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Motorola proposes to align R&D facilities in India with global units

Motorola proposes to align R&D facilities in India with global units

Bangalore: Close on the heels of the exit of two of its top executives—chief technology officer Padmashree Warrior and chief executive Ed Zander—in December, Motorola Inc. is reorganizing its global software group, until now working as a stand-alone research and development arm, with ripple effects in India as well. But it was not immediately clear if it would lead to layoffs here.

Eight sub-groups in the Motorola Software Group, or MSG, are being aligned with the three business units of the company: enterprise mobility solutions, home, and networks mobility. Earlier, the divisions at the MSG unit in Bangalore worked around user interface, Internet protocol networking, network management, open source, Linux, security, software tools, and voice over the Internet technologies.

A research lab of Motorola will remain untouched by the reorganization. Between this lab, MSG and other research units, Motorola employs nearly 3,500 engineers in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

“The realignment of the MSG is based on business needs which will enhance Motorola’s ability to meet emerging challenges for our customers," said Soumitra ‘Sammy’ Sana, country president and managing director of MSG at Motorola India Pvt. Ltd.

Motorola’s engineers in India do 30-40% of the software development work for mobile phones and also develop products. The Bangalore MSG team, the oldest such group, is one among 19 similar Motorola centres worldwide.

In the past few years, it has not been rare for Motorola to reshuffle its business units. The last reshuffle of its business units was in the first half of 2007 at a time when Motorola continued to lose ground in the global share of mobile phone sales. The current realignment is expected to wrap up by middle of this year.

A company spokesman said it is too early to confirm if the reorganization could lead to layoffs. Motorola, which has 65,000 employees worldwide, had earlier announced plans to cut 7,500 jobs, or about 11% of its workforce, by the end of 2007. Sana had earlier said the attrition rate at Motorola India was 9% in 2006, lower than the general attrition rate of 12-15% among product companies in India.

When asked if the reorganization could, on the other hand, mean more work being shifted to India, Amit Chaudhery, the company’s communications and corporate affairs head for India, said, “No. It is too early to say anything on how it will affect India (Indian operations)."

The current reorganization is seen more as a strategy to address technology road map issues rather a cost-cutting measure. Motorola has been criticized for failing to come up with a strong follow-up to its flagship Razr phone, which was launched in late 2004.

“Although Motorola has launched a number of new devices (since Razr), it has relied heavily on refreshing old designs and there is not yet any sense of a new Motorola," Martin Garner, mobile practice leader at Ovum Consulting, had commented in a statement last month.

An engineer formerly employed with Motorola India, who did not wish to be named, said there were instances of a technology mismatch between some Motorola products. “While testing of Motorola products, we found that the technology used in certain Motorola switches was not supported by Motorola handsets," the ex-Motorola employee said. “There has been uncertainty in the core network division and the software group in terms of technology road map."

Abhineet Kumar contributed to this story.

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