Unlike mega-corps like Microsoft and sap, which have committed $1 billion-plus investments in their Indian operations, NVIDIA, a Santa Clara-based graphics cards-maker, is a relative unknown. The $4-billion company, which is best-known for its graphics cards used in everything from aeroplane design to animation, has now joined this elite league by putting down a $1-billion investment in the country over the next 10 years. Much of those funds will go into scaling up its R&D presence, buying local companies like a Hyderabad-based portal player and just stepping on the gas in a fast-growing local market.
"We started our engineering operations with under 30 people in 2004; now we've grown to over 700 and become NVIDIA's largest presence outside the us," says Jen-Hsun Huang, the company's chief executive. According to him, NVIDIA focusses on high-productivity tasks at its centres in Bangalore and Hyderabad and its engineers have been responsible for developing the Nforce 680i SLI motherboard and the GoForce 6100, a chip targeted at the company's new mobile phone business. "We are in a very expensive line of business… it costs around $400 million to develop each generation of technology and we're in an extremely competitive market," he adds.
While NVIDIA has been historically focussed on the desktop and work station market, its next big thrust is expected to be in the burgeoning mobile phone market, according to Huang. The company acquired PortalPlayer for $357-million in November last year, which will give it an added edge in the rapidly growing (and changing) mobile phone market. "We believe that the mobile phone will become your most personal computer.
Devices such as Apple's iPhone have advanced the abilities of mobile phones and we want to give more handset-makers this capability," says Huang. India will play a central role in this diversification, with NVIDIA's Hyderabad centre already taking one solution to market and focussing on developing the company's portfolio in this segment.