After T-Hub, Telangana plans T-Works to encourage hardware startups
Hyderabad: Fresh from the success of technology incubator T-Hub, Telangana is planning to open a space dedicated for hardware start-ups that will allow innovators to tinker with technology solutions.
T-Works will act as a prototyping centre for electronics, semiconductors and hardware start-ups on the lines of T-Hub, which incubates mostly software start-ups.
T-Works is modelled on the lines of California State’s Innovation Hub or iHub. The Telangana government tied up with iHub during a recent visit to the US by a delegation led by state information technology and industries minister K.T. Rama Rao.
“You may have good ideas but accessing a manufacturing lab is too expensive,” Jayesh Ranjan, information technology secretary of Telangana said.
Unlike software companies, which mostly require workstations and servers to take off, hardware companies are often hindered by access to the right equipment.
T-Works will fill that gap, Ranjan said. Sophisticated equipment to design hardware and semiconductors is mostly relegated to labs at premier educational institutions such as Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institute of Sciences or research laboratories of companies.
Telangana government will partner with equipment makers to install their kits at T-Works. Access to T-Works facilities and equipment will not entirely be free of cost, however. The government plans to share the fee charged towards using equipment with the manufacturers on a revenue-share model.
Ranjan said iHub, which operates a similar facility in Los Angeles, will connect Telangana government with equipment manufacturers for the venture.
The state government allocated Rs.5 crore for the T-Works project in the recent state budget but the government changed its mind to purchase expensive equipment after studying iHub model, said Ranjan.
The state government is also tying up with companies to start a VLSI Design Academy that will train students in cutting edge chip design technologies. VLSI or very large scale integration integrates thousands of transistors on a single chip and is the technology behind most modern day chips in tablets and smartphones.
The government’s plan to foster two new entities related to hardware sector is part of its plan to nurture a semiconductor ecosystem in the state. Telangana’s game plan is to attract device makers and semiconductor companies to the state by showcasing a readily-available talent pool and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, which will be a natural magnet for global electronics and semiconductor companies.
“VLSI Academy and T-Works will complement each other,” Ranjan said on Tuesday.
Micromax Informatics Ltd., the biggest homegrown mobile phone brand, in April opened a plant with a capacity to produce 1 million devices a month. Micromax was declared as the anchor unit for Fab City, a special economic zone for semiconductor companies, on Hyderabad’s outskirts. Telangana has two electronic manufacturing clusters spread over 600 acres and 310 acres at ECity and Maheshwaram Science Park respectively.
Celkon Impex Pvt. Ltd, another low-cost phone maker, is also making smartphones at a leased facility in Hyderabad. In February, DataWind Inc., the Canada-based low-cost tablet maker, signed an in-principle agreement with the Telangana government to set up a production unit in Hyderabad.
Telangana, which aims to attract investments to the tune of $3 billion in electronics sector unveiled a dedicated policy for the sector, the government aims would create 150,000 jobs over the next five years.
Telangana’s push towards electronics manufacturing coincides with the Union government’s Make in India initiative under which it is trying to promote domestic production.
Telangana’s neighbor Andhra Pradesh has also unveiled a dedicated electronics policy that has drawn the likes of Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s biggest electronics contract manufacturer, that’s making phones for Xiaomi, OnePlus and Asus among others at a facility in Sri City. Domestic players such as Celkon, Micromax, Karbonn Mobile India Pvt. Ltd. and Lava International Ltd. have come together to set up an electronics manufacturing cluster in Tirupati in southern Andhra Pradesh.
Telangana, which was split from erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in June 2014, is competing aggressively with its Telugu-speaking neighbour to draw investments into the electronics sector.
Electronics manufacturing will be a key focus area for the government, Ranjan said in an interview last month. Semiconductor companies such Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) already operate design centres in Hyderabad.
AMD’s latest processor chip Zen was completely designed out of its Hyderabad centre, chief technology officer Mark Papermaster told a visiting Telangana delegation last week, according to a government statement.
AMD has also agreed to partner with the state government for VLSI skilling academy that will come up in Gachibowli locality of the city. Some local players in semiconductor space such as Invecas Technologies Pvt. Ltd. will also collaborate with the government to skill local engineers.