“Becoming self-sufficient in semiconductors may take some time”

In an interaction with Shubhendu Parth, Thomas George, and Sunil Rajguru, he lifts the curtain and gives a peek into the making.

Shubhendu Parth
New Update
S Krishnan

S Krishnan

For this 1989-batch IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, technology has always been a catalyst of change. In his earlier role as Associate Vice President at ICT Academy, he led strategic planning, national special initiatives, corporate partnerships, government projects, education technology, marketing, and advocacy. As the Secretary of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) S Krishnan is responsible for supervising the implementation of the recently passed Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act, 2023. He is also at the forefront of driving the implementation of the country’s ambitious semiconductor mission to create the component ecosystem.


In the Indian context, the challenge with Industry 4.0 lies in the substantial need for retrofitting due to the incorporation of sensors and data collection.

In an interaction with Shubhendu Parth, Thomas George, and Sunil Rajguru, he lifts the curtain and gives a peek into the making of a new India on many fronts—from DPDP and IoT to Industry 4.0, interconnection platforms, and Make in India. Excerpts:

What’s your reckoning of the DPDP regulatory move? Are you satisfied with its progress? What implications will it have on compliance in India Inc.?


As you’re aware, the DPDP Act was enacted in August. The Parliament has enacted it. It has also secured the consent of the President. Now, we are at the stage where rules are being drafted. There are several sections; in fact, almost 88 sections for which rules have to be drafted. The process of drafting the rules is nearing completion. Thereafter, we will have internal consultations and the draft will be put out for public consultation.

The Act itself has a provision which mandates that any rules under the Act have to be published for consultations before they are finalised. So, to that extent, the industry and others will get adequate opportunity to share their views on the draft. There will be adequate stakeholder consultation and hence there is no reason to be concerned. As far as industry is concerned, it is a very positive provision for them. Different sections of the Act can be brought into force on different dates. This means that based on industry consultation, and based on their level of preparedness, the government can give more time to deal with genuine difficulties while complying with the provisions.

India is working on building indigenous capacity for CMOS and infrared cameras and the system-on-chip mechanism, integral to IoT and devices.


We intend to remove difficulties and ensure the balance of interests on both sides. The Act, itself, is very important from a personal data protection angle. All of us, as citizens, you and I, will also benefit. The main feature fundamentally is that there’s a formal process of consent and that your data cannot be taken without your consent. The other part of it also is about how long the data can be kept. Once the need for the data is over, they will have to get rid of it. That is what is called the ‘right to forget’. I think for individuals and citizens, there is a lot of positive protection.

Another important development is the Indian semiconductor vision. We have been trying this since the 1980s and 1990s and always seem to miss the bus. Can we finally become self-sufficient on this front?

Becoming a self-sufficient nation may take some time because our demand is going to be very large. Let us be clear that we are the most populous country—and chips are becoming part of almost any kind of device that we use, including lights and fans and everything which now carries a semiconductor chip. And especially if we start using electric vehicles, the number of chips there will also increase. So, the demand for semiconductor chips in India is going to be very large. One should not make a very ambitious projection saying that we will be able to establish complete self-sufficiency. Production of semiconductors also includes specialised applications, ranging from being mass-produced to specifics for complex electronics and niche areas.


So, in that situation, I think it may not be realistic to expect that all our requirements will be produced domestically. What we may be doing is that in certain kinds of chips, we will be exporting and in certain kinds, we will be importing. That is why it is called the global value chain. The value chain extends across different countries, but you must ensure that the value chain is resilient and you should not be reliant on just one source for what you require. You should have a multiplicity of sources, at least two or three sources, so that if one fails you have another option in hand. Overall, we should target to establish a reliant and robust supply chain that will not get disrupted. And we must have a substantial production capacity within the country. It is also important to note that globally no country fully manufactures all components of complex electronics. At the most only 40-45% value addition is done by any one country in terms of complex electronics.

What about the sensor-based technologies? While there has been a surge in efforts towards digitalisation after the pandemic, Industry 4.0 has not really taken off in India. Why?

MeitY is not the only agency which is responsible for Industry 4.0. While we are looking at various emerging technologies, Industry 4.0 primarily relates to the manufacturing sector. So, several other entities in the Government of India are also focusing on that, along with many state governments. Many new factories are coming up that are adopting Industry 4.0—they are called Lighthouse factories.


On the skill development front, the focus should be on fostering a mindset that can help the country quickly ramp up infrastructure to meet emerging needs.

The challenge, at least, in the Indian context with Industry 4.0 is the need for a lot of retrofitting because it involves sensors and the collection of data. Now, retrofitting is a slightly more challenging issue, because it has costs involved. It depends on the demonstration of the benefits to the industry, because fundamentally, it is in the manufacturing industry, and they should see cost advantages in actually doing it. So, the point is that we can address it and make sure that the skilling is done, and the technology is made available. We are doing that through several Centres of Excellence. Beyond that, the actual investment needs to come from the private sector.

Talking of IoT and equipment, what are the other initiatives beyond PLI?


Indeed, beyond PLI, we’ve taken significant steps. At a recent event in Delhi, we unveiled three camera types developed by CDAC, fostering tech transfer to private firms for manufacturing of CMOS and infrared cameras. So, we are working on building indigenous capacity for these cameras and the system-on-chip mechanism, integral to IoT and devices.

One of these cameras is designed for tracking processes in sugar mills, and monitoring the crystallisation of sugar and is adaptable to various industrial applications. Another is a standard CMOS camera similar to closed-circuit television, while the third improves nitrogen monitoring. We are permitting the private sector to take these up for large-scale manufacturing. So clearly, there is real support, not just financial support. The other important aspect is standards; we also need to address the issue of security and standardisation when such equipment is deployed.

You mentioned skill development in the context of Industry 4.0. Do we have a roadmap for the next 25 years to address emerging technology needs?


It is an important area that we are working on, especially for the new-age skills and the use of emerging technology. However, creating a precise 25-year roadmap for this sector is challenging, given the rapid evolution of technology. How do we anticipate 25 years from now? What will be the requirement then? I think we have to be nimbler than that.

Fundamentally, the focus should be on fostering a mindset that can help the country quickly ramp up infrastructure to meet emerging needs. And technology permits it. Strong foundational education is key, emphasising not only basics but also the ability to learn themselves. That is why the new education model and foundation level have to be strong. Resilience lies in ensuring a mechanism for quick reskilling or retraining when new technologies emerge. We need to make sure this robust infrastructure is in place to support these endeavours.

Will that include collaboration with educational institutions?

Yes, in fact, under the AI mission, a number of the Centres of Excellence will be established and coordinated by higher education. We are collaborating with educational institutions across a wide spectrum.

Speaking of security, a lot of refurbished equipment is being sent to India. Is the country becoming a dumping ground, particularly in terms of security?

We are mindful of this issue. However, we have not received any specific complaints about the influx of refurbished equipment into India. Inputs from MAIT and other entities suggest a significant opportunity for India to engage in the repair and refurbishment market. What this means is that the equipment comes in, it is repaired and then sent back with value addition. This is very people-intensive and can generate a lot of jobs. We have a pilot project underway with MAIT to understand the operational aspects of this.

This initiative is a crucial component of the reuse cycle, contributing to the circular economy. But it also has an e-waste angle, so the Ministry of Environment and Forest is involved. It also involves Customs and hence we have to coordinate with multiple agencies to build this repair ecosystem.

We are curious about generative AI. Is it the flavour of the season? Are people using it? Any views from your side?

It is good as long as it doesn’t do any harm. There’s an issue with deep fakes. That’s problematic. And even in the US, they have an issue with deep fakes. So everybody across the world has an issue with the wrong use of AI when it creates user harm. We’re very clear that we have to take action and look at it differently. But in addition to large language models, AI and other things can also be used for a lot of scientific models. The possibility of using them in scientific models is huge. And that can generate huge productivity gains in a lot of those key areas.

Has there been any thought process in terms of the ethical use of AI?

We are concerned about facets like deep fakes and everything else. Till such time that the Digital India Act is out – the existing provisions will apply through those rules. Otherwise, if it’s unlawful activity, then naturally we have to take apt action.

Can you share something about the notice given to a few social media platforms on child pornography?

It was not a notice. What they have been told is under provisions of the IT Act. The Safe Harbor is subject to certain conditions. One of the conditions is that they have to exercise due diligence and ensure that no harmful content is carried out and they are not violating any law. We only brought to their notice that they should not take the Safe Harbor clause for granted. If a company does not exercise adequate due diligence and ensure that undesirable content is completely removed, the platform could be falling foul of the law.

We have alerted them about their responsibilities to conduct due diligence. If they fall flat and if we find such occurrences, then the platform or company may be liable as an intermediary. There is nothing like a cut-off date for this. The point here is very simple: they have to take responsibility. The companies cannot wash their hands off by saying they have no idea what is being put on their platform.

S. Krishnan

Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India