Case study: Electrifying new business wins

By UK India Business Council (UKIBC)

PHASIX worked with the uk india business council to SECURE ITS FIRST TWO ORDERS IN INDIA WITHIN TWO WEEKS, SAYS COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR CARL SIMON

Phasix is an established UK based outsource provider of Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) testing services to the semiconductor design industry, trading in many countries. Semiconductor companies regularly purchase these services to qualify the robustness of newly developed packaged semiconductor devices. These integrated circuits or ICs ­ the little black chips that are present in virtually every modern electronic device ­ range from a modest pin count of two or three to several thousand pins, each of which requires accurate testing to verify its robustness against static.

With its ongoing investment from foreign and indigenous companies, semiconductor device development in India is rapidly growing. Therefore for Phasix, India offers an exciting target market for its next phase of new business exploration.

Background

The need for ESD testing is triggered by continuing investment in new device developments. ESD is cited by semiconductor companies as one of the top three critical issues that need resolving when designing new ICs.

Damage caused by static has been an ever ­present threat in the world of semiconductors since electronic devices were invented and is increasingly important as device geometry continues to shrink and functionality/performance increases. Unfortunately, this problem will not disappear anytime soon, but can be dealt with by designing in suitable input circuitry that will protect each pin from the risk of damage by ESD, both during manufacture and later when the device is installed in the application for which it was intended.

Failures due to ESD do not always show up immediately, but can be more subtle, taking time to become apparent – the so­called ‘walking wounded.’ Therefore the testing process itself must be reliable and repeatable.Warranty recalls can easily kill semiconductor companies (and their customers) overnight.

The global semiconductor industry represents the leading edge of technology and, as such, demands a partner focus on delivering a strong customer service proposition. Hence, qualification services must be timely, highly responsive and cost effective. More importantly, they must show 100% compliance with the industry testing standards. Accredited ESD testing is therefore a critical differentiator for any ESD test lab seeking to win new business.

For Phasix, demonstrable compliance is achieved by investing in ongoing UKAS services to maintain accreditation to the ISO17025 standard for testing laboratories. This means customers do not need to visit and audit Phasix to be sure of its ability to deliver accurate testing. Shipping of semiconductor samples to/from the UK is also relatively fast and low­cost. Consequently, the location of Phasix has not historically been a barrier to sales.

Targeting India

In its modest eight years of trading, Phasix has expanded business from the UK to 14 countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and America. This expansion has been achieved primarily without the need for agency partnerships. However, the local culture of Indian companies doing business with foreign ones was believed by Phasix to be best served with local contact – either by phone or better, face to face. Therefore the possibility to work on a joint project with the UK India Business Council ­ a team of extremely friendly, knowledgeable, local experts ­ was an opportunity hard to resist.

Several discussions ensued, leading to the appointment of a project manager. The scope of the project was agreed, with targets and key milestones to make progress easy to measure. The use of PC based communication tools for chat and messaging made the whole project very workable, without the need to jump on a plane. A simple, shared spreadsheet was all that was required to record the work completed and identify current status.

Essentially, Phasix required a properly researched, contacted and qualified list of target companies that ranged from semiconductor designers through to complimentary service providers and to potential agents.

Unlike some projects, where the output may be some glamorous­looking report that actually does very little to return the investment made, the tangible deliverables in the project were evident early on. This meant each assumption could be tested and challenged, allowing the work to be shaped and moulded accordingly as the project progressed. In addition, a fixed price for the project was always very helpful for budgeting in a relatively small company setting.

Outcomes

Quite amazingly, within two weeks of project completion, Phasix was able to secure its first two orders from the India market. Two weeks – a truly impressive feat!

Even with the (expected) lower margins involved the value of these contracts was still sufficient to repay the entire investment in the UK India Business Council project costs. Furthermore, a list of good contacts from a range of companies who may deliver new business for Phasix in the future was forthcoming. The directors at Phasix were therefore extremely happy with the project outcome.

Phasix’ past experience has shown that sustained follow up is always required to build relationships with companies who regularly require its services. The larger a contact base, the greater the chance that a customer somewhere will require ESD testing at any given point in time.

Since these early days Phasix has also seen some repeat business from its first local customer. Therefore the objectives from the UK India Business Council project were clearly met and exceeded.

Future direction

Although Phasix is still some way off from committing to a trip to India to develop these newly formed relationships, this will likely be the next logical step as it deepens its engagement with the market. The UK India Business Council is very good at communicating forthcoming marketing events where attendance is often beneficial to cement relationships with local companies.

In time, one might hope that Phasix will invest in a local lab, but that is a question for a future date. In the meantime, there is some urgent testing to complete for an Indian company!

Read more in our first issue of #AccessIndia here


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