According to the India Semiconductor Association, local electronics consumption is expected to grow to over US$ 100 billion by 2015, fuelling demand for chips in India. In a conversation with Srabani Sen of Electronic Bazaar, Praveen K Ganapathy, director business development, Texas Instruments, talks about the company’s affordable and customised products to cater to the India market.
EB: How does TI plan to cater to the growing chips market in India?
The key to Texas Instruments’ (TI) strategy to address this growing market is differentiated product offerings in terms of integration, low power, performance (TI recently announced ARM Cortex A8 processors with up to 1.5 GHz) and price. TI is also investing significantly in increasing the breadth of its portfolio of microcontrollers and microprocessors, in addition to the associated analogue and power parts that work in conjunction with these processors, to make it easier for customers to design their products and meet their aggressive time-to-market constraints. TI also invested in increased manufacturing capacity during the downturn to address supply issues for its end customers. Apart from this, TI has an efficient partner/distributor channel ecosystem in place to reach out to customers across India. TI is the only semiconductor company in India with 14 offices across 12 cities, which provides a strong support network for customers for systems design as well as after sales and on ground support.
EB: Are you adopting any unique market strategies to capture the Indian market?
In addition to being a significant and critical R&D centre for TI globally, TI India has increased its focus on the Indian semiconductor market in a big way. The company is working closely with its customers in India in a wide array of sectors such as industrial electronics (UPS, inverters, energy meters, lighting, etc), medical electronics (ultrasound scanners, x-ray machines, ECG machines, MRI scanners, etc), consumer electronics, telecom and automotive electronics.
For both the Indian and overseas markets, TI has undertaken initiatives to develop products that are power efficient, have a reduced form factor, yet come with enhanced performance and precision. In India, through our strong network of facilities that span the country, including smaller cities like Nashik and Coimbatore, we are ensuring that we reach out to our customers everywhere and provide them with efficient service by means of after sales and on ground support. Also, TI assists and collaborates with customers in terms of systems design and troubleshooting.
EB: The Indian semiconductor market is different from the global market in terms of its unique needs. How are your products customised to the needs of Indian customers?
Electronics design is carried out in India today both for the global and local markets. India has emerged as a strong base for design activity for markets across the world. Electronics manufacturing has also gained ground in the country over the last few years and has given a boost to our operations here.
Therefore, any semiconductor product that is designed in India can be deployed to design and manufacture products that cater to both the Indian and overseas markets. The company also has a strong R&D centre in Bengaluru where our engineers are involved in cutting edge technology in collaboration with their TI counterparts across the world. Wherever needed, we have also introduced customised products to suit Indian customer requirements. For example, recently, we introduced a weighing scale chip for emerging markets like India.
EB: Recently, you have come up with the MPU technology—Sitara. What are the different verticals that this technology caters to, and how exactly does it do so?
TI’s Sitara is targeted at the Indian industrial, communications and energy markets. Some of the focused application areas for Sitara include network and communications processing; industrial and home automation; interactive point-of-service kiosks and terminals; human machine interfaces; T&M; medical instrumentation; educational consoles; and industrial low power PCs.
The TI Sitara family is a good fit for application requirements like system cost constraints needing high system integration; network connectivity (Ethernet, Wi-Fi); multiple connectivity and interface options (CAN, USB, SDIO, LCD I/F, I2C, SATA, PWM); support for serial based protocols like Profibus, Modbus, etc; support for Ethernet-based protocols like EtherCAT, Profinet, etc; advanced graphical user interfaces (graphics acceleration); operating system compatibility (Linux, Windows embedded CE, and others); and scalability (a broad portfolio of product options with code compatible roadmap).
EB: What are the USPs of this technology and how does it meet the needs of the Indian market?
The key factors that Indian customers care about are performance, scalability, connectivity, software leverage and system costs. The TI Sitara family offers up to 450 MHz ARM9 to 1.5GHz Cortex-A8 devices; the industry’s first widely available Cortex-A8 devices—2 DMIPS per MHz; graphics acceleration up to 27M polygons/s performance for advanced user interfaces; and high speed DDR2 and DDR3 memory performance.
Sitara family is scalable—the largest software compatible ARM MCU and embedded MPU portfolio; ARM only to ARM + accelerator functionality while reusing both SW and HW designs; leverages TI’s extensive portfolio of embedded ARM devices to maximise a product’s changing needs.
Some of its connectivity features are 10/100/1000 Ethernet; CAN 2.0 and high speed USB interface; multiple serial port options per device; the lowest cost processor with a SATA interface, etc.
It is easily accessed to software; low cost development tools with reference code; application specific and advanced development kits, etc. The integration of peripherals, free software and aggressive cost points help reduce system costs without compromising on performance.
EB: What are the benefits of incorporating this technology?
TI’s Sitara family of highly integrated ARM9 and ARM Cortex-A8 microprocessors offers various combinations of high performance and low power levels providing the ability to create an array of products using a common hardware and software platform. It reduces system risks and accelerates time-to-market using standard and comprehensive ARM based software development tools. This family of microprocessors also supports all major high level operating systems.
Moreover, Sitara addresses the 3Ps (power, performance and price) which is a critical concern when developing a successful embedded product with differentiated cost, performance and power dissipation.
EB: Today, the product cycle times have come down drastically. How is TI coping with this challenge?
The key to reducing embedded product design cycle times is advanced development and debug tools. TI’s unified IDE (code composer studio) offers advanced support for code development, debugging, analysis and tuning. Apart from several low cost open source platforms like Beagle, Hawk, Leopard, and Panda, TI is also working on reference platforms for the industrial/home automation and point of service segments. TI is investing heavily on open source support and also standard components like BSPs (board support packages) and specialised software like Flash, audio/video codecs, browsers, graphics libraries, industrial protocols/stacks, etc.
EB: Semiconductors are the brains behind any electronic equipment, accounting for as much as 25-30 per cent of the cost of a product. What do you do to keep your prices affordable to the Indian market?
TI’s Sitara family offers the advanced integration of peripherals and graphics accelerators to reduce the number of components on the board and reduce system costs. Apart from that, TI’s Sitara family starts at price points of US$ 5 for the ARM9 MPUs.
The other significant area that adds to product cost is software and TI’s unique investments in open source software development, in addition to other differentiated software libraries and protocol stacks, is a key leverage point for customers.
EB: What are the new areas emerging in India that can be TI’s potential markets in the next two years?
Industrial, energy management and wireless infrastructure are some of the sectors in which we see positive signals of growth. We are focusing on all these sectors, in addition to areas like medical, security/ surveillance and consumer electronics. We have a wide range of products that cater to these segments. We also see an increase in electronic design activity that could, in turn, give a thrust to the semiconductor products market. TI’s Sitara is targeted at the industrial, communications and energy verticals.
EB: What efforts do you make to understand your clients’ requirements and the environment in which they operate so that your products suit their needs?
TI places its customers at the centre of all activities. TI has made significant investments in locating sales and applications people close to customers. We believe that TI’s investment in this area is more than any other player in this industry. The sales and applications teams act as the eyes and ears of the organisation to get a first hand understanding of the customers’ product requirements and roadmaps, which is then consolidated by the R&D team and factored into our chip roadmaps and product definitions.
EB: How many sales offices do you have in India?
TI has 14 sales and marketing offices across 12 cities in the country including some in small cities like Nashik, Coimbatore and Chandigarh, to cater to after sales applications support. TI’s field application engineers co-design with partners and customers and help them in troubleshooting related to systems design. TI customers do not have to travel for any kind of assistance; the engineers at the local offices provide onground support.