Pratul Shroff, founder CEO of eInfoChips, talks to Dilin Anand of EFY about his company, eInfoChips.
Q. Could you introduce us to your company?
A. EinfoChips is a 20-year old company and we are focused on product engineering services. The kind of products that I mean are electronic appliances, surveillance cameras, and other consumer electronics. Unlike any other company in the area, we do a lot of product design. For us almost 80 per cent of the revenue comes from the actual design and development process. We also partner with companies like TI, Freescale. Because of the strong partnership, we work with their current processors and next-gen processors. This allows our engineers to be familiar with their architecture and become trained in them, thus, allowing them to work on next-gen products unlike most of our competitors. Our top ten customers are all billion dollar corporations.
Q. Does eInfoChips design only Chips or do you design products as well?
A. Well, if you look at our workforce you’ll see that 1/4th of them are on the chip design side, 2/3rd of the engineers are on the system design. 65 per cent of our revenue comes from software development, board development, and product development, 35 per cent comes from the chip design side. So predominantly 2/3rd of the company is on the system side.
Q. Where are all the branches of eInfoChips located in?
A. We have a subsidiary in the USA, Japan, Taiwan, and Ireland. We have branch offices in UK and Singapore. So we have presence across the globe in 3 continents and 8 different countries.
Q. What are you currently working on?
A. There’s a 10 billion dollar display giant out of Taiwan and right now we are developing a demonstration kit for that company based on 3D video conferencing. I believe this is a first for any company India.
Q. What are the verticals that you focus on?
A. The first one is the consumer electronics, which is related to the 3D conference system. The second vertical is avionics and defense; third vertical is Security and Surveillance; fourth vertical is Semiconductors industry itself and the fifth one is health care.
The underlying strength comes from the horizontal technology platforms. First one is the chip design and services, the second one is the board level design, the third is the operating system optimisation for various products, the fourth is video streaming as a technology. Finally, the fifth is networking and communication. These five technologies are common across all the industry verticals.
A challenge in Security and Surveillance is that if I have 100 cameras in the field, how do I handle all those video feeds and how do I store them at my server and the kind of complete solution required from the camera in the field to the video storage and processing at the server. We specialise in this as we have all the IP required to handle all this.
Q. What is the USP of your company?
A. First of all, we work closely with half a dozen semiconductor companies like TI, Freescale, etc. Because we work intimately with them, we are aware of those functions and features of their chips and their processors. This also allows us to advice our customers how to design the architecture, how to optimise, and the bill of material for the products. Secondly, because we are aware of their next-roadmap products, our engineers can collaborate with our customers to bring out next generation design before other Indian companies.
Moreover, if you look at our chip design side, over the past several years we have been investing on the latest tools and technologies, and methodologies to stay ahead of the competition. As a result we were ranked number One Worldwide in Chip Design Services by Gartner in 2009. Third USP is that we really spend a lot of money training our people and investing in next-generation processors. So, I would those say those are the major differentiators.
Q. Is everything done in-house?
A. Everything except manufacturing is done in-house. But if some of our customers want the design and manufacturing to be done by us then we are able to provide that as well. For instance, there is a company in the USA who provide surveillance solutions for school buses in the US. This customer, is a Texas based customer who have come to us to provide the product development cycle and the installation and we have taken up that responsibility. And now they are talking of giving us the complete product including the manufacturing. For them, it is a very good way of partnering as the accountability for them is very high, since they have only one company to deal with.
Q. Where are your R&D design centers located?
A. We have a small design center in USA, but the rest is in India. In India we have a major design center in Ahmadabad, Pune, and Chennai. And we are just about to start one in Bengaluru.
Q. What are the total number of employees that you have?
A. Currently we are about 800 professionals and are looking to hire about 200 more professionals by the next quarter.
Q. What would be the average experience of your design engineers?
A. 50 per cent of our team has more than 5 years of experience with us.
Q. Do you recruit freshers?
A. We do recruit freshers, and we also manage to retain a substantial number of them. So we have one of the best attrition rates in the industries. The reason is that the work we have is very challenging which is what typically engineers really enjoy. For instance, I mentioned 3D video conferencing. Obviously being able to work on cutting edge things like that is very very attractive.
Q. What are the skill sets that you look for while recruiting?
A. When we hire freshers we typically hire Bachelors of Engineering from Electronics and Communications Stream, Computer Science Engineering, and Information Technology engineering.
With regards to experienced people, we look for people who have experience with video codecs and people with experience with ARM and DSP processors.
On the VLSI side we are always looking for good engineers who have good experience in verification and chip layout side. For every design engineer, we need 2 verification engineers to do verification as they really need to break the design in every possible way.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. Hiring 200 people is going to be a very aggressive challenge. We have a consistent growth rate of 40 per cent year on year except for when the recession hit. We persistently aim to grow by 40-50 per cent year on year, so our team size also has to increase by a similar amount.
Q. How do you compete with other design companies?
A. Firstly, even though we are small, when you look at the absolute size, the reason we are small is that we are focused on product engineering in embedded and hardware areas unlike most other companies.
Secondly, my background is in semiconductor industry and the focus we bring on quality and the engineering expertise is unlike any other company.
Thirdly, nobody focuses on partnerships like we do, like working with the next-gen processors I told earlier, so the benefit to the customer is much higher in terms of value addition. Most of our customers are very big companies and they are very satisfied with us.
Q. Could you name a few of your companies?
A. Toshiba, TI, Cisco, Freescale and Huwaei.
Q. What is the significance of the Indian market for you?
A. I believe there are major drivers which will bring major product development to India.
Firstly, India is a huge market by itself, and every market requires localisation for its local needs and therefore a lot of companies have put up operations here for eastern half of the world. So in the coming decade product engineering will happen in India in a big way.
Secondly, people have cut across from the Indian side and they still have to be competitive. So a lot of companies have setup up captive design centers in India because they see the talent in India and they see the scalability in India. So I think we have a very promising future for the coming decade.
Q. What are the percentage of exports of your company?
A. We started as a 100 per cent export oriented company, and now almost 99 per cent of our sales are exports.
Q. Isn’t the Indian market expanding?
A. Bengaluru by itself is a huge market. All the captive centers for TI, CISCO, Intel, everybody is here. That’s why we are moving in to Bengaluru and setting up a center here.
Q. Is eInfoChips planning to release a branded product?
A. I think we are going to be focused on the services business, we will develop a lot of IP, and help our customers to produce products. We will not brand our own products though.