Semiconductor issue | India in talks with Taiwan to bring chip manufacturing in South Asia

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Almost all of the world’s semiconductors – the foundation of every-day electronics – are made by one company, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). But as demand for chips increases exponentially with the relentless march of technology, the company’s dominance puts the world in a vulnerable position as Taiwan remains the focal point of tensions between the US and China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory. In recent weeks, India and Taiwan have been working on a deal to bring chip manufacturing to South Asia. (Image: News18 Creative)

The trade talks between India and Taiwan come at a time when democracies across the world are boosting economic and military links to stand up against an increasingly assertive China. (Image: News18 Creative)

Taiwan’s world domination. (Image: News18 Creative)

TSMC has become indispensable to both US and China. (Image: News18 Creative)

TSMC invests heavily in cutting-edge chip factories (known as fabs). It has also stopped cutting prices. TSMC can charge between twice and three times as much per silicon wafer made using its most advanced processes, compared with what the next-most-advanced technology will fetch. (Image: News18 Creative)

Over the past few years, TSMC has increased its R&D spending. (Image: News18 Creative)

India, Taiwan May Ink Mega Deal to Set Up Chip Manufacturing Plant. Here’s Why it’s Global Rescue

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In order to address the global semiconductor chip shortage issue, India is in talks with Taiwan. According to an exclusive report by Bloomberg, this could bring chip manufacturing to South Asia along with tariff reductions on components for producing semiconductors by the end of the year.

The Bloomberg report said that officials in New Delhi and Taipei have met in recent weeks to discuss a deal that would bring a chip plant worth an estimated $7.5 billion to India to supply everything from 5G devices to electric cars

World leaders and executives at multinational corporations have been worried about the global scarcity of semiconductors, which has hit manufacturing and sales in numerous countries and no early solution is in sight.

Here’s a closer look at the crisis:

What caused the semiconductor shortage?

Semiconductors, or chips, have properties that are somewhere between conductors and insulators. Usually made of silicon, they are used to power a wide range of devices - cars, laptops, smartphones, household appliances and gaming consoles.

These tiny objects perform a host of functions such as powering displays and transferring data. So, a supply crunch has a consequent impact on sales of cars, fridges, laptops, TVs and other electronic devices.

Manufacturing cannot be increased on short notice. As a Bloomberg report points out, making chips is a complex process that takes months.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC) is the world’s largest contract chipmaker, whose customers include Qualcomm, Nivdia and Apple. It holds 56 percent of the foundry business of manufacturing chips.

The surge in sales for electronic devices during the pandemic created a huge demand for semiconductors. But COVID-19 is not the only factor behind the shortage.

The tense relationship between the United States and China is also a factor, since many US companies do business with Chinese companies. For instance, Huawei, which supplied to American chip makers, has been blacklisted by the US government.

What are the possible fallouts?

Since production cannot be pushed at short notice, it takes chip manufacturers a long time to catch up with demand.

A report published by Gartner in May estimates that the chip shortage across categories of devices could continue well into the second quarter of 2022.

“The semiconductor shortage will severely disrupt the supply chain and will constrain the production of many electronic equipment types in 2021. Foundries are increasing wafer prices, and in turn, chip companies are increasing device prices," said Kanishka Chauhan, principal research analyst at Gartner.

One report by Bloomberg points out that chip lead times, or the period between ordering semiconductors and delivery, rose to a record 21 weeks in August, from six weeks in July.

According to data from Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), automobile wholesales in India declined 11 percent year-on-year in August.

Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker, will see a 60 percent cut in production in September due to shortage in supply of semiconductors.

Mahindra and Mahindra M&M said it would cut output by 20-25 percent in September due to the semiconductor shortage. The automaker will observe seven “no production days" at its automotive plants during the month.

There is a strong likelihood that the semiconductor shortage will impact sales during the upcoming festive season in India.

What about laptops, smartphones etc?

Production of electronic devices has also been impacted by the shortage of semiconductors.

During a post-earnings call with analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook had said that “supply constraints will hurt sales of iPads and iPhones. Cook said the shortage is not in high-powered processors, but “legacy nodes,” or chips that perform functions like driving displays or decoding audio, which can be manufactured using older equipment.

South Korea’s largest conglomerate Samsung Group had in August said it would invest 240 trillion won ($206 billion) in the next three years to expand its footprint in biopharmaceuticals, artificial intelligence, semiconductors and robotics.

Many tech companies have begun developing their own chips, a move that will not only alleviate the current supply concerns but will likely help the industry in the long-run.

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India accelerates talks with Taiwan on $7.5-billion chip plant, trade deal

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