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Why We Need to Near Source Electronic Components

Why we need to Near Source Electronic Components

The past two years have offered some harsh lessons to all in the PCBA industry on the value of inputs. For a long time, the cost paid was the only consideration. The supplier might be located on the other side of the world, but if the cost was marginally lower, the choice was clear. But the pandemic changed all that. The cost of logistics / transport that used to be negligible ballooned beyond expectations. And for some parts – no matter what cost we were willing to pay – the availability just did not exist.

PCB Assembly

PCB Assembly

In India, we import more than 90 percent of the components required for assembling PCBs locally. These imports come from 4 countries – China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Malaysia. A break down at one source country, as we saw in 2020 and 2021, drives up the cost of doing business for all.

Here’s our experience with supply trends for some of our major inputs:

Bare PCBs:  

Bare PCBs are the stronger point in our supply chain. We have seen reliable suppliers of Bare PCBs based in Tamil Nadu and in Gujarat. We (and many of our customers) have been able to source Bare PCBs in the past 18 months with no major issues. Supply lead times have remained consistent and price increases have stayed within tolerable limits.

Assembly Machinery: 

Machinery needed for PCBA is mostly manufactured outside India by majors like Yamaha, Fuji, Panasonic, and Siemens. While prices have stayed stable, lead times have increased considerably. What used to be available in 4 weeks now takes 4 months to get delivered. We’ve had to plan and order earlier than ever before for any capacity enhancements or repairs and replacements.

Other Components / Services: 

Integrated Circuits (IC’s), their component resistors, capacitors et al, solder paste etc. are mostly imported and have all seen prices and lead times zoom up. 52 weeks is now the new normal! Companies like Micron, TI, Cypress, Infineon, Latis, NXP have factories based in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. When supply and manufacturing centers were shut and major ports slowed down, component shortages have visibly hit every industry from automotive to computers and mobile phones. Even stocks held by major distributors Avnet, Future, Arrow, or online suppliers like Digikey, and Mouser could not tide the industry over for long.

This is the area where India needs to attract investment and build manufacturing capacity. 

What Next:

The government has already recognised the need for building an electronics components manufacturing ecosystem. It is doing its part by offering Production Linked Incentive programs and other sops to encourage manufacture of components in India. It is now up to us in Industry to pick up the challenge and partner in building a strong local eco-system for components. 

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Agritech: High-end Hardware Applications for Indian Agriculture

The global human population is projected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050. Food security is a critical concern worldwide. Resource availability, distribution and access imbalance, higher agricultural and dairy output, and sustainability are major challenges.

The Indian agriculture sector is valued at over $370 billion. It employs 40% of the population and contributes nearly 20% of India’s GDP. Agritech is vital to ensuring our nation’s food security issues. A 2020 E&Y study estimated that the Indian agritech market could reach $24 billion in the next 4 years. Another study put the number at $35 billion.

Indian Agritech has great potential

Over 1,300 Indian startups are working in this space as of October 2021. They use AI, ML, IoT and other digital technologies to improve productivity, efficiency, revenue and profitability for farmers. In 2020, Indian agritech startups received $242 million in funding in just ten months.

These startups offer a range of products and services including sensors, signal conditioning, processing and security, power management, connectivity, and positioning. As a precision-engineering EMS manufacturer, Podrain works with IoT-driven agritech startups to create the hardware required for smart farming. Some of the many applications are:

Precision agriculture and farm management.

Geospatial and weather data, IoT sensors for humidity, temperature and other variables, resource and field management, energy and water use, and robotics on farm equipment.

Farm infrastructure and equipment.

Industrial automation using machinery, tools and robots to seed, harvest, and handle materials. Greenhouse systems, temperature and humidity monitoring, environmental controls, irrigation and water management, heating and ventilation monitoring.

Dairy farm optimisation.

IoT sensors monitor the health parameters, milk production, eating patterns and nutrition, fertility and reproductive cycle of individual cows, and overall herd health. Diseases can be detected early. Digital milk analysis devices measure fat and water content, SNF and contaminants at every stage.

Cultivation and land use.

GPS data have applications in land mapping, soil quality, crop placement, soil sampling, weed identification, determining the right time to harvest, pest management and optimum pesticide use, and water availability and irrigation, among many others.

PCBs are a foundational component of IoT-based digital technology. Podrain has vast expertise in developing customised solutions and solving highly complex problems for our clients. We apply our talents to the vital area of agritech. It presents a large and growing opportunity to harness the power of digital technology to improve the quality and quantity of agricultural and dairy output, and the economic well-being of 40% of India’s population.

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Access to capital: the Msme money maze

Capital Access that looks easy on paper is difficult in practice

The government’s Make in India strategy demonstrates how important MSMEs are to India’s growth story, but capital is still hard to get. If you are considering launching a startup, here are some things to keep in mind:

KEEP FRIENDS, FAMILY AND FOREIGN FUNDS CLOSE

Most credit schemes are aimed at MSMEs that are at least three years old. If your company is newer, informal sources like family and friends must be part of your fundraising strategy. Quite often, this means looking abroad for help. Even if you are looking at a VC / PE funding, the Indian ecosystem is in its infancy and you are likely to go beyond India’s borders. But this can lead to a problem. Indian financial institutions need at least 75% Indian ownership to qualify you for most of their loan products. This is intended to encourage Indian entrepreneurs, but as a startup that might be considering all options for support – make sure foreign investors hold less than 25%.

CAUTION: COLLATERAL AHEAD!

Typically, financial institutions ask for collateral that equals (or exceeds) the loan amount. This can be a term deposit or a mortgage on your home. Indian financial organizations are very cautious about lending. Read the loan terms carefully and include all supporting documentation with your application. 

PLEASE MIND THE GAP

The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) was established to bring MSMEs and capital together. This is excellent news for MSMEs but the execution is not perfect. Rules can be unclear and confusing. Decision-making does not always follow the on-paper criteria. If your application is rejected, you may not know why.

Government schemes to support MSMEs working on Covid-19-related projects face similar challenges. Companies that qualify for credit on paper may still be rejected without an explanation.

WHAT CAN CHANGE

Podrain’s experience has taught us that patience is key. It also helps to have an experienced, trusted financial advisor or mentor who understands the options and provides guidance on processes and documentation. Some signposts and directions from financial institutions will make navigating easier.

MSMEs should be able to quickly and easily understand what each regulator is responsible for. Clearly stated eligibility rules for each scheme and a simple explanation of the risks and benefits of each option will help entrepreneurs who are not always financial experts make the right choice. A single-window approach to clearances will make MSMEs’ search for capital much easier. Regulators can also help to match MSMEs with the right funding source for their needs. We can then rely on financial institutions and their lending officers for guidance on the right capital products and schemes. 

Financial institutions also need to look beyond traditional collateral-based criteria. Very often these show only the borrower’s existing financial strength and not the intent to repay. To help new MSMEs get started, lenders may consider performance-based criteria to approve loans. For example, whether a startup pays its employees’ salaries, its taxes, and its statutory dues (GST, PF, etc.) on time is a good indication of its intent to pay. Market-based criteria used by PE/VC funds may also be used with modifications that reflect the lower risk appetite of the lender. These forward-looking strategies are consistent with the idea of financial institutions as partners in the Indian MSME growth story.

By adopting a partnership mindset, financial institutions can make capital more easily accessible to MSMEs who want to Make in India.

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