosystem and what do you expect to happen once the Gujarat plant is operational? 

First let's speak in more general terms because the reason the government was interested in manufacturing is when someone starts manufacturing, they also help establish the ecosystem. Any manufacturing setup will typically require tens and hundreds of different vendors that they often have to be co-located. Look at the automotive industry, we call it the ancillary automotive industry. If you're building cars, obviously you need to have hundreds of partners building different parts of the car ecosystem in the country. In semiconductors, our effort will hopefully help and I'm sure others will join us to help bring more suppliers and vendors to India. And it is a very positive thing because unless you do that , you don't get efficiencies of manufacturing and efficiencies of cost. And so that's the kind of the most natural outcome of setting up a plant.  

Do you have any collaborations with the startup ecosystem or academia in the country?

On top of the Development Center and the manufacturing plant that is currently being built. We also have very active engagements with the startup ecosystem in the country. Semiconductor startups are sometimes very difficult to scale because of the inability to access high-end manufacturing and labs. But we are obviously working with them, mentoring them formally and informally. Also, many of our own engineering leaders very often mentor these startups. We also work with the government of India, in many of their schemes like design-linked centers, which are aimed at nurturing and grow the Indian semiconductor startup ecosystem. We also have a very structured program to work with all the top colleges in the country. That program is called URAM, a university research alliance of Micron India. This program is important as hiring a lot of natural talent is tough. We don't really have that deep talent pool in the country. It is growing but not deep enough. So very often we have to hire some smart, young graduates from these colleges. We nurture them, train them, skill them, and get them ready for design development work. 

What is your take on the government’s push for local manufacturing of laptops and what impact do you see it having on the chip makers?

I think the operating principle behind some of these policy statements is to ensure that we both motivate and encourage more and more of local manufacturing and value addition in the country. The example that the government often rightfully gives is the momentum we have on mobile manufacturing. It's a combination of incentives, fitting the right legal system and also encouraging mobile players to go and build manufacturing setups in India. I think it's in the same spirit of trying to have the PC OEMs also look at the option of adding more value in the country. Now, like every policy, there has to be a reasonable timeline to make it happen. And as long as we do it in a reasonably meaningful way, we'll have great results. So I see that as essentially a subset of the larger design to have more mobile, more PC, more server thing happening in the country.

With all the chatter around generative AI, how does safety weigh in on chip makers and what kind of guardrails do you currently have ? 

There are two parts to it. One is how can I use AI internally where AI comes in as a productivity tool in our IT and how do I use AI in many of my manufacturing spaces, because we are a big manufacturing house, Such as for improving yields for using image detection, so many different areas to use the internal use. And then two we also build memory products for the market. So what we're doing is while we have all the chat GPT revolution late last year, we just want to make sure that the products are enterprise friendly and secure. We have our own proprietary data, and we have our own small AI models that we will start using internally. We are also trying to ensure that we use enterprise class AI engines as a pilot or an assistant for many of our productivity and cogeneration and other tasks. So I think focus is on productivity, safety, security, and making sure these are tools that can sustain and  skills themselves.

In the next five-year time period what are the 3-4 big changes  that  we will see in the chip-making industry? 

The things that come to the top of my mind are that all of us in chip design are still in the classical world of transistors. There has been the talk around quantum computing, where unlike the predictable, deterministic nature of transistor design, quantum is more about a probabilistic state where we look at states of matter and use it as a computing mechanism. Still probably a decade or more away from large scale applications of quantum but it will continue to be very relevant. The next is advanced packaging and also to look at making chips faster and more efficient.

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