NPE 2018 Looks Like a Document in Haste: techArc Founder

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“While it’s essential to set goals and objectives in a policy, it is equally important to have clarity on how to achieve them”

Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst, techARC shared his views on NPE 2018 with EFY Network. He spoke at length discussing differences between NPE 2012 and NPE 2018. He said the right approach and policies can help India become the next electronics manufacturing hub of the world. Faisal has over 14 years of experience in technology research and consulting.

Excerpts

You have been associated with research and analysis of the electronics industry from a long time. As an industry analyst, what’s your take on the draft of NPE 2018?

The draft NPE 2018 was released over a month ago. From coverage perspective, it’s too broad as a policy document. Essentially, it covers everything and anything that encompasses ESDM. At a policy level it might be good to have everything focused and developed. However, for electronics sector the story is a bit different.

Electronics is a vast and more of a horizontal rather than a vertical industry. There is no denial that India as a country must develop and propel its electronics competencies and capabilities in every domain of electronics industry, right from design, manufacturing, test & measurement to packaging and selling (including exports). At the same time, application of electronics also needs to be developed across sectors including healthcare, education, communication, defense and others.

How do you see it in comparison to NPE that was made public in 2012? Do you think it will help in achieving the desired results?

The progress and accomplishments of the first dedicated policy on electronics, NPE 2012, has by now given us enough insights as to what our direction should be. Directionally, draft NPE 2018 is no different to NPE 2012, as it proposes focusing on everything that comes under the umbrella of electronics. We have seen that this approach has not given us the desired results so far.

Among the products, we have able to achieve success to some extent in case of mobile phones. For other products and sectors, we have not reached up to the expectations.

What about different initiatives that were introduced in NPE 2012? Do you think the initiatives mentioned in the NPE 2018 draft are promising?

The draft NPE 2018 itself states the progress of M-SIPs, EMC, EDF and other initiatives that were introduced in NPE 2012, which clearly indicates underperformance. For instance, for all these years, we have received only investment proposals worth Rs 61,925 crore, out of which Rs 40,922 crore worth of proposals have been approved. Unfortunately, actual investments are just Rs 8,335 crore. There are similar statistics for other initiatives under NPE 2012.

Perhaps recognizing this, the government has discussed about replacing / modifying these initiatives. But the draft NPE 2018 does not specify how and what would these be replaced with. If the policy document is not clear about how to replace these initiatives to make them more fruitful, then what is the purpose of coming out with a refresh of the policy? What is the haste in bringing out a new policy document without giving any direction as to how the initiatives which need augmentation would be dealt with?

Electronics manufacturing in India has gained good momentum. How can the country reap benefits from this?

To reap benefits of the momentum gained so far, we need a prudent strategy to focus on very specific things within NPE 2018 and develop competencies through the value chain.

In 2011 or so, there was a good strategy adopted to focus on 6 high impact products as identified by CAREL (Core Advisory Committee on R&D in Electronics) under the auspices of Office of Principal Scientific Adviser, GoI. These were smartphones, tablets, smart meters, STBs, micro ATMs and smart cards.

In those days, most of the electronics initiatives were focused around these 6 products and there were some early stage achievements as well. For instance, road-map towards domestic value addition, India’s own CAS and a few more accomplishments.

There is a need to look at the entire ESDM in a similar way. We need to identify a few products within the enormous opportunity of electronics and work on an action plan to develop competencies along the value chain. We are ushering into the new phase of electronics policy at a time when a lot of global technology changes are throwing up enormous opportunities to be grabbed. For instance, IoT is a vast opportunity.
We need a lot of electronics in an IoT solution – a processor, connectivity module and a sensor among others. Then there are verticalized applications of IoT in healthcare, education, transport, defense, communication, manufacturing, banking and many more.

Even if our NPE 2018 develops a thrust matrix of hardware products and the specific application areas, we would be able to develop a thriving electronics sector in the country. This could be done in a phased manner to work on the domestic value addition, starting first with assembly of these solutions taking it gradually to the design at the chip level.

Can India emerge as a hub of electronics manufacturing?

IoT has a lot of synergies with the competencies and capabilities of India as a supply market. We have a proven software talent pool. At the same time, we have growing consumer market which is adopting technology at a very fast pace. We also have an uneven growth in terms of resources and facilities available in Metro/Tier 1 cities compared with other smaller towns and cities.

On top of it, we have the right technological bend of mind, and a growing startup movement in the country. All these factors can contribute towards making India an IoT hub, which will not only cater to the domestic needs but also prepare for the global opportunities.

The NPE 2018 needs to adopt a focused approach while achieving the goal of making India an ESDM hub on the world map. Without focus, the opportunity is too big, and we might not be able to take up each objective as set out in the draft policy document.

This is what the NPE 2012 and the accomplishments so far have taught us. Rather than being too spread, it would be wise to be very precise and specific in our endeavors and make India a strong player in the electronics domain globally.

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