In a Candid Video Interaction, Varun Manwani Explains How India Will Lead Global Electronics Manufacturing

Published  March 14, 2024   0
How India is Poised to Spearhead Electronics Manufacturing Globally
  • Sahasra is proud to say that it is shipping motherboards to Korea and memory solutions to the US, Europe, and in the Middle East
  •  With the help of PLI schemes, India is now having the potential to overcome the disabilities in the manufacturing sector and make products in a large-scale manner for Indian consumption and for export to the world.

India’s electronics industry is growing at a rapid pace over the past few years. The government has now set a target of $300 billion worth of electronics industry by 2025 and $125 billion worth of exports. Amid these huge growth expectations, the industry is still equipped with several impediments, which needs to be addressed soon. For instance, India is still importing around 75-80 percent of components from China and the industry leaders are also demanding a separate PLI scheme for the components to boost the ecosystem. In an exclusive video interaction with Varun Manwani, director of Sahasra Group of Industries and Saisha KG, Business Unit Head at Sahasra, we spoke about India's electronics industry’s challenges, growth opportunities, and how it can compete with China. We also highlighted the PCB manufacturing ecosystem in the country in regard to its growth, complexities, and required policies. 

Q. Do you think without developing the component manufacturing ecosystem, it is possible to achieve that target of the $300 billion electronics market? We are not pessimistic about the number, but the problem is with the deadline. Do you think that is justified?

First of all, we should be optimistic to exceed the 300 billion figures. We should not look at the number and get bogged down by it and rather think of crossing that figure. I think India is very well poised today in terms of geopolitical and political situations at home. Therefore, when you look at the macro-level outside the country and inside the country, we are very well poised. There is a very high chance that this same government might come to power again and it helps the industry from a policy standpoint. I am not politically oriented to give that answer, but I am giving that from an industry standpoint that there should not be any break in policies in the way they are being rolled out, in the way industry is working towards the future. Therefore, this really helps, and so, exceeding this number or achieving this number is not such a herculean task. It is definitely doable keeping up the geopolitics in mind of what is happening in the world.

Q: When the ITA-1 agreement was signed in 1997, India’s dream of leading the manufacturing ecosystem was shattered. During that time the notion was that let India become the software powerhouse and let China lead the electronics manufacturing ecosystem. In this regard, why Make-in-India for electronics and semiconductors are so important?

There is no doubt that over the last 25 years since India signed the ITA-1 agreement, we lost out a lot in terms of manufacturing. In fact, in the 90s, India had a well manufacturing ecosystem, which was comparable with China. There were lots of home-grown IT hardware companies who were exporting a huge chunk of IT hardware products to China and other parts of the world. After 1997, the export ratio slumped to more than 40 percent until 2011. It is unfortunate that back in those days we had to sign the agreement, and we lost quite a bit of manufacturing expertise, know-how that we could have developed over the years.

Semiconductor Manufacturing Industry

Q: According to some industry insiders, the PLI schemes and other initiatives are only targeting FDIs and the foriegn companies. Do you agree with this statement that these schemes are only promoting the foriegn companies and not helping the MSMEs?

I will definitely disagree with this statement of my industry colleague. Let me give you two examples. If you look at the telecom PLI, it has specially and specifically a lot of SMEs available. Then, if you carefully go through the PLI 2.0 scheme for IT hardware, 27 applicants were given the green light and out of those 27 applicants, 15-16 are SMEs. Third, if I am not wrong, the PLI for drones is specifically around SMEs. There are no large players in the drones segment. So, it is not the case that these PLI are for large companies or the MNCs in India. In fact, these PLI are the stepping stones because these are initial supports so that we get that initial boost. With the help of these schemes, we now have the potential to overcome those disabilities and do manufacturing for a longer term in a large-scale manner for Indian consumption and for export to the world. 

Q: When and how Sahasra Group was formed? Initially, when you founded the organization, what was the motto? What are the products and services being offered at that time? Where is the difference currently from that time?

Sahasra was founded in the year 2000. It is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘Millennium’. Therefore, instead of calling ourselves millennium electronics, we decided to rename it as Sahasra Electronics. We have now crossed 24 years in this journey. Initially, we started with EMS activity, which is the PCB assembly, wire harnessing, and box building activity. The company was started by my father Mr. Amrit Manwani, who is now 73 and still very active in this journey. I also joined the company in 2000, when I was a college student. 

During this, we also ventured into PCB fabrication, which is our second business. In 2012, we got an opportunity to invest in Rwanda, a small country in the east of Africa. That’s where we started our LED lighting business. Thereafter in 2016, we got into the solid-state memory business, and we started manufacturing USB drives, memory cards, SSDs, and memory modules. Just a year later, we were very lucky to get into a joint venture with a very large organization in Taiwan, known as MiTAC Corporation. Through that joint venture, we were able to get access to their cutting-edge product portfolio, primarily into computing. That is how we entered into the computing segment. Sahasra was the very first company to manufacture enterprise grade motherboards in India from 2019 onwards. It was a feat, which was not being done in India earlier. Thereafter, in 2020, when the pandemic unfortunately happened, that is the time when the government came with the first PLI scheme for mobile phones and its components. That’s when we applied for our first PLI, and we were lucky enough to be awarded with the PLI scheme. Fortunately, we laid the foundation for our semiconductor operation into packaging. In March 2023, we started trial production of semiconductor packaging and in September, we stepped into mass manufacturing. 

Semiconductor Packaging Industry

Q. Are all your computing products completely manufactured in India or do you source it from other countries? What are the products you are currently offering?

Sahasra does not do any kind of trading activity. All the motherboards, memory modules, USB drives, and PCBs are completely manufactured by our organization in India. Now, with the help of our joint venture with MiTAC, we have access to the technology and availability of the product. We get the raw materials from there and then we completely assemble them in India. Today, we are proud to say that we are shipping our motherboards to Korea and our memory solutions are shipped to the US, Europe, and in the Middle East. All these products are available on Amazon global and DigiKey. 

Q. Can you please explain what kind of PCB manufacturing unit Sahasra has and what are the kind of PCBs you are currently making and assembling?

Saisha KG- See, this is a PCBA assembly line. Here, we have state-of-the-art SMT lines. Around eight SMT lines are here equipped with Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) and Solder Paste Inspection (SPI) facility. Sahasra fulfills the requirements of whole spectrum of the industry whether it is consumer industry, industrial electronics, automotive, medical, and aviation. The whole gambit of the industry is covered by us and going down the line we will continue to grow with the EMS line.

Q. The manufacturing PCBs are very complex as 35 procedures are involved. Can you highlight why the making is so complex?

Saisha KG- See, if you look at the complexity, it depends on the kind of boards we are making. We do make 10-layer PCB boards having a very high density that has large placements of components. Complexity is always in the number of layers you do, which can be fabricated.  
Sahasra ensures customer delight through right quality. In fact, we strongly believe in having a strong manufacturing system followed by high quality products. All the bare PCBs and PCBAs are manufactured by us in our own unit.