In March 2023, Renesas announced its partnership with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to set up an Innovation Centre to build semiconductor designs and software solutions for the Internet-of-Things, infrastructure, industrial, and automotive segments. Sailesh Chittipeddi, executive vice president and general manager of embedded processing, digital power and signal chain solutions, Renesas engaged in a free-wheeling chat with Yashasvini Razdan from Electronics For You, revealing Renesas’ growth plans for its India centre…
Q. What are the goals of the joint innovation centres with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Tata Elxsi?
A. Having an increased local R&D presence is a very big benefit to our customers. We have a sales and applications team that is located across India, but this certainly gives us the added complement of a scaled R&D team. So the cycles of learning on our products get greatly reduced. Using well-established partners such as TCS and Tata-Elxsi additionally brings their platform-level expertise as a complement to our component and system-level hardware skills as well.
Q. What are the developments in the Indian semiconductor space that caught your attention and made you come to India and set up an R&D unit here?
A. The Indian semiconductor industry is still in its early stage and it is on a good track. Given that it’s early, we see a good opportunity to engage at this stage. The policies that have been set for investing in the semiconductor space — whether it’s the design-linked initiatives, or the production-linked initiatives — will enable some of these technologies to come to fruition in the near to distant future. The policy changes with respect to opening up and encouraging companies to come in and partner with others, or to bring their technologies to invest, that certainly is quite different than it was a decade ago, or even five years ago. With a consistent policy where the government has acknowledged that semiconductors are important for the future and are willing to invest and help companies that are trying to set up a base in the developing ecosystem. TCS and Elxsi are one part of the journey, but working with others, and then enabling them to scale is eventually how you should measure the success of the overall initiatives.
Q. What are the key drivers that prompted Renesas to partner with TCS and set up a joint innovation centre?
A. Renesas hasn’t become a household name in India till now. We recognized that we’re late in terms of setting up a massive research and development centre. Tata is a household brand in India, and they offered us a good conduit to grow the business and do what we need to do there. For us, it was very simply a question of, how we pack a punch outsized to a relative size. If you want to think about a company that’s coming in late, and you stay up and adopt the same strategy as everybody else, you tend to fall behind the curve. We figured a faster way of getting into the market was to partner with a well-established company that could help us scale much faster. That drives quite a bit of what we seek in the marketplace. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier the platform-level software expertise that TCS brings coupled with the hardware experience of Renesas makes for a powerful combination. The advantage of working with Tata is that we can interact across multiple areas and enterprises they are working with, including automotive. We had earlier partnered and worked with Tata Elxsi. We’ve been working with TCS for quite some time in terms of smaller programs. We felt that the level of trust between the two organisations was such that we could scale it up quite dramatically.
Q. How would you explain the business model of Renesas and have you altered it for the Indian market?
A. We are increasingly working with partners in India to build solutions for the Indian market. An example would be the Narrowband Internet-of-Things (NB-IoT) chipset RH1NS200, which is a modem chipset explicitly designed to serve the Indian smart metering market and we partnered with Tata Elxsi for that because we believed that this has to be manufactured in India, for a large market in India. Our strategy is to enable domestic manufacturing of content and tailor it for India.
Since India is very cost focused, we can export it from India to the rest of the world. This is a very cost-effective manufacturing strategy for small systems or modules that are initially created for the Indian market, given its size, and then we can expand it to other regions. That ties very well with the Atmanirbhar strategy that the Indian government has set forth.
That’s kind of the broader concept of what we’re trying to accomplish. We wanted a winning combination that puts together our microcontrollers with our power devices and analog circuits, to make systems for addressing specific markets in India such as industrial and healthcare verticals. This will enable small-scale manufacturers in India to scale up into the environment using our solutions.
Q. Are you planning to recruit new talent? What kind of skills are you looking for? Is it going to be a technical centre or just a sales and support centre?
A. There is a good opportunity for broad expansion, but largely for us, India is going to be much more about training the people who develop systems solutions to address a global market. We do not want to bring in people just to do a small sliver of work, we want them to do a very broad range of work and expand the capability. One of the challenges in India is really the ability to train people with systems knowledge, it has been much more horizontal. Getting that capability is something we hope to do better than most others.
We already have a very strong sales team, which is growing by leaps and bounds in India. We are expanding our systems solutions team in India as well. Research and development is extremely important for us. India is very unique in the ability of its institutions to produce lots of engineers with the skills that are needed for the marketplace. We would be hiring talent locally, that addresses not only the needs of the Indian market but also for a brand that sells globally. TCS certainly is a key element in this process. We are hiring people all the way from junior ranks to very senior ranks. We are looking to work with freshers as well as people with 20 years of experience. Over time, we will also partner with other outfits as well. For example, on the manufacturing side, we are working with a company based in Chennai for packaging. We are open to evaluating other manufacturers and people who wish to come on board.
Q. Are you collaborating with academia or any specific industries to provide the sort of training that you talked about or hire skilled professionals?
A. We are working with different institutions and we are seeding our efforts in certain organisations and institutions (both large and small) who can provide us with a talent to collaborate for research and development with them. You will see us do much more of that to seed the ecosystem for the kind of talent that we need. We will be launching some efforts with the big institutions that you’re all familiar with, and with some of the smaller ones, to onboard talent.
Q. Can you give me some idea about the magnitude of investment or numbers w.r.t to your partnership with TCS?
A. I can’t talk about the numbers, other than to say it will be meaningful to keep both sides engaged. It’s expanding over multiple areas in the semiconductor market and will include industrial, IoT, and areas of infrastructure as well as automotive. It is a pretty broad-ranging agreement and a partnership across multiple domains. I will leave it at that, instead of getting into dollars and cents.
Sailesh Chittipeddi, Executive Vice President and General Manager (Embedded Processing, Digital Power and Signal Chain Solutions Group), Renesas