The Age of Enlightenment

But isn't it costly to try to reach these more regional locations within the country?

Vic Kulkarni - Not really. There are 5 domestic airlines in India, and everyone is clamoring to get to these satellite cities. Plus, everybody knows that the semiconductor design chain is not capital intensive. You don't need a lot of capital equipment, just a few Sun workstations. In fact, now with Linux, the workstations are even less expensive. But even with all of this, there is some movement away from India as I mentioned. The place I hear more and more about, again, is Vietnam.

Is there a university and teaching base in Vietnam to provide the intellectual capital for the industry there?

Vic Kulkarni - The local universities are getting pretty sophisticated. Plus many of the big-name universities in North America - schools like CMU - are partnering with local governments to set up educational facilities. I was at a panel recently hosted by Dr. Avul Kalam, President of India, and he made the point that education is no longer limited by location. President Kalam said that now with the Internet and wireless access being so good - with big screens, and video capability - the things that made location so important are no longer as crucial in education.

He threw out the challenge to take 750 villages, to select 50 professors, and to have them give video lectures to everybody in those villages - real-time classrooms, completely wired, with large screens. He said you could have 1000 students attending each lecture. [It's a very clear model] that many countries will follow.

From a business perspective, how do you deal with differences in local cultural and business practices in a globalized company?

Vic Kulkarni - In our own little world, we deal with it by creating a network of partners to avoid cultural issues. Interra really helped me learn a lot about this when we started our design center in Delhi.

However, speaking anecdotally, recently we had a situation where one of the managers in a U.S. office has had the habit of saying "great job" to the team frequently. Here in the U.S., saying "great job" means the you are referencing a particular, [immediate] accomplishment. But for a manager in India who receives that praise, it means that an entire year's worth of work is being praised. So, then when the annual review came out with recommendations for improvement, the manager in India was very disappointed because that person thought they had received unqualified praise for an entire year. It's a simple situation, but it caught us by surprise because we thought we were experts with all of this by now.

Doesn't managing a global team require a great deal of travel to get face time between team members?

Vic Kulkarni - This is a commitment that companies have to make. It means continuous travel. If you walk into my secretary's office today, you will see a schedule posted there that shows when our U.S. people will be traveling to India, and when our India people will be traveling to the U.S.

There is nothing like face-to-face interaction for people to succeed in working together. Also, we have an internal sponsor program where people in the U.S. take responsibility for some non-office hosting of the India employees when they're here. This weekend, my wife and I are taking some senior guys, here from India, to Sausalito. It's important to have people connect with each other in an informal setting.

But yes, it still takes a large commitment of travel dollars. For the U.S. guys, it has been important, however, as they have slowly learned to appreciate the value that the other teams bring to the company - that those teams are more than just satellite operations, but are true Centers of Excellence.

Initially, we had found that there was some tension across the whole supply chain - this issue of globalization. Of course, initially for the industry it was just about giving manufacturing, for instance, to Taiwan, and then to Singapore or Malaysia. Broadcomm has been doing this for many years, but still many people only considered these places to be remote sites.

Now when I go to talk to some of the chip-design start-ups, their whole supply chain and manufacturing is worldwide. Different parts of a product are being designed and manufactured across a huge range of locations. As a result, for people in Silicon Valley, they are getting much better at operations research, supply chain management, and learning to use FedEx to keep the whole thing going. The value-add for the people in our company is at the system level. And, this [trend] is creating a whole new set of jobs and opportunities.

Do you think that globalization may be a factor in helping to ease international tensions? In a related question, do you think the events of 9/11 had any material impact on the pace of change towards globalization?

Vic Kulkarni - Well, there has definitely been an acceleration of events, and 9/11 did have a deep impact on the economy at the time. It taught us to do things in a better way within the context of a new world - in our economy here in the U.S. and elsewhere. But it was the boom, which was already underway, and which was [significantly overfunded], that really did the job to prepare us for today. There was so much fiber optic cable laid down at that time that now we have superb communications for video, audio and [all types] of data. There is a very low price for connectivity and this is having a very large impact today.

How does Silicon Valley maintain its position of leadership or pre-eminence in the world? Or is that actually no longer the case?

Vic Kulkarni - Silicon Valley, in my mind, is still thriving - even if not completely across the board. But the Googles, Yahoos, and Apples of the world continue to keep Silicon Valley absolutely on the top of the world for innovation, creativity, and opening. Just look at Google Earth!

When Dr. Kalam was making his presentation, he asked the audience to compare themselves to Silicon Valley: "Where is your IP? Where is the next Excel spreadsheet? What have you done lately that is innovative?"

The innovation is still happening in North America. People everywhere are still looking to America for the ingenuity. It's still quite unique. And there continues to be a fascination with how we do things here in Silicon Valley. It's still impossible to recreate a Steve Jobs anywhere else in the world. It's true, that may happen with time - definitely that will happen with time - but what the time frame or horizon is for that, who can tell.

Richard Newton at U.C. Berkeley talks about the fusion of technologies. It's the fusion of electrical engineering, computer science, bioengineering, and medicine that Dr. Newton says will produce a whole brand new set of ideas. Yes, someday there may be Silicon Valley's in other parts of the world, but it hasn't happened yet.

Right now, for instance, Bangalore may be creating the best WiMax in the world. The need is so strong to take advantage of the technology for low-cost communications in that part of the world. If you can create a telephone conversation that is as cheap as a postage stamp, so the cost of an hour-long phone call is the same as a stamp, that would mean tremendous innovation for that area of the world.

But in my opinion, here in Silicon Valley - with the influence of Stanford, Berkeley, UCSF, and all of the U.C. system, for that matter - there is still no other place like it in the world.

You talk about wireless connectivity, so why aren't we actually moving to a virtual Silicon Valley?

Vic Kulkarni - Yes, it's possible - globalization is the first step towards that [type of reality]. You have a global work force that is [increasingly] independent of location. It may come from China, or India, or Egypt. Right now, for instance, Mentor Graphics is looking at Egypt for a significant portion of its RTL work. And, as you have said, there are lots of people looking at South America. If we can become sufficiently connected, a virtual Silicon Valley is a possibility.

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Review Article
  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Paras'
    Incisive ideas, well presented and well received. Must read for all in the industry.

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  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Sudhir Naik.'
    This is the first article I think -clealy define Globalistion. Real challenges are articlulated based on experience and implementing the model which yeild the results and not what Vic kukarny likes or his management wishes.
    "Go where talent is" Most crtical to understand which people like Kulkarni can only put on table.
    Thanks a bunch for classic article.
    With Regards.
    Sudhir Naik.

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  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'J K'

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