How Bobby Mitra stays several moves ahead of the game

Bobby Mitra takes no shortcuts
Bobby Mitra – pioneer in India’s semiconductor industry, our company’s leader in the development of semiconductor solutions for industrial systems, IEEE Fellow and avid chess player – sees continual learning as an investment in the future.

“There are no shortcuts,” he said. “In every assignment I’ve ever had, I always invest – and I use that word carefully. We have to spend quality time understanding the domain, the market forces, the end-equipment markets and, most importantly, the customer requirements.”

So whether he’s broadening his personal education, accepting a new professional role, introducing a product, opening a market or learning to approach problems in unique ways, he invests time to understand deeply.

Today, Bobby leads our company’s initiatives to drive worldwide system engineering and marketing for the very diverse industrial market. This ranges from sectors such as factory automation, motor drives and building automation to grid infrastructure, medical, test and measurement, and others.

Previously, he was the president and managing director of our operations in India. His responsibilities included research and development, sales, applications, and marketing. He had one of the longest careers in the Indian semiconductor and electronics industry. He chaired the India Semiconductor Association, now called the India Electronics and Semiconductor Association, where he played a key role in shaping the Indian Electronic System Design and Manufacturing industry. He was also the president of the VLSI Society of India for many years.

Our company was the first multinational technology firm to open a research-and-development center in India, and his leadership helped create a robust semiconductor industry there. He was elected a Fellow of IEEE and the Indian National Academy of Engineering. He was also recognized as one of the top three research-and-development visionaries by the IT industry in India and named as one of the Top 10 Innovators of India.

Bobby recently was recognized in a new book, Icons of Indian IT, for his pioneering leadership and innovation in India’s semiconductor industry. He took time to answer a few questions:

How did the semiconductor industry get started in India?

“There was no semiconductor industry in India when I joined TI. We were the first multinational semiconductor company to set up a research center there. We had two big challenges. First, we had to establish our credibility within TI. We had to prove that we could deliver results from a remote location and then we had to expand our charter to become a vital research-and-development center within the company.

“But we were not an island in the technology world. So, second, we had to develop a vibrant ecosystem. The universities – which represent the future – were a big part of that. We built lasting partnerships with 700 key universities and engineering institutions in India, and we developed relationships that were beneficial to students, universities and our company.

“We also engaged other companies, suppliers and organizations to build the ecosystem from an industry point of view. Slowly, other semiconductor companies started establishing centers in India. In most cases, their first stop was TI. They wanted to learn from our experience. The India Semiconductor Association had more than 100 members from other technology companies. In many ways, these steps helped to shape the semiconductor and electronics ecosystem in India.”

How has that experience prepared you to become our company’s worldwide leader in industrial systems?

“The industrial market is very diverse. There are several hundred end-equipment applications and many large and small companies across the world that are trying to use electronics to differentiate, innovate and create what’s next. There is also increasing intelligence embedded in these end-equipment applications across factories, buildings, the grid, medical, test equipment, and other areas. The diversity of our company’s semiconductor products in analog and embedded processing is a strong fit for this market. When I was in India, multiple TI product lines invested there over time, and I realized the power of our broad portfolio.

“In the same way, it was natural to learn the many details of the industrial sector. Because I had engaged with many TI businesses in a unique capacity in India, I had an opportunity to interact with multiple companies spanning several end-equipment applications.

“When I take on a new role – whether directing our operations in India or leading the many sectors of the industrial market – I spend time understanding it. How can we win in the market? How can we position ourselves? I go deep.

“In India, we had to build the ecosystem for the semiconductor industry. From the perspective of TI technology today, we also have a systems focus that allows us to see how the integrated circuits we design and manufacture work in a system context. And we also create reference designs that show how the devices interact with each other from a product perspective.”

You earned a Ph.D after completing your bachelor of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology and, more recently, earned an MBA. Why is continual learning important to you?

“I come from a family of educators. I learned from them that what’s important is that the degrees teach you how to look at problems in new ways. For me, pursuing these degrees was a personal investment in new areas of learning. Blending vital on-the-job experience with diverse academic perspectives makes a strong combination.”

You’re an avid chess player. How is chess like business?

“Chess is my favorite pastime. I’ve loved the game since I was a child. It teaches you so many important lessons – driving winning strategies, anticipating competitor moves and thinking several moves ahead under uncertainty. When you add a clock to the game, it adds a dimension that is very much like the real world. You have to act fast, but still keep your focus on the strategy and direction. At the same time, you have to uncover new opportunities. And you have to learn continually.”

  • Nice to see a heartwarming success story...being of Indian origin myself, it is very satisfying to read of Bobby's personal and TI's broader success based out of my home town Bangalore!!

  • I like chess.  I have not played in a while.  I never played with a clock added.  Not sure of the rules with the clock added.  Yes, it does conditions the mind for strategic moves that can be used in ones daily life.  I see you been playing for a while.  Do you understand each piece and where they get their moves from?