Category Archives: Indigenisation

IndianSMEs, AeroIndia 2015

Indigenisation Dilemma for old legacy Systems for Naval Platforms

The terms ‘Indigenisation’ and ‘Self-reliance’ in the context of Indian defence equipment have been talked and written about so much over the last five decades that they no longer arouse any passion either among the armed services personnel or related industrialists. Many entrepreneurs as well as seasoned industrialists have lost significant amounts of time and money hoping to solve some of the problems of the Armed Services. This situation is a direct result of the absence of a holistic, focused approach to ‘Self-reliance’ by the defence services and the defence ministry. The problems posed by obsolete imported equipment that are still in service, has only aggravated the issue.

In addition to the above, the Indian armed services possess a wide variety of platforms with legacy systems of western as well as Russian origin, with very little technical documentation provided by the OEMs. The result is that the user agencies do not even know how they operate or repair them. Since these are specialised, there are very few private sector companies systems outside the defence domain with capability to handle such repairs, let alone indigenise the system. Even those who are willing, are forced to go through a very tedious tendering process where one is expected to bid for something for which even the user agency (Army/Navy/Air Force) does not have the technical specifications! DPSUs have failed to facilitate the growth of the defence manufacturing ecosystem over the last five decades. It is therefore no surprise that indigenisation efforts have yielded very little.

Where does one start? Components, assemblies, sub-systems or complete systems?

Over the last 20 years, most defence and aerospace equipment have been dominated by electronics and hydraulics content. Even in hydraulic systems, control functions are performed through electronics. It would therefore be fair to say that a large part of indigenisation challenges lie in electronic systems.

The question of whether indigenisation efforts should start at board level or system level can only be addressed on a case to case basis. However, such decisions involve a thorough knowledge of the domain of the product/system. In the case of electronics equipment, a specialist electronics designer well versed in digital and analogue circuits used in defence and aerospace systems should necessary be involved. Due to the lack of such specialists within the Armed Services themselves, it would be ideal to constitute a team comprising specialists from private industry having a proven track record in design and development activity as well as specialists from DPSUs who possess the system level knowledge and expertise.

Radel has successfully indigenised three airborne LRUs using a black box concept to realise a Form, Fit and Function replacement for obsolete OEM imported equipment. Four more airborne LRUs are under development and these would be completed within the current year. These were possible only due to the strong A&D domain expertise along with design capabilities available within the organisation. Radel had successfully demonstrated the feasibility of repair of an electronic starter module of the Jaguar fighter aircraft in 2012,  has recently repaired a High Voltage (18kV) power supply module of a Seaking helicopter for the Indian Navy, through a judicious mix of reverse engineering, redesign and repair techniques and  also designed and developed a sophisticated ATE for a naval armament control system, which was executed completely by reverse engineering the electronic modules forming part of the armament system itself.

There exist many such opportunities where an indigenous and cost effective design/repair/modification can be quickly implemented, provided a competent and proven vendor is given a fair opportunity.

The complete paper can be viewed on slide-share.

Indigenous component

7 things you need to know about India’s indigenous defence production and procurement

India’s recent successes in the areas of indigenous design like the recent PSLV -C26 and its continued efforts towards indigenisation of technology, space exploration, missile technology, fighter aircraft, naval destroyers and submarines, etc. have amply demonstrated the excellent skills and capabilities of its scientists and engineers. With the right kind of support and encouragement from the Indian Government as well as the Armed Services, Indian industry is certainly capable of meeting all the needs of the Indian defence forces over time.

The following benefits would accrue over the long term:

  1. Indigenous design and manufacture assures supplies and prompt maintenance support as and when the country requires it.
  2. Indigenous manufacture is always cheaper than imports and leads to a smaller defence budget, allowing the country to allocate higher budgets for education, health and improvement of infrastructure.
  3. Growth of the domestic manufacturing industry(indigenisation of technology) and the creation of a strong defence manufacturing ecosystem.
  4. Growth of design and R&D agencies, both in the private and public sectors, leading to the establishment and growth of a strong technology innovation ecosystem.
  5. Technology spin-offs to non-defence technology areas such as healthcare, medical diagnosis, automotive engineering, inland security, maritime shipping, etc.
  6. Potential for the country to grow into a defence exporter over the long-term.
  7. Overall potential for growth of industry in general leading to employment generation.
GRajNarayan's Blog

A test equipment for the Sukhoi-30 fighter jet, developed by Radel Advanced Technology

However, one needs to appreciate this from a long term perspective. Defence equipment belong to highly specialised and restricted domains and hence it is not easy for any industry to jump into it. Defence equipment are required to conform to very high degrees of ruggedness, reliability, and quality.  Further, where armaments are involved, issues of safety against accidental ignition also arise. These are issues that are rarely encountered in normal commercial and industrial equipment. It therefore requires an indigenous industry to sensitize itself to these matters before getting involved in the manufacture of defence equipment.

It is evident from the above that the process of indigenisation needs to be implemented in a planned manner with prioritisation based on strategic requirements as well as availability of local talents. Hence, this has to be seen as the long term objective.

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Armouring India: Indigenisation of India’s Defence needs

A look at the feasibility of complete indigenisation of India’s defence needs

India is the largest importer of defence equipment in the world. It is therefore evident that the domestic industry is not being optimally utilized to meet the country’s defence requirement. Currently, the domestic defence production is met by 41 factories of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and nine Defence Public Sector undertakings (DPSUs) under Department of Defence Production with various units across the country. In addition to this 194 industrial licenses have been issued to 121 private sector companies.

The buzzword today is indigenisation but this is more a fashionable word than work-in-progress. While we jump on to the bandwagon of indigenisation let us truly understand the concept. Indigenisation starts with identifying critical equipment and systems that are being imported”, and then to either reverse engineer these products or design them from scratch using our own knowledge and expertise.

Over the last five decades, the Indian Government has been pursuing the acquisition of new technologies as part of manufacturing licenses from foreign companies. While this has resulted in valuable exposure to the manufacture of state-of-the-art products, as in the case of the Mig-21 and Su-30, Transfer of Technologies (ToTs) have rarely included design technologies of the manufactured product. What is transferred is only the manufacturing technology. It is therefore up to the Indian partner to either reverse engineer or decipher the technology behind the design in order to lead to future indigenous designs.

                                                                               GRajNarayan's Blog
Technology to manufacture is distinctly different from the technology involved in design. Manufacturing of various parts and systems involves mechanical fabrication and machining, assembly of electronic modules and equipment, testing and qualifying to rigid and stringent quality standards. Very few industries in the private sector have exposures to such specialised standards and processes as are applicable in defence equipment. Hence, the need of the hour is to attract more private sector enterprises, more particularly the MSMEs, to this field.
With the competitive growth of the Indian MSME environment, many of whom have highly sophisticated machineries and equipment, and possess specialised expertise in their own small areas of operation, there are many examples of truly outstanding firms who are now manufacturing industrial parts and equipment not only for Indian consumption, but also exporting them to prestigious companies globally.

The technical competence of Indian MSMEs is therefore no longer under question. What is required is a nurturing environment of trust and support going much beyond the token recognition by way of annual awards by the government or trade and commerce bodies.

Tweet this: “MSMEs need only to be empowered with the right kind of exposure and training to raise their capabilities to the demanding and specialised needs of the defence industry”.

Such MSMEs will then graduate over time to developing their own products and processes that would contribute to the creation of a large matrix forming the supply chain for indigenous integrators such as the Jaguar aircraft. PSUs or even the large private sector organisations in the years to come.

The question of value arising from foreign collaborations and ‘manufacturing under license’ can be answered in comparison to the automobile sector in India. The entry of Suzuki and Honda into the country for license manufacture of their vehicles in a collaborative venture with Indian private companies, introduced not only the Indian consumer to high quality, state-of-the-art, re-liable and trouble-free vehicles, but also to modem manufacturing methods, machineries, human skills and management systems. The Indian private sector companies have proven their mettle in absorbing not only the manufacturing technology but also in developing their own design skills.Thus, resulting in their ability to leap-frog and compete by themselves in the global market. Indirectly, this has also spurred the establishment of a supply chain of ancillaries and parts manufacturers of global standards. Thanks to this, a healthy ecosystem of the indigenous automobile industry is firmly in place. This is what needs to be replicated in the defence sector too.India is, and will continue to be, an attractive market for defence related sales for foreign manufacturers.

However, it is certain that no other country would be willing to transfer critical, cutting edge technology to India, with the risk of losing their de-fence superiority as well as financial returns. The solution clearly lies in factoring in all these aspects, and pooling of all resources and the best minds in the military, the public sector, the private sector, the academia and R&D organisations across the country in a strategically planned and executed partnership. The political leadership only needs to set the rules of the game and a level playing field in a transparent system.

Tweet this: “Innovation and indigenisation are literally two sides of the same coin. Innovation is triggered automatically when one is forced into a corner”.

This was amply proved by both DRDO and ISRO in the manner they overcame sanctions and denials of technology and critical parts for their projects. This should give us the confidence that the same can be replicated in other de-fence and aerospace projects.
The MoD, Government of India, should act as a facilitator and enabler in such a way that it stimulates innovation in both design and manufacture of defence related products. In fact, the establishment of a separate category of “Defence MSME” through a qualification and evaluation process would by itself lead to their entitlement to financial grants, tax rebates and lower lending rates for private players successfully developing indigenous defence projects.

This calls for innovative methods of identifying prospective enterprises, evaluation of their skills as well as growth capabilities, special and exclusive funding schemes, training programmes and other support for rapid growth of such enterprises. In short, such companies need to be nurtured in the interest of the country quickly achieving self-reliance.

Tweet this: “Indigenisation and self-reliance in defence technology is no cakewalk and requires dedicated scientists, technocrats and entrepreneurs”.

The user agencies and armed forces need to appreciate this and lend a very supportive hand even when either the performance is slightly below target or delays are encountered.After all, no organisation takes any pride in failures and would certainly like to take up the challenge to improve further and cross the ‘finishing line’. As India has demonstrated in the automobile sector and space technology, Indian defence industry can not only increase the scale of its operation to cater to the domestic requirement but also export to the global market. The export of the ALH Dhruv helicopters, though limited in number, proves this capability.

The new Government headed by a down-to-earth and highly progressive Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has shown signs of a few bold initiatives, that have set a clear direction towards massive indigenisation of defence procurements in the years to come. Public-private partnerships should be the best way for-ward to reach a win-win situation for everyone concerned. This will pave the way for the best talent to be attracted towards this industry consequently leading to industry meeting most of the needs of our defence forces.

Aerospace skilling

Defence JVs without indigenous design pointless

For over a decade now, India has shopped all around the world looking for deals for more than US$1 billion worth of helicopters to replace around 200 of its military’s ageing light-utility aircraft.

But in August, Modi’s nationalist government surprised many when it abruptly scrapped the request for global bids to buy the helicopters in favour of manufacturing them in India instead.

In recent months, India has tossed down two more proposals for buying transport aircraft and submarines deciding to indigenise them. It’s part of a push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to foster a domestic arms industry.

India is one of the world’s largest buyer of weapons, accounting for 14 per cent of global imports, three times as many as China.

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An Akash missile, made by India, is test fired in Orissa. Photo: EPA

Over the next seven years, India is likely to spend more than US$130 billion importing arms, officials say, to upgrade its understocked, Soviet-era arsenal. Modi wants to upend India’s arms-importer tag and turn the country into not only a defence manufacturer but also a major weapons exporter, much like China has become. “Becoming a defence exporter is a noble aspiration but it will take a lot of doing,” said Arun Prakash, a retired navy chief. Admiral. But does that not mean “We aren’t hard working and not capable of it?” Every MSME owner works hard all day and night.

It’s only the PSUs and the Govt. bureaucrats that take things easy and if all the powers of sanction and decision making is in their hands, nobody can work hard and no results can be produced.

The decision to build replacements in India for the Cheetah and Chetak helicopters using JVs in the Private sector, is indeed a good decision. But it must be ensured that the Indian Pvt. Player does not do the same mistakes as HAL in blindly manufacturing just the shell and importing all the contents of the shell. There must be a sincere and genuine effort to indigenise most, if not all, the equipment. And the indigenisation must begin from day 1 of the JV formation.

As far as exports are concerned, I think our primary focus for the next 5 years should be to become self-reliant and meet our own requirements. Exports with then automatically follow.

26 or 49% – Foreign cos. will always want all the controls and will never let us get any modern technology. In my view, ‘hard work and indigenous DESIGN’ is the only way to go.


Indigenisation – the only way forward

The success of the indigenously developed Mars Orbiter Mission of ISRO has taken everyone by surprise, more so because it was achieved at a tenth of the cost of similar projects abroad. The fact that India is the only country to have achieved success in its maiden attempt at Mars, makes this even more creditable. Do these facts not provide enough proof of the technical competence of our engineers and scientists? If one concedes this fact, it is evident that we also have the capability to design and produce our own state of the art military equipment and aircraft.

 “While a problem in a space program only causes a disappointing delay, the same in the       defence sector could become a critical factor in the security of the country”.

 A commonly attributed reason to the low cost of the Mars mission is that Indian manpower is far less expensive than in many other countries. However, a lesser known fact contributing to the success is that many sub-assemblies and parts were outsourced to private companies, including MSMEs. This resulted in a synergy that saved time, money and effort.

 However, the difference between space projects and defence equipment is that the latter are strategic and crucial. Any problem in the smallest part – either lack of supply or problem in performance, becomes critical. While a problem in a space program only causes a disappointing delay, the same in the defence sector could become a critical factor in the security of the country. This is why indigenisation forms the core of establishing a strong and reliable military capability to counter any threat.


What is indigenisation? The capability to design, develop and manufacture equipment within the country, using our own skills and resources, constitutes indigenisation. The capability to maintain and repair these, as well as equipment sourced from abroad, makes us self-reliant. Not depending on foreign suppliers for anything, makes us self-sufficient.

 Since we attained independence, we have depended on foreign suppliers for our defence requirements. Irrespective of West or East, we have suffered due to supplier pressures – denial of spares for political reasons, high cost of spares, delays and lack of transparency in technology transfer, etc. By not taking proactive steps toward indigenisation in the early years, by constantly ignoring the warning signs of equipment repeatedly failing over many years, we have reached an alarming situation today where the armed forces are left with obsolete and failure-prone equipment.

 “By not taking proactive steps toward indigenisation in the early years, by constantly ignoring the warning signs of equipment repeatedly failing over many years, we have reached an alarming situation today where the armed forces are left with obsolete and failure-prone equipment”.

 A combination of factors is responsible for this situation – the manufacturer (the PSUs in this case) developed aircraft, battle tanks, etc. with the limited technology at their disposal. However, the armed forces had a mistaken perception that ‘only the best with the latest technology’ would be good enough to effectively thwart the enemy (in spite of the lowly Gnat fighter aircraft comprehensively defeating the so-called ‘superior’ Sabre jets and Star fighter in the 1965 and 1971 wars). They were unwilling to accept the indigenously developed products. This in turn led to a stand-off and ultimately a de-motivation of the industry.

 On the other hand, the industry too, did not put in sufficient efforts to assimilate technology from licensed projects and leap-frog to the contemporary state of the art. For example, the MiG-21 aircraft, that was manufactured under license from the USSR since the mid-60 did not lead to either sufficient transfer or assimilation of technology of its systems and sub-systems. HAL continued to import and use a large number of sub-systems and parts over decades without any efforts at indigenisation or reverse-engineering.  In another case, significant disruptions were caused in the maintenance of the AN-32 aircraft due to the break-up of the Soviet Union. This could have been avoided if indigenisation of the majority of parts, sub-systems and equipment of these aircraft were initiated simultaneously with the induction of the aircraft into the air force. Such indigenisation efforts would also ensure a sizeable quantum of business to the local industry over the entire life-cycle of the aircraft and ensure timely support especially at the end of life.

 The PSUs and armed services are still sending many equipment and their sub-systems to the OEMs abroad for repairs, incurring huge cost in foreign exchange. A viable alternative would be to encourage qualified MSMEs to undertake such repairs. This would provide an opportunity to the Indian industry to familiarize itself with the technology as well as find innovative, cost-effective and indigenous solutions. Radel Advanced Technology, Bangalore, has already demonstrated the feasibility of this model by repairing some of the electronic modules used on the Jaguar aircraft. The process of undertaking repairs also provides a very effective stepping stone for indigenous design and development of products.

 “…lack of clarity in the rules and implementation of offset guidelines have been impediments in the successful establishment of offset partnerships”.

 The Kelkar Committee on review of Defence Procurement Procedure has recommended an integrated approach involving Users, Ministry of Defence and the Industry. The Committee recommended that DRDO should concentrate on projects requiring sophisticated technology of strategic, complex and security-sensitive nature. However, R&D for high technology that is not security-sensitive, should be outsourced to private sector with shared cost. Further, a minimum order quantity is also recommended, to sustain the financial viability of the development effort.

 The defense offsets policy of the GoI, where a foreign vendor has to mandatorily procure 30% of his order value from Indian sources, is expected to provide an opportunity for indigenization of parts and assemblies. However, lack of clarity in the rules and implementation of offset guidelines have been impediments in the successful establishment of offset partnerships. The Government needs to act quickly to address this issue.

Combinations of all these measures are required for the successful implementation of indigenization programmes across the defense sector, which are well within the reach of Indian industry.

The original article appeared on IndianDefenceReview