Set up in 2007, Saankhya is a Bangalore-based fabless semiconductor company that has developed a software-defined radio application processor which can be used in all televisions (and not just Smart TVs) for improved functionality. This is the first semiconductor product company that Intel Capital invested in last decade or so.
Saankhya is developing World’s First Software-Defined Universal Demodulator IC for Digital and Analog TV reception. Saankhya’s solutions a unique architecture of hardware and software to provide an optimized solution for the DTV market. Their solution decreases the cost of a regional TV set as well as the cost of manufacturing a world TV receiver.
One of the person (co-founder and CTO at Saankhya Labs) behind this is Parag Naik who did his schooling from St.Pauls high school and then his engineering (CS) from Gogte Institute of technology (1992).
Parag has over 18 years of industry experience, which includes product development, system/software architecture and management. Prior to Saankhya Labs Parag also co-founded another start-up, Smart Yantra Technologies , a media streaming IP and Systems Company. At Smart Yantra he conceived and architected the world’s first Video over WiFi system solution. Smart Yantra was acquired by Genesis Microchip in 2004. He is also co-founder and Board Member at Vayavya labs, an ESL company in 2006 with its HQs in Belgaum and offices at Bangalore, Parag also worked at Ishoni Networks during late 90’s where he was one of the key architects of the world’s first Gateway on Chip solution. Earlier to that he was at Philips Research and Consumer Electronics where he was instrumental in defining software and system architectures for a range of Analog and Digital TV ICs. He was also one of the founding members of Philips India Design Centre in 1995. During early part ofhis career, Parag worked as a private contractor to a reputed Indian Defence Organization. Here he designed and developed embedded hardware and software for the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft project. He has 9 (3 issued, 6 pending) US and India patents in the areas of CPU/SDR architecture, Digital Communications, Signal Processing and Hardware-Software Co-design/ Code generators.
His work experience includes product conception and development, system/software architecture, building and binding strong technical teams and product marketing. He has built strongly motivated technology teams in Saankhya, Vayavya and Smart Yantra. At Vayavya, he is one of key contributors in the definition of a patented Device Driver generator product. This product is first of its kind in the industry and the company’s flagship product.
At Saankhya Labs the founders, with about 30 employees, have been working for the past nearly four years on coming out with the solution, with only the money that they themselves put in, and that of some angel investors.
Naik says they have created for the first time in the world a demodulator chip that is software programmable. He calls it a breakthrough development because he claims such programmable chips have so far been done mostly in military applications, not in customized consumer ones, where devices have to be smaller, far more power efficient, and price points have to be extremely low.
What the solution means is, TV manufacturers can make a single chassis/hardware for the world, and just load the appropriate demodulator software (relevant to a region). Saankhya has also developed the software for each standard.
And while earlier, TVs needed a separate chip for digital modulation, another for analog modulation and yet another for FM reception (given that all such requirements co-exist in every region), Saankhya’s solution obviates that. All the relevant software is simply loaded in the TVs memory, and the demodulator chip uses the software appropriate to the need at a particular moment.
Awards and recognition:
Saankhya Labs won the prestigious 2010 TV Innovation Award for Semiconductor Solutions.
IMS Research, USA announces Saankhya Labs as the Winner of the prestigious 2010TV Innovation Award in semiconductor category
ISA Start-up to Watch Award 2010.
“Best Startup” award at Silicon India’s Startup City 2009.
An interview with Parag Naik:
Parag Naik ——-> Saankhya Labs is my third venture. My first venture was Smart Yantra Technologies which I co-founded in 2000. We sold Smart Yantra to Genesis Microchip a NASDAQ listed company in 2004. In 2006 I co-founded Vayavya Labs together with RK Patil , Venugopal K , Uma Bondada and others , which incidentally is based out of Belgaum. At Smart Yantra we developed a whole range of Video streaming based technologies ( both hardware and software ) which are now commercially deployed. We had IP TV solutions back in 2002 ! I realized in hindsight that we were too early and sold out the company also very early. While we spent time at Genesis Microchip as part of the acquisition, we brainstormed on the next generation technologies in the consumer electronics world ( I and my co-founding team have spent close to 16 years in the CE space ) and zeroed on the software defined radio.
The primary motivation for starting Saankhya was to build a world class semiconductor product technology company based out of India. As a country we have major successes in technology services segment, we still do not have a commercially successful product technology company in the semiconductor space, in spite of the fact that we have extremely talented engineers. Personally I have spent the last 10 years working in high tech start-ups. I love the technical/business challenges, the high energy zero politics environment and working smart hard working colleagues.
How come your company was able to do something that large semiconductor companies haven’t done?
Parag Naik ——-> When you think of an idea for a high tech product start-up one needs to come up with a “A Maginot Line” idea. A Maginot idea is one which most industry regulars think is impossible to attain. Most senior technologists within the CE semiconductor industry thought that a SDR concept was impossible for consumer grade applications. In addition the stuff we do needs expertise from the entire gamut of electrical engineering ( from RF/Analog design, CPU arcitecture, compilers, firmware, Wireless DSP ). Building such a team working in harmony ( very important ) I believe is much easier in a start-up than a large company. Finally the cost of doing such a radical concept is extremely high in large companies. In fact a VP Marketing of very large semiconductor company was shocked ( pleasantly of of-course ) to know that we thought about the idea in 2006/7 and that too sitting in Bangalore.
How did you fund it? All with internal accruals or personal savings?
Parag Naik ——-> Initially we raised money through our personal savings and a network of angel investors. In fact there are quite a few shareholders of Saankhya are from Belgaum/North Karnataka region. Notable among them are Shri. Venkatesh Patil (MD, Karnataka Industrial gases ) and Dr. Shivaling S Mahantshetti ( CEO and founder of Karmic ). Both of them have been true angels and have supported us through tough times. We are truly lucky to have a set of angel investors who believe in our story and and are solidly behind us. Recently we raised a venture round from Intel Capital which should see us to profitability.
How and what was the reaction of your parents and friends when you told them about this startup.
Parag Naik ——-> Since this is my third start-up , my family is used to it -) But seriously, I have a very accommodating wife and parents who have supported me to the hilt. Some of this would not have been possible without the help and active encouragement from my friends. Quite a few of them are investors as well as active well wishers. However a lot of industry watchers and institutional investors were skeptical and down right even ridiculed us. But that’s part of the game.
How did you land up with this unusual name, Saankhya Labs?
Parag Naik ——-> The name Saankhya was coined by my co-founder Vishwa Kayargadde. We were looking for a Sanskrit/Indian name that best described what we were setting out to do. Vishwa found out that Saankhya means “Digital” in Sanksrit and not be confused with Sankhya which stands for number. Turns out that there is a old Indian philosophy by the name of Saankhya. Saankhya Yogis believe in salvation through logic/knowledge.
Any plans to come back to Belgaum and start something here?
Parag Naik ——-> Eventually, yes. We would have started Saankhya in Belgaum if we had at least parts of the a product Eco-system in Belgaum. Attracting and retaining talent in Bangalore itself is quite a task. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to motivate senior people to move to Belgaum for various reasons, and that includes folk who are originally from Belgaum ! Hopefully one day we might open a Belgaum Design Centre.
A few words of encouragement to the youngsters ?
Parag Naik ——-> Live your dreams and don’t let others ( parents/family ) dictate your choices specially in matters of career. Follow your heart/intuition as it knows what you really want deep down. Unfortunately success which a multidimensional quantity is reduced a single number, money !! Success to me is being a well rounded personality and trying out as many interesting things as possible. Mark Twain famously said ” Twenty years from now , you’ll remember things you didn’t do rather than things you did ”
Your view on the technology and where it will take us in the years to come and what more can be expected from a TV?
Parag Naik ——-> Tough to describe this in a few words. The least I can say is that convergence ( Video, voice and data ) that was talked about 10 years ago is now happening.
In this time of global recession is there any slowdown in your business, or do you see it coming a bit later?
Parag Naik ——-> Everything in this world is cyclical ! There will be periods of boom followed by bust. I don’t see the recession affecting us directly. The best time to start something new is during recession.
What do you remember about Belgaum? Or what is that you miss a lot.
Parag Naik ——-> Almost everything. The most I miss is the laid back life , food ( specially the Alepak and sugarcane juice ) , the language accent ( Kannada,Marathi and Hindi, you can spot a Belgaumite anywhere in the world from the way he speaks these three languages ) and the strolls down Deshmukh road during our college days !
What do you think about this website?
Parag Naik ——-> Brilliant work ! It makes some us feel nostalgic. It is even more commendable because I believe you are doing this as some kind of voluntary service. Wish I had the patience and commitment that you possess.