We need to design in India, too

Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed in his inaugural speech at Digital India Week: “Make in India is important but Design in India is equally important”


Prime Minister Narendra Modi releasing the Digital India Book in New Delhi on 1 July 2015. Photo: PIB
Prime Minister Narendra Modi releasing the Digital India Book in New Delhi on 1 July 2015. Photo: PIB

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Make in India’ campaign in 2014, the focus of the campaign was to compel national and multinational companies to manufacture in India—a vision which resonates with all of us. The focus is job creation and skill development and the end objective is to make India a manufacturing and designing hub.

As Narendra Modi mentioned in his inaugural speech at Digital India Week, “Make in India is important but Design in India is equally important”. And truly, Design in India is a key catalyst for Make in India.

To make India a manufacturing and designing hub, we need a strong hardware ecosystem in India. Currently, smartphone demand in India is more than what we can produce. To address this situation, we need to speed up the manufacturing process. Companies have set up about 35 new smartphone factories with a production capacity of about 18 million devices a month in the last two years, encouraged by the central government’s announcement of a tax rationalisation for electronics products to boost local electronics manufacturing.

The new manufacturing units have generated employment for 37,000 people and led to a five-fold increase in capacity. The journey we can say is just begun and there’s a long way to go as a large portion of the manufacturing still happens outside India. Most of the components are not available locally and as a result, a lot of them have to be imported.

The dream is to make India a ‘true’ manufacturing hub. Manufacture more handsets than our usage, address huge domestic demand, and explore export opportunities, exporting high quality, finished products made completely in India, end-to-end. However, to achieve that dream there are a few challenges such as the under-developed component ecosystem, lack of customized solution for Indian needs, lower technological penetration and absence of manufacturing value chain.

To address these challenges, the focus has to be on design and innovation. India has a promising hardware engineering talent and India has vibrant design competencies. We need to emphasis the various design element such as the whole fabrication, mechanical design, the PCB (printed circuit board) layout, the component selection, RF (radio frequency) unit to be done within India. For example, The Qualcomm Global Pass solution is designed to help device manufacturers reduce commercialization challenges and maximize the global potential of devices based on Snapdragon processors. As part of the Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) offering, Qualcomm Global Pass helps provide regional operators, brands and distributors consistent quality, requirements compliance and broad procurement choice. The reference design architecture is given to the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and ODMs (original device manufacturers) to start manufacturing instead of building a product from the ground up. It enables the OEMs to have a quicker off the shelf roll out of devices. Due to this, the speed and time to manufacture improves significantly.

At present, we have a few companies which are leveraging Design in India to enable Make in India such as Borqs. With an office in Bengaluru, it is a design house focused on making ruggedized phones for the international market. The company focuses on PCB, hardware layout, component selection, RF testing and others. The BORQS Reference Board for ruggedized tablet is used not only in India but also in global markets. Innominds is another design house focused on PoS (Point of Sales), medical and education solutions.

Similarly, localization is key when we talk about success of true Make in India. In case of Reverie Language Technologies, the local investment by Qualcomm Ventures has helped the company to come out with solutions that provide real-time transliteration and offline translation in 14 languages. Plans are to support 50 languages and this will include 22 Indian languages.

This attention to Design in India will help India achieve local design and manufacturing value chain which will leverage the local talent. This will also help in job creation, generating intellectual property, address huge domestic demand and export opportunities, creation of local component ecosystem, and manufacturing of world class products in India. These outcomes of Design in India echo with the vision and desired objectives of Make in India. With this we hope to achieve the dream of India—a true manufacturing hub.

Sunil Lalwani is former vice-president and president, Qualcomm India and South Asia.

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