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5G Technology will lead to Another Data Explosion in India: Western Digital

Siva Sivaram, Western Digital’s executive vice-president of silicon technology and manufacturing, says 5G technology will lead to another explosion in data. In an interaction with Abhik Sen, he discusses why India’s strength lies in more than being a manufacturing hub. Edited excerpts:

In India, there is a lot of focus on ‘Make in India’. Does it make sense to manufacture in India?

I want to answer it in a different perspective. We were 85,000 people when we were a $4 billion company, now we have 65,000 people and are a $21 billion one. It is because of the additional value we add. Manufacturing is very important, but as a percentage of our work force, if anything is coming down because of the higher level of automation and higher level of value. It does not mean we don’t want to manufacture in India, but I think the bigger value comes from here what we do here than in manufacturing. Yes, I can go add another factory in other place but given the amount of money we invest in India, the focus is to make sure the team here continues to do more of it and we create lot of opportunities. We are growing fast and hiring 50-100 people every month. I think we are creating more secondary jobs. So we will carefully look at ‘Make in India’, but I think we are doing wonders with the value-added work that is done here.

So, is it erroneous to compare India with China in terms of manufacturing?

It’s not like India cannot manufacture. That’s not what we are saying. In this stage of our economy, I actually think in the post-manufacturing economy, given our strengths and our strict IP laws and adherence to law, our workforce produces more value in a deep engineering knowledge economy than a manufacturing economy. I’m not saying a manufacturing economy is not good but we are actually doing better.

What are the major segments you are in?

There are four major markets we generally play in. First is retail — SD cards, microSD cards that goes in mobile phones, USB drives and My Passport hard drives. Then there are devices that go into various parts of the digital ecosystem, whether they are Edge devices, where you go from 32GB to 64GB to 128GB to 256GB, or in laptops, client devices. Those are the devices segment. Then there is data centre platforms and systems where large SSDs are used when you have to have solutions for various verticals. Even though there is an explosion of data, we do provide custom solutions to many of these places where data is going. That’s the expertise in various platforms all the way from flash to enterprise hard drive that we provide. So that’s a big marketplace.

We keep producing more and more memories and filing them away. Do we need to pick and choose our memories?

I expect it the other way. Today we take some pictures and some music. I’m just dreaming… but I feel some years from now, our life will be recorded real time and kept. There is going to be a camera looking at you, looking away from you, whatever you do will be recorded and kept. The amount of storage that is going to be needed… there is no reason why we can’t. And the two major developments that is going to make a difference — one is machine learning — the ability to process unstructured data. And be able to learn and draw inferences form inferences from it. It is going to cause another explosion of data. 5G is going to cast another explosion of data. When a picture is posted, it gets 10 other shares, I love it. There is no need to choose. Our job is to provide you with enough storage to keep it more and more.

We have heard of holographic storage. Are we anywhere near that?

Technology is an interesting beast. I’ll give you an example. In the mid 90s we all use to take photographs. And nobody thought of Kodak pictures as storage. One day flash memory went below a certain cost for 64MB devices. Overnight photographic film disappeared and everything become digital. Some years later, 1 GB memory came out. Out went all VHS tapes and then a few years later CDs went away, few years later DVDs went away, few years later Mp3 players went way. As the price kept dropping, new markets just open up. In parallel, given that the market is opening up, innovation comes up. 2D to 3D. And now it is not 1, 2, 3, or 4 bits. It is exploding. Remember the big laser disk? It’s gone. Of course after some years all this will stop and quantum memory will come in and there is no end to human innovation in solid state memory and we will continue to produce new things. Whether it becomes holographic—- maybe or maybe not. May be DNA memory will come. – Business Standard

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