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Innovation specialist ramping up in India

Anil Urs & Subir Roy  |  Bangalore 

Sarnoff Corp., heir to the legendary which developed the colour TV and a lot else, is rapidly ramping up operations in India both to take advantage of skills available here and the time difference to better serve its Asian businesses further in the east.
Sarnoff Innovative Technologies Pvt Ltd, which set up shop last year, has trebled the office space it has in Bangalore and plans to more than double its headcount annually over a three-year period, after which India will account for around a third of its global headcount. Presently the Indian headcount is an eighth of the 650 globally.
Spun off as a separate company in 1987 when GE took over RAC, Sarnoff is today a for-profit company owned by the non-profit SRI International (the initials standing for Stanford Research Institute).
Sarnoff, which is now mostly employee owned, has a topline of $150 million, a positive bottomline, zero debt, good cash reserves and a positive cash flow.
President and CEO says Sarnoff is an "innovation services company which uses early technology to build innovations for our customers." It takes a technology from concept to limited output state, after which the technology is transferred or the operation spun off.
It is a contract research organisation but with a difference. While most of its peers in the US are wholly into government work, half of Sarnoff?s revenues come from commercial customers.
The government work is critical for the company as it is of a relatively longer duration, project life ranging between three and seven years. Critically, the company gets to keep the intellectual property rights generated out of government funding to earn non-government revenue. The life of private projects ranges between nine and 18 months.
Sarnoff is good in a whole lot of technology areas with core competency in semiconductor and video technologies and is absolutely the global top dog in video and semiconductor interaction.
Its technology powers the most sophisticated imagers in the world which offer the highest resolution, speed and area covered and are used in satellite, defence and astronomy applications.
What Sarnoff has here and is rapidly upscaling is not an "offshored operation but part of a globalised company with networked R&D," says Tim Mitchell, managing director of the Indian operation. Bangalore has the potential to become autonomous in the innovation business though right now there is no local market for transformational products.
Hence the aim of the company is to use the local brainpower, improve its productivity and also address the rest of the Asian market. But what Bangalore or India can indeed become is a transformational platform.
"What we create here can be a gift to the local community, help technology startups" get onto the road, adds Cherukuri.


First Published: Sat, August 06 2005. 00:00 IST