Building your own standalone electronic system or an embedded electronics sub-sys for an electro-mechanical system, is a passionate thing for serious and hardcore Indian electronics engineers and other hobbyists who love to build systems.

During the early years of the 50s and 60s, engineers used to boast of building an extremely small-sized (match-box or even smaller) transistor-based AM/FM radio receiver. With the invention of ICs, they transited to building integrated circuit based analog and digital circuits. 555 timer and basic logic IC combined circuits, 8-bit 8085 microprocessor and 8051 microcontroller-based embedded boards were popular for a long duration, particularly during the 80s and early 90s. And then there was a little dull period during the PC and internet boom, when the Internet of Things was still not born as a stand-alone technology. During this dull period, electronics engineers in India gravitated towards lucrative, less risky, and fast-growing software coding/programming jobs. Their hands were occupied with computer keyboards instead of soldering irons and wires.

Though the Internet of Things (IOT) concept was not new to the industry, it was called machine to machine communication (M2M) by using proprietary communication protocols and IPV4, which has its own limitations. With the IPV6 launch and other enhanced wireless communication protocols such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi, the Internet of Things has created a new wave of growth for makers. Today’s engineers are seen more in building cloud connecting IOT boards to robots, home security systems, drones, automotive and also a lot of other totally new applications, including agriculture.

It was in 2008 and 2009 when the global semiconductor market recovered from a deep fall, there was a significant effort in the US to build open source embedded boards with a lot of development support for makers. Delayed by 3 to 4 years, compared to the global growth-trend, India picked up speed after 2011. Since then, the maker community is expected to be growing continuously. The maker community market, in terms of revenue, is estimated to be growing at 10 to 15% on average since 2014.

An important factor driving the maker community market is that young electronics-engineers are crazy about building their own hardware and they are driven to become start-up entrepreneurs.

Factors driving the market

The requirement for the development of local hardware system design eco to reduce the electronics hardware imports, which is fast rising and becoming huge. It is estimated to overtake petroleum imports. So, the institutes and Government motivated fresh engineers to get into system design instead of software programming or any such too vertically focused skill.

For many established semiconductor companies, India is the next growing market. Their wish is to develop local hardware design and manufacturing so that they can develop a new market for their products.

Leading semiconductor vendors, Government, industry bodies, and Institutes who have already focused on this area have noticed this trend and further sharpened their focus on this emerging market. To give you some examples:

The top ranked semiconductor vendor Intel started Intel India Maker Lab supported by the Department of Science and Technology. Intel runs a start-up accelerator program where hundreds of start-up companies apply to participate in this program, and on an average, 10+ companies graduate each year to receive funding and other business establishing and technology development support.

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India and Indian Institute of Information Technology, Trivandrum have set up a large facility called Maker Village in Kerala to incubate electronics hardware and electronics and system design manufacturing companies.

Including Intel, many of the leading semiconductor companies spent a good amount of resources to support the maker community. It’s a win-win marketing strategy. Most of the top-25 chip vendors conduct design challenges by offering embedded boards and chips developed by them. Some of the electronics product design companies also conduct such challenges by allowing the participants to choose any third-party board or chip. Added to this, premier institutes such as Indian Institute of Science and other colleges and industry bodies conduct hackathons and makethons. All this created demand for low quantity components and boards for building prototypes.

Another important factor is the availability of open source hardware. A lot of local vendors have emerged in India to supply open source boards, such as Arduino, Raspberry and dozens more.

Whether you call it an advantage or disadvantage of this market, makers initially buy only a few numbers of components to make their prototypes. It’s a unique opportunity and a challenge for component sellers.