Samsung: World’s largest mobile factory, mobile store, and software R&D center; all three of Samsung are in India: Dipesh Shah – Times of India
An Electronics and Communication Engineer, TiW Bangalore alumni and Samsung’s first Indian employee, Dipesh Shah is the driving force behind Samsung R&D Institute India-Bangalore (SRI-B) — the company’s largest software R&D centre outside Korea. He is also the first-ever Indian to become managing director at Samsung India.
Dipesh leads ‘Design Thinking’ methodologies and plays a key role in formulating product strategy, bringing in local differentiation and creating breakthrough innovation to enhance consumer experience across Samsung portfolio – including mobile, TVs, home appliances and more. He has a critical role in India’s growth story and is said to drive ‘Powering Digital India’ vision with a refreshed R&D strategy focusing on Open Innovation with startups, students and universities. Gujarati is his mother tongue, but Dipesh is a polyglot and speaks Korean, Kannada, Hindi and English fluently. He is an avid singer in his free time. In a closed media roundtable recently, he shared some important insight into the company’s R&D operations in the country, contribution in Galaxy S23 series and more. Excerpts:
Q. How does SRI Bangalore work in collaboration with the team in Korea and other research centres across the globe?
Every R&D Center has its area of expertise. For SRI Bangalore, it’s a 5G vision related AI on device and smart things the IoT. Like this, my friends in the UK would be good at graphics, my friends in Ukraine in something else, my colleagues in the US would be good with computer vision. For the given consumer experience, I want to explain to you briefly. To get the moon shot, you need zooming, you need zoom locking, you need a change of the focus, you need to understand that this is a moon as an object because once you understand it’s moon as an object, you change the mechanism to capture what you are capturing. When you’re capturing humans versus pets versus the moon, you apply different techniques to capture so you get better for that particular scenario. AI to understand what I’m capturing; multiple things are involved to put together one consumer experience. The experience is led by Korea. Of course, they define it because there is a global need for Indian consumer needs. Indian young consumers’ need is captured by all the teams and fed into this global road map where it gets that, this is what the creators of the world would want to do. The work is distributed as per the technical expertise of each R&D centre. In this case, for example Nightography, because people spend an important part of their lives, partying, capturing study nights, being on the street. Understanding in the Nightography how multiple frames we have to capture and combine to get the picture; even sometimes human eyes cannot get. That area, we and our US R&D centre and Korea R&D centre collaborated. This experience to experience, the role is divided between each challenge accepted.
Q. For how many months have you been collaborating for Galaxy S23? What else we can do with the growth of the R&D Center in Bengaluru, and how do you look to grow it over the next one or two years?
There are two kinds of software development. One is called platform software development. Basically, things get developed without actually keeping a particular product in mind. Platform software means what kind of camera related, what kind of on-device AI related, what kind of 5G related features need to be developed. This goes on over a long period. Typically, two years, three years, four years, no longer duration projects are done on the platform level and then when the particular product is being launched, we understand what consumer segment would be attracted to this product, what experiences these consumers need as part of that product. From the platform, those features are picked up and put as a part of the product and shift. Platform software collaborations typically take between two to four years depending on how hard the problems are to be solved and product-related software typically takes between 18 to 36 months to get into a particular product.
Answering the second part of the question, it’s all about technology, innovation and consumers. Software engineers in India have proven over multiple years, creating many important products, by collaboration with global R&D centres. That’s why the commitment to India R&D is very high. The largest software R&D is in Bangalore. In Noida and Delhi, we have R&D Centers for mobile smartphones and televisions and home appliances. The commitment to R&D in India as a country is extremely high and will continue to grow.
Q. What kind of skills are you looking at and how should a fresher skill himself or herself, to land up with a job at SRI Centers to innovate smartphone features?
We really want to be the employer of choice for the young talent of the country. If you look at it typically in the IIT hiring season, we will usually have one of the top IIT talent hiring in the country. This data was already published about two months before. In addition to this, we have programs like the Student Connect program which we call PRISM. Every three students get together and they work on the real-life project that Samsung India basically asked them to do along with their professors. These students get a chance to work on the real-life project and get a feel of the company. Through that they can actually show their capabilities. Then we hire through many other channels by which they can come here. But the skills are in exactly these four areas. It’s about wireless communications or vision related, artificial intelligence, on device AI and smart things or the IoT. In these four areas, we continue to hire people. Especially for young Indian people, AI is one area where India is very, very good because the entry barrier is very low to learn AI. Lot of AI is open source and there are a lot of open data models so people can learn without having any disadvantages compared to their counterparts sitting in Silicon Valley for example. With lower entry barriers, more people can get into AI and in R&D centres like SRI -B this talent can be put into right use to create great and great experiences.
Q. 700 engineers are particularly for the Bangalore Center or is it Samsung R&D altogether? What is the total strength? Do engineers in India get to file patents globally? When you say AI, can you just direct that in which area are you planning to hire more engineers?
About the number 700, that number was the number of engineers who contributed to create this ‘EPIC product’, only for this particular product from Bangalore. India R&D the numbers are much larger. Talking about patents, in the last 3-4 years, the government has awarded Samsung, the MNC R&D centres, Bangalore the best patent award usually because the culture of creating IP is being created not only in Bangalore, but we are trying to create an IP culture in the country. Even the PRISM program that I was talking about, even the students and professors are now creating patents with the help of Samsung. We are creating IP capacity in the country through this approach, and these are of course global patents, and then of course there are also filed in India because India is as important and market as any other global market and so on.
And about AI, today’s focus is all about EPIC. The product that has been created collaboratively across multiple R&D centres. I gave you an example of the moon shot and Nightography, I’ll give you two other examples in Epic. Typically, when you go to a tourist spot and you are trying to take a picture, there’s always one guy whom you don’t want in the picture because they’re all taking pictures in the same spot. There’s very little space and everybody wants to get the right picture. Later on, you can simply choose the objects or the people or the things that you don’t want to be part of your picture. With just one click, it identifies and then you say erase, it will erase and it will be repainted by the nearby area so that you don’t even know that when it is erased, it’s basically filled with. Let’s say you are taking pictures of a waterfall, the part of the waterfall which was getting blocked will get recreated by AI. This is one area. Typically, your daily life now that you are writing, if you are taking a picture of what you write you can experience many times shadows, shadow of your mobile or shadow of some object near your document that you are capturing with one clear you can remove all the shadows on the document picture that you are taking. Food pictures, my daughter, before I start eating first, she has to take a picture. When they take the picture, if there’s any shadow of objects on that picture with one click, they can remove the shadow and they can put Instagram worthy, very few food picture. There are many places where AI can be utilised and all of that is applied in epic products, especially because the hardware is very powerful.
Q. Galaxy S23 series is the most sustainable Galaxy series yet. Would you tell us how you enable the phones and how long it take to build the first commercial unit?
First of all, thank you for noticing the focus on sustainability in this product. This is a very strong Samsung drive globally, anytime you look at our vice chair or CEO going up on any global stage, there is a lot of commitment being made in terms of how Samsung will become carbon 0, how we will create products that allow our consumers to be net zero and so on. There are many things that are happening that will help consumers to be net zero, actually, so not today, today is about Epic. There are hardware related sustainability initiatives like recyclable material, reusable packaging, etc. where my team is not involved. I’m not a subject matter expert to talk about hardware related sustainability, but also another key part of sustainability is long term usage of the same device. S23 is the only Android device or Samsung is the only Android maker that promises four times software upgrade and five years of security update. We allow our consumers to use the device for a longer period of time. That’s another way to take care of sustainability. So that’s where the Bangalore team has a role to create software that is easily upgradable, easy security updates able to give over the period of four to five years. But on the hardware side, I’m sorry I’m not an expert to explain how we did and how long it took.
Q. What was the Bangalore R&D teams’ contribution towards making the custom Galaxy chipset? And how did they work with Qualcomm?
One of the key components of Epic product is this custom design Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset for us and we are saying this time it’s a 30% better CPU performance, 40% better GPU performance and 40% better MPU performance now till here it’s an hardware spec. For consumer life, how is it going to change and that’s where the Samsung Bangalore engineers collaborated is how to utilise this additional MPU power. When you have additional MPU power, you can actually take a little more frames when you are doing multi frame Nightography for example. Let’s say in S22, I’m just telling some numbers now, don’t quote. Let’s say I take 12 frames to take a makeup picture, but within the same time, now I can take 16 frames because I have more time because my hardware is that much faster. I can get more information from the world, and I can represent it in the picture properly. Those are the areas where Samsung engineers work. The GPU is very, very powerful. For gamers in the country, this could be the best device because we have added additional cooling mechanisms and then they could play games for a longer period of time and the performance in terms of GPU is also tuned along with the gaming companies. We work closely with the gaming companies to optimise their game experience on our device. Some of the engineers here are collaborating on those topics.
Q. Can you please tell us more about other innovations at SRI -B Bangalore? Other than smartphones as in your focus on creating the whole product ecosystem. Also, how are you involved in Skilling India talent in R&D?
The first question is very valid, very important because Samsung has created multiple devices that are in people’s homes and in personal lives. So, in your personal life there is your smartphone, your Galaxy Buds, your Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Tablet and there’s your Galaxy Book3 that we recently launched. There are many personal devices and there are smart home devices like your washing machine, refrigerator, family hub, robot vacuum cleaner, your smart television, and eventually we are an open ecosystem company for many third-party devices like your door sensor, your smart plug, your LED light bulb, etc. So, all of these devices, when they are working independently, give you a certain amount of experience. But when they work connectedly, they just take your experience to another level. In India, when we look at the young consumers’ lifestyles, the first thing they want is personal space. For example, even though on the television a program is going on, you don’t want the noise to disturb other members of your family.
So, you just put your Galaxy Buds in and then only you are enjoying the content on your TV. But also, when a call comes on your mobile, it automatically switches and it automatically brings you back into your TV program or your gaming experience without getting disturbed. So, we have these kinds of multi-device connected experiences without the user having to do anything.
Q. The company announced local manufacturing of the new Galaxy S23 series. What are the market expectations about the new lineup this time? Also, how are the companies seeing the global shortage of electronic parts and chips and how the R&D Institute in Bangalore can help the company in order to meet the demand? The new flagship is quite photography centric. Do you think phones in the future will be more camera or photography features centric than what they are now?
It talks about Samsung’s commitment to India. The world’s largest mobile factory, the world’s largest mobile store, the world’s largest software R&D center. All three of Samsung are in India. That’s the commitment to India. But in terms of manufacturing supply chain, frankly I’m not the right person.
Talking about demand, the second question is where I can definitely answer. Creating demand is all about meeting consumer experiences. The whole epic is built for those creators who want more from their phones. The current phones are not good enough for them, whether they want to do Nightography, whether they want to play games for a longer period of time, whether they want a completely waterproof, dustproof phone, whether they want to use that phone for four to five years because of an OS upgrade. Whether they want the best processor in town, whether they want the memory and the storage to take care of all their pictures and videos. All of these consumer needs, when it is met through R&D and hardware and products and software spec, the demand will automatically get created and you must have heard already from my colleagues how stupendous the response has been in the first few days of EPIC. That reinforces that as long as you meet the consumer lifestyles and needs, demand will always be there for the good product. You just need to satisfy their needs.
Last one, where the photo was game video will continue to drive the future of smartphone evolution. Again, it’s not what we want to do, how consumer life is evolving, photos will continue to improve more details, more night, better night pictures, more understanding of the person, when you take a selfie, how clearly you separate yourself between your background and foreground. The AI plays a very important role in that, you don’t need a DSLR camera to go anywhere.