BlackPepper Technologies: Transforming Ideas into Commercially Viable Products

Manoj Sundareswaran, Sujeeth Joseph, Narayan, Jei Narayanan,Hari Puravankara, & Basavaraj Nagaraju &,EVP -Delivery, CTO, COO , Founder & CEO & EVP-Strategy & Marketing

Manoj Sundareswaran, Sujeeth Joseph, Narayan, Jei Narayanan,Hari Puravankara, & Basavaraj Nagaraju &

EVP -Delivery, CTO, COO , Founder & CEO & EVP-Strategy & Marketing

The Indian semiconductor market holds high growth potential. With the rising number of mobile devices, telecommunication equipment, industrial machinery, automobiles and several other industries, the demand for semiconductors has increased tremendously. According to a report by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY),nearly 2,000 chips are being designed every year in India and more than 20,000 engineers are working on various aspects of chip design. With the Indian government’s strong emphasis on developing the Electronics System Design Manufacturing (ESDM) industry and the ‘Make in India’ initiative, a lot of companies are stepping ahead to march into the semiconductor space. Hari Krishna Puravankara, an industry veteran with over 18 years of experience took no time to sense an opportunity in the evolving semiconductor market. Going by his instincts, Hari established BlackPepper Technologies, a new generation System to Silicon Design Company that has the capabilities to provide comprehensive turnkey solutions to tier 1 to tier 3 companies.

The Creation of BlackPepper

Incorporated in 2009, BlackPepper took about three years to build their initial plan, technological platform and design process. Once the core team of BlackPepper was ready with an appropriate platform, they started growing two to three times, year on year. Starting from doing Physical Design services for a single Tier-1 semiconductor company, BlackPepper has expanded into all spaces of the silicon realization flow. The firm has distinct functional units from Embedded S/W, Logic Design, Design for Test, Physical Design, Board Design, Analog & Mixed Signal Design, Post Silicon Validation, Yield Optimization and Supply Chain Management. These units can operate independently or can be stitched together into integrated clusters to execute programs on a turnkey basis.

At present, BlackPepper is leveraging on their two innovative frameworks - namely, EYWA and LTE. Throwing light on EYWA, Manoj Sundareswaran, EVP, BlackPepper Technologies, who was a key contributor in Infineon India’s Engineering division, says, “EYWA, our home-grown technology framework, simply removes sub optimality from the design process. This is what plagues the design process in many of our competitors. EYWA is a unique combination of various technology components that consolidates principles of network protocols, human capability mapping and physical resource modeling into one single integrated platform. This brings forth a product (be it hardware, software, silicon or an actual end product) with higher quality, lower cost and gets realized predictably on time.”

BlackPepper’s EYWA framework seamlessly stitches together:

• Lean Tall Engineering (LTE) - a focused return to first principle engineering tenets of yester years
where a single engineer was massively multi-skilled rather than skills and capabilities being sliced and diced across a slew of less experienced engineers.

• Quick IP Select (QIS)IP Vendoring Model - key methodology wherein SoC/System design IPs from multiple IP suppliers get matrix characterized. The optimal selection is performed by an internally developed mathematical algorithm by solving complex selection criteria on a per SoC/System basis.

• Design Environment on Demand (DEOD) Environment Selection Model -Consisting of EDA-DEOD and MACHINE-DEOD selection methodology for arriving at the optimal Price Vs TAT (Turn Around Time) curve before design start or even course correct at run-time.

• Sure Shot Convergence System (SSCS) Project Execution Environment – Innovative platform for efficient project implementation wherein phase hand-offs are managed automatically using network-protocol inspired procedures.

• Sure Fast Platforms (SFP)for rapid SoC and system designs - a Silicon and System integration process that allows auto-stitching of SoC subsystems allowing customers to focus purely on their differentiating IP or innovation.

A forward-looking organization with an inclination towards employee engagement, BlackPepper is built around credibility, pride, fairness, learning, recognition, and camaraderie

Taking pride in an impressive average employee experience of 6.5 years, BlackPepper addresses the industry’s biggest ARM (Acquire, Retain & Motivate) nightmare with its Lean Tall Engineering (LTE) talent transformation framework. This has helped the firm to transform an ordinary design engineer to an architect level. “Our LTE framework allows two of our engineers to(say), design a semiconductor block far better and quicker, which typically takes five engineers in other companies,” explains Jei Narayanan, COO, BlackPepper Technologies.

With its unique range of services, BlackPepper offers unique capabilities to deliver unsurpassed value for its clients. Driven by the values of innovation and sustainability at the core of its practice, the firm has turned into a trusted design partner for over a dozen Tier-1 semiconductor companies. “We assure our clients, high quality, high reliability, lower cost and faster TAT compared to any of our competitors. Our complex patented technology framework, EYWA provides us a significant edge over our competitors,” says Jei Narayanan.

A Business built on Family Values

BlackPepper is built on family values rather than conventional corporate priorities. The firm has been successful in delivering high-end semiconductor solutions by building, nurturing and developing high-performance teams whose world-class engineering talent is handpicked from top semiconductor companies from across the world. A forward-looking organization with an inclination towards employee engagement, BlackPepper is put together around credibility, pride, fairness, learning, recognition, and camaraderie. However, to be a successful Pepperite, one must have strong engineering capabilities and a passion for excellence.
“A Pepperite has strong engineering capabilities, passion for excellence, and above all, is a fine human being. At BlackPepper, we believe in the philosophy of collective entrepreneurship and encourage every single Pepperite to think freely, innovate tirelessly, question fearlessly and be deeply involved in every facet of the BlackPepper story. To us, titles and designations are irrelevant extensions. We are keen on creating and nurturing a culture of professional and personal excellence that goes far beyond the regular call of duty. We are ever ready to lend a helping hand, whether it is for a social cause or for a colleague who is tackling a challenge at work. For BlackPepper, every Pepperite comes first, and for every Pepperite, the customer comes first,” says Hari Krishnan Puravankara, Founder & CEO, BlackPepper. The firm also runs workshops called, "Yes, I am BlackPepper!" for its employees to support the mission, shape the culture and reflect the true value of BlackPepper. Besides offering a wonderful compensation package and inculcating a vibrant culture, the company keeps its team of over 170 people motivated by providing them niche high-end projects, thereby converting yet another challenge into an opportunity.

Paving its Way Ahead

The success of BlackPepper is enshrined in their mission – ‘To create an organization that is fundamentally rooted in hardware and recognized as the gold standard in product realization’. In 2016 BlackPepper formally launched ‘PepperLabs’ – their in-house Product Innovation Laboratory with a clear aim to be an incubation centre for solving significantly challenging technical problems with practical applications. PepperLabs plays a truly complementary role to BlackPepper's world-class design services portfolio by extending the traditional roles of "Implementer", "Enabler" and "Aggregator" to that of "Inventor".

"Some of our IP-led deployments include Machine Condition Monitoring algorithms for predicting machine failure scenarios in industrial applications as well as driver profiling of two-wheeler motion for automotive applications. Both of the above applications bring to bear deep know-how in sensor fusion algorithms as well as signal processing techniques",said Sujeeth Joseph, CTO of BlackPepper. From sensor fusion to machine vision algorithms to ultra-low-power heterogeneous computing, solutions spanning the domains of Automation, Medical, Automotive, Defence and the emerging IoT are being developed.

The team at BlackPepper is pleased that within the short span of less than a year, solutions originating out of PepperLabs are finding deployment in industries as varied as logistics, smart-fashion, CNC machines, insurance, automotive security and green energy.

The firm has come a long way from where it had started and with a constant and conscious focus on minimal equity dilution it has ensured that they stay true to the charter and vision they had set for themselves. Currently based out of India, Singapore and Taiwan, the firm aspires to soon spread its wings across the markets of the US. “We have used hybrid debt funding along with earned revenue to grow over the years. In the years to come we are aiming to grow exponentially further with our system design turnkey solutions,” states Basavaraj Nagaraju, EVP - Strategy & Marketing. BlackPepper is focused on providing differentiated products and engineering capabilities for global semiconductor companies and is poised to become an USD 1Bn valued Company by 2021.