'Size doesn't matter, our focus is quality'

'Size doesn't matter, our focus is quality'

'Size doesn't matter, our focus is quality'
This is a very special year for the $13-bn Dallas-based semiconductor company Texas Instruments since it is celebrating the 30th anniversary of setting up its first R&D centre in Bengaluru in August 1985. The first multinational to set up such a centre in India did so without any precedent, or any models to follow. The decision opened the floodgates and was pivotal in transforming Bengaluru as the IT capital of India. In an interaction with Deccan Herald’s Georgy S Thomas, TI (India) President and Managing Director Santhosh Kumar explains TI’s philosophy of quality over quantity.

How did TI take the decision to start an R&D centre in Bengaluru in 1985?

We go to places where there is great talent, especially for development. Otherwise we go to places where there is market. At that point of time, both in the US and UK, it so happened that we had plenty of people from India. And someone said, okay why don’t we start an operation in India?

They looked at different places in India at that point of time. No other company had set up an operation in India before. So there was no precedent. They liked Bangalore because IISc was here, and the weather was great. We also had lots of public sector companies which had some amount of engineering and electronics support. So we chose Bangalore.

How important is TI India for the global organisation?

Every business of the global organisation has a significant portion of its development work done here. And most employees actually work on really important projects that have a significant value for the company.

You were the pioneers. But you are not there in mindshare when one talks about multinationals betting big on India. For instance, Cisco earned headlines when it said its second HQ would be based out of Bengaluru. Why isn’t that kind of commitment not seen from your leadership towards India?

It is the TI philosophy again. What is important for us is absolutely not quantity. When I was a business manager, I met one of our important customers, who said, ‘Last year your business was No.2 for us. This year you are No.3 and there are other people who are going to make more money out of us than you.’ My immediate response was a standard TI response. I said, ‘We are not really worried about numbers. If I am less valuable than last year for you even if I am making more money, it is a serious problem for me. If I am providing you more value, even If I am actually taking less from you, I am okay.’

The same principle applies here. As long as we remain core to the strategy of what TI is trying to do globally, size doesn’t matter.

How many employees does TI have in India?

There are around 1,000 employees.

Only 1,000? Even after 30 years? IBM is said to employ more than 100,000 in India. Accenture reportedly has another 75,000-plus.

If those are things that you are really chasing, you will really chase that.
Globally, how big is TI?

We are 35,000-strong, and spread across 35 countries. A significant chunk of them are in the factories, which are mostly in Asia. About 8,000–10,000 people are in R&D, of which 1,000 are based in India. This is the second biggest operation in R&D outside Dallas.

Why do you say that India is core to the strategy of TI globally?

The number of people who have got global roles over here are in the hundreds. There are several teams here that cover the entire set of operations for a product — from the people who define it, to the people who deliver the product. The end-to-end systems actually happen over here. There are several people who go back and decide what is the roadmap for particular business — not just five years, but eight years down the line. We don’t really run a product line from India yet, but the entire engineering responsibility for multiple product lines are managed in India. Several of our people have actually become product line managers in the US. Even I spent three years in the US as a product line manager.

Has there been instances where products designed in India have fetched you billions in revenues?

Several instances. LoCosto (single-chip solution for cell phone) is a classic example where several billions of dollars were created from here for TI for one product. Again, TI introduced cameras on a phone for the first time. It came out of here. Each of the second and third-generation of that product gave us billions of dollars.

What about processes? Has TI India contributed anything at all to the company’s global processes?

I can name at least two:
a.) How we work with partner companies.
b.) How we work with universities.

TI used to work with partner companies as more of an outsourcing engagement. I need X number of people for this project. So let me go back and ask for Y number of people from the other organisation to get the job done. In India we figured out that we need to bring in focus. We are not good at everything. But we are really, really good at some things. So we started telling partners, ‘Look, we are actually good at this and we know it. The rest of the piece we don’t know. So you come back and tell us how you really want to fill the puzzle.’ This makes the partner really think through and realise that he is not going to get a cheque from TI, but instead, would get a great partnership.

That model has been adopted by TI globally?

Absolutely. Second thing is how we work with Universities and hire from campuses. We don’t really hire in the thousands like the Top 3 consulting companies. So how do we make sure that the best people join us? We start interacting with campuses ahead of time. We bring several students over and give them real-world projects and tutorials. It improves their learning. It also makes us understand if they have real interest and talent. It’s a mutual selection process which we have adopted throughout the organisation.

How are you celebrating the 30th year?

It’s not about celebrations. But about responsibilities. TI has key stakeholders. These stakeholders are the communities we work with. We have a lot of programmes for the student/university communities and young engineers. TI recently wound up a DIY event. We just had this event for students where they had put up projects with our technology and mentoring. We are celebrating internally with employees as well. Around September-end we will do something special. We are going to call our ex-employees and have a big family event. Because they are the ones who made TI what it is.

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