Our chip-making game shows welcome realism
SummaryA focus on niche semiconductors is pragmatic in the face of a crowded worldwide race for silicon fabs. Better odds of success are not a guarantee of it, but India is determined to try
For a latecomer in any industry, it is never easy to displace the incumbents and establish a lead. Unless a major cost edge can be wielded, the best odds of success are assured by betting on some sort of inflexion point (technological perhaps), or going for an emerging segment that remains largely unexploited. Comments made by India’s electronics and infotech minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on the country’s semiconductor ambitions need to be seen in this backdrop. He recently said that India will focus on niche categories such as the manufacture of chips using gallium nitride and silicon carbide. Although silicon chips are the most commonly used, manufacturers have begun to tout ‘compound semiconductors’ as the next big thing. Said to be more energy efficient, such chips boast of superior thermal conductivity and enable faster speeds, among other advantages. Their high cost has restricted their use so far to specialized telecom, power equipment and automobiles. The segment’s sales potential is considered vast by market analysts, although its trajectory will depend on various factors like raw material availability and how these chips ascend the performance curve.