Few startups operate in stealth mode for over a decade. But you can’t fault Arumugam Govindswamy for lying low. Or for breaking the stealth cover now. It’s timed to the current market distortion.

Competition in the chip industry peaked and slumped peaked and slumped Financial Times Intel chief says more consolidation needed in chip industry Read more in these years. To the extent that many of the 6-plus billion smartphones in use today owe their wireless modems to just two companies—US-based Qualcomm and Taiwan’s MediaTek. Even Apple and Samsung, which make their own application processors for their phones, buy the modem component—the chip that enables smartphones to talk to the cellular networks—from Qualcomm.

Govindswamy’s MBit Wireless is making an entry into this rarefied world of wireless chipsets. One which giants like Intel, NXP, Texas Instruments, and several others decided to leave after betting and losing billions of dollars. This former ISRO engineer, who left his Ahmedabad job in 1994 to do something more challenging, held on to his startup in the face of a massive industry consolidation. Today, MBit has two commercially ready chips that can enable 4G low-end smartphones and 5G IoT IoT Internet of Things The Internet of things describes physical objects that are embedded with sensors, processing ability, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communications networks ; it has secured manufacturing at two of the world’s leading foundries. (The Ken verified this independently.) It also has over 100 patents, with more awaiting approval.

“We have a roadmap; a single chip won’t cut it. If you don’t think at the level of Qualcomm and MediaTek, it’s not worth it,” says Govindswamy. Yet, and even after shipping one million chipsets, Govindswamy is guarded. He’s never spoken with the media before; the company’s website has no details about its leadership. And all that is “by design”.

His competition is formidable. The prevailing acute semiconductor shortage shortage Investing Toyota expects annual production target shortfall as chip shortage drags on Read more has made Qualcomm such a sought-after company that even heads of state are wooing it to keep their country’s electronics manufacturing rolling. In his latest visit to the US, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met met Livemint PM Modi meets Qualcomm CEO Read more Qualcomm’s CEO and discussed the semiconductor supply chain.

AUTHOR

Seema Singh

Seema has over two decades of experience in journalism. Before starting The Ken, Seema wrote “Myth Breaker: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and the Story of Indian Biotech”, published by HarperCollins in May 2016. Prior to that, she was a senior editor and bureau chief for Bangalore with Forbes India, and before that she wrote for Mint. Seema has written for numerous international publications like IEEE-Spectrum, New Scientist, Cell and Newsweek. Seema is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MacArthur Foundation Research Grantee.

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