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‘We Can Make Science Fiction Movies A Reality’

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Renesas Electronics Corporation is a pioneer in building semi-conductor systems for the automotive and mobile industries. Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, the company plans to enter India and work with OEMs to cash in on one of the largest mobile and automobile economies in the world.  Although a late entrant, unlike Texas Instruments and Freescale which set up shop in India more than two decades ago, Renesas sees a boom in devices and the internet of things (IOT) and hopes to curve out a space for itself.

Manabu Kawashima, Senior VP of Global Sales & Marketing Unit, Renesas Electronics, spoke with Vishal Krishna of BW | Businessworld about the future of the IOT in India and chances of smart cities taking root sooner than later. Here are the excerpts:

How is the society changing with mobile devices and connected technologies?
This society is going to change. Today society needs smarter technology which is safer, more comfortable, convenient and friendlier. Renesas is working on solutions that can provide for devices that are easy to use and smart. We provide power devices as a kit to our customers and in the near future we are aiming to provide protocol solutions to companies which not only make electronic devices but are also looking for intellectual property in operating system software such as Android and Linux. Our target is IOT and automotive.  IOT will be the key feature in the coming years. We are already prototyping solutions for integration of cockpits with devices and in industrial networks. There is a lot of work in navigation controls and telematics.  Automotive is our strongest area and accounts for almost 43 per cent of the product.

Your arrival in India has been delayed by more than a decade. Can you take on competition?
Our branch office was set up in Bangalore in 2011.  From that base, we started rolling out our plans in India, sowing the seeds of business in years to come and this also included the plan to set up a subsidiary.  Now that  it  has been done, we opened offices in Delhi and in Mumbai.  We also plan to expand these offices to other cities in India. More than half of our manpower includes application engineers and so we are pitching to that market. Automobile companies will need connected technology for India and we are here to supply that. Technology takes precedence and our approach will be to find solutions for automobile companies. The consumption of electronics in India is increasing. The middle class is growing and there is a growth in consumption that is going to feed the value chain. The government also recognizes this and is enabling design and electronics companies to work close together. There is a gap that is projected between demand and the manufacturing, but still at the pace that India is growing, the market size is big enough for us to participate. Even if the gap reduces, we will have sufficient opportunities because of the connected world.

How is the relationship between OEMs and Tier-1s changing?
This talk has been around for a while but OEMs have been talking to the tier-1s and trying to understand the value chain. We kind of changed the rules of this because software is becoming very important in vehicles and we are talking to both the OEMs and the tier-1s now. We match their requirements together and that works very well. The OEMs are very happy because they get a kind of visibility in their value chain and basically their roadmap to new launches is shortened. Tier-1s are happy because there is a perfect match and the value chain is perfectly aligned for better business. Yes this is the same value chain which is usually dominated by the tier-1s and the OEMs. But we are having a greater say in areas such as the IOT.  In the past the OEM could not understand the course structure because tier-1 was the custodian of information and was unaware of trends in the semiconductor technology. Now, by having a direct communication with OEMs, we have been able to apprise them of technology and future solutions. OEMs also want to know when such functions will become a reality.  Today an OEM decides what the cost structures are and leaves it to the Tier-1.

What is a smart city?
I will give you certain examples of what a smart city means. It is the improvement of the infrastructure of the society including power and waters systems that need to be utilised efficiently. In the chain you need to contribute towards minimum usage of electricity. We at Renesas help this chain by working on micro-controllers that can manage resources efficiently.

Are you doing any work in robotics?
I think there are several kinds of robots and companies are using industrial robotics. The micro controllers we are thinking of, will enable robotics for assistance. But these robots should move with the help of software that is intelligent and this is still in an experimental stage. A right environment is necessary to develop a technology called image recognition technology.  We are doing this in cars with the car navigation system. As we are in the cutting edge for finer micro-processors, we can make science fiction movies a reality.