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Conducting the VLSI Conference is like running a start-up

Posted: 25 Jan 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:VLSI Society of India  VLSI Conference  conferences  conference management  VSI 

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the annually held VLSI Conference in India is that is was conducted in a manner very similar to how a start-up company is run. To cap it, it is run by a different organisation each year.

The VLSI Conference is a brand owned by the VLSI Society of India (VSI). The brand is franchised to a trust each year, which is then responsible for conducting the conference.

Each year, individuals in a location form a trust and bid to hold the conference in that location. That way, several regions vie with each other to hold the highly regarded conference. VSI's tradition is to announce the winning bid and the location for the forthcoming year's conference in the current year's event.

Typically, a trust gets dismantled after the conclusion of the event. An exception though is the one at Hyderabad that conducted the VLSI Conference 2006. That trust has been kept functional, and will in fact conduct VLSI Conference 2008, in January next year.

As there is no formal mechanism to carry forward any learning experience from the previous year's conference, a trust has to design, plan, organise and execute the xonference starting with a clean state each year. In true start-up tradition, the members of the trust also shoulder any associated financial risk in conducting the event.

The core members of the trust for VLSI Conference 2007 were S. Uma Mahesh, who was the organizing chair for the event; and V. Veerappan, finance chair.

The root cause of this model employed to run the conference may lie in its history, shared Taher Abassi, publicity chair, VLSI Conference 2007. "The VLSI Conference was started as an academic event, and conducted in a different academic institution each year. The idea was to expose different institutions to this conference, and spread awareness of this field across academic institutions in India," Abassi said.

"The thought process may also have been that starting from scratch each year would provide a unique exposure to new organisers across the country, in conducting the event," added PVG Menon, who was in charge of event management for VLSI Conference 2007.

While the model has its merits, the most noteworthy being the spread of awareness about India's rapidly growing semiconductor industry across disperse regions in the country, its limitations are also becoming apparent given its rapid growth.

For instance, the choice of cities in India, where the conference can be held, is getting limited as the conference is growing in size and scale. The number of delegates has grown from 25 to 50 when the conference was started in 1987, to over 1,200 delegates, and international semiconductor industry participants. This year's event had to accommodate about 60 exhibitor stalls, as about 40 semiconductor companies considered participating in the event mandatory, from a PR and promotion standpoint.

The requirement of a large sized conference venue, exhibition space, and good air transportation connectivity automatically rules out smaller cities, Abassi pointed out.

Secondly, since each trust is an independent legal entity, there are no formal mechanisms between trusts for sharing data about the event.

However, VSI does have a work-around solution for this. "Two of the previous year's general chairs get into the current year's steering committee, which carries forward the learning experience from the previous year's conference," Menon shared. "Also, as the industry is small, and people know each other, a number of informal channels get built up."

The total expense for conducting VLSI Conference 2007 has been estimated at near Rs. 1 crore, the major share of which is cost of venue rentals, infrastructure (including power and communications connectivity), logistics and delegate sponsorships.

However, these costs normally get covered by sponsorship revenues. "There is usually a high level of participation from semiconductor companies, as the conference is the largest and oldest event in the industry. There are also different sponsorship packages to offer flexibility, and meet the RoI (return on investment) expectations of exhibitors," Menon said.

The trusts normally utilise surplus funds generated from the conference, to propagate VLSI/semiconductor education in the state hosting the conference. "Any surplus from VLSI Conference 2007 will be used to help India Semiconductor Association's Technovation initiative, which aims at promoting innovation among academic institutions and students in India's semiconductor space," said Menon.

- Krishnan Sivaramakrishnan
  EE Times India




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