Outside its headquarters at San Diego, India is the second-largest base for chip-maker Qualcomm’s engineering development set-up. Development centres in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Noida work alongside global ones to customise and test hardware, software and applications.
The company’s Indian development centres specialise in areas of wireless modem and multimedia software, DSP (digital signal processing), embedded applications, and digital media networking solutions. Meanwhile, Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of Qualcomm Inc, has investments in technology companies working on 5G, AI, automotive, enterprise and cloud, and IoT.
Rajen Vagadia, VP and President, Qualcomm India and SAARC, tells BusinessLine in an interview that the company is supporting innovation in India’s tech ecosystem. He talks about investments in start-ups and also the chip-set shortages that have hit the industry. Excerpts:
Qualcomm has been investing in start-ups in India. What has been the progress so far?
The most recent investments were with Reliance Jio in July 2020; MindTickle (sales readiness software and sale enablement solutions) in December 2020, ideaForge Technology (customisable drones for defence, homeland security and enterprise) in February 2021; boat (wireless audio and wearable devices) in April 2021 and Locus (smart supply chain solutions) in June 2021. Other investee companies include Shadowfax (logistics and delivery solutions); Bounce (smart mobility solution in transportation) and Stellapps (IoT for dairy farming).
Qualcomm Ventures has invested significantly in India over the last five to six years in technology companies and some of these start-ups came up with intelligent hardware-based services to hospitals and medical providers during the ongoing pandemic. The solutions came in segments like vitals monitoring (Dozee), safe vaccine transportation (Blackfrog), low cost/portable ventilation (Biodesign), contactless disease detection (Adiuvo), among others.
We have allocated more than ₹4 crore this year for supporting entrepreneurs which include ₹40 lakh towards patent-filing incentives and ₹60 lakh for funding commercialisation of innovations.
Are there plans to acquire any of these start-ups?
Our focus is to support and enable India’s hardware technology start-up ecosystem through programmes like the ‘Qualcomm Design in India’ (launched 2016) and ‘Qualcomm Women Entrepreneurs India Network Mentorship’ (launched 2020).
How are you dealing with the issue of chip shortages plaguing mobile phones and laptop makers?
Chip shortages have been impacting the whole industry and the issue runs across all categories of chipsets. We have experienced the impact across different market segments. A collaborative effort from industry players and policymakers is needed to ensure that the issue does not escalate into a long-term crisis. We are working closely with our OEM partners to ensure that resources at our disposal are used for the best possible outcomes, and also ensure that the industry can continue its upward trajectory.
Is Qualcomm looking to set up any semiconductor unit here or bring in fabrication plants to India?
Qualcomm is a fabless company. We invest in technology research, design, and development of wireless communication technologies for the entire ecosystem. With that context, we are supportive of initiatives like Digital India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The Indian market offers great opportunities for technological innovation, and we are focused on enabling ODMs and OEMs to undertake development of products and solutions (that will work) for India and the rest of the world. The Hindu BusinessLine