Let me ask a question myself, what is an ecosystem? The ecosystem is one that encourages the growth of a particular sector of industry or product. So the ecosystem includes either the creation or existence of the infrastructure which includes again for design and manufacture, the manpower trained to handle the technologies involved, facility for training the manpower, test facilities, certification, processes, a supply chain, availability of specialised raw materials if there are any, and so on – it can be expanded without much of a limit. So the ecosystem as applied to the aerospace and defence includes the inclusion of all these parameters. And with particular reference to the aerospace sector which uses very specialised aluminium alloys, titanium alloys, rivets, nuts and screws that needs to be of special grade or tested grade and certified as airworthy. Now if we don’t have any of these present within the country, then the ecosystem is missing. Even in the case of availability of trained engineering manpower, we don’t have the ecosystem where you have either aerospace engineers or mechanical engineers trained for working or operating in the aerospace sector. So we don’t have the availability of these various kinds of resources in the country and therefore the aerospace and defence sector in the country is unable to grow to the extent that it needs to grow. This is where the creation of ecosystem is extremely important and therefore the Government is the one that needs to address these by setting up of laboratories, test facilities, training institutes or may be even incentivising SMEs or large organisations to conduct training programmes, seminars, workshops etc etc. And this is where the Government has to play a very major role in incentivising and facilitating the growth of the aerospace and defence sector in this country.
I am one of those who believe that we do not need any transfer of technology at all. In the past we had transfer of technology as part of projects that we got from British, Russian the French and many other countries. These were for the licensed manufacture of aircraft, transport aircraft, fighter aircraft, battle tanks and trucks, for example Tatra. But then we have not taken the additional steps of extracting information and knowledge that we have got, that we have paid for, and then taking the next few steps to develop them and create our own technologies. There is no rocket technology or rocket science involved in routine equipment, be it a communication equipment, navigation equipment or power plant.
The only area where there is high tech science involved is in the design and manufacture of advanced jet engines that are required for a jet aircraft. If you leave that aside, all the other equipment and systems that go on board on aircraft or battle tank are available with us. If we have been able to put satellite around Mars or If we have been able to land a satellite on to the surface of the moon then what is it we lack?
It is only the question of applying the science that we learned, and designing our own products, trying them out, if there have been deficiencies, use the knowledge gained and improve upon it, and then reach the ultimate goal of having our own equipment, systems as well as the platforms. This is what we need to do and there is absolutely no need for us to go out of this country seeking transfer of technology. After all, what is the technology we receive from abroad? They are only manufacturing technology for manufacture of an aircraft or its shell and stuffing it with equipment then that are imported from abroad. So we need to develop the equipment and systems that go on to the shell, and thereby increase the indigenous content of our platforms rather than go out again and get the technology for manufacturing of the shell, be it a 4th generation or 5th generation aircraft or battle tank. We need to look inwards and get the technology that is available within ourselves whether it is in our educational institutions or in R&D labs, for the manufacturing establishment. All we need to do is put our heads and hands together to solve our own problems.
An entrepreneur who has won a patent for a digital veena, and also designed a mechanism that fires rockets at a command from a computer aboard the Indian Air Force’s Jaguar aircraft? Incongruous but true. The entrepreneurial career of G Raj Narayan, 66, founder and managing director of Bengaluru’s Radel Group, has been guided by his twin passions – aerospace and music.
He spent 10 years as a design engineer at the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) before disillusionment turned the thoughts of this post-graduate from IIT Madras towards entrepreneurship. He finally left HAL in mid-1979.
Within three months he was sub-contracting for Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, supplying electrical coils after investing his savings of Rs 10,000 in a coil winding machine. Together, the group’s two companies – Radel Electronics Pvt. Ltd. (which makes security systems and musical instruments and accounts for 90 per cent of group revenues) and Radel Advanced Technology Pvt. Ltd. (the aerospace business) – employ 80 people and have sales revenues of Rs 10 crore.
Radel is still a small enterprise. But Raj Narayan is working with the aviation wing of the Indian Navy, and hopes to get business from the Army too, since Radel is one of the few Indian players to be certified by the Centre for Military Airworthiness Certification – a Defence Research and Development Organisation lab. “I am looking at 100 per cent growth in the next two years, possibly even 150 per cent, if ‘Make in India’ takes off.” Raj Narayan concedes that for nearly 10 years after he started in business, he continued with his “garage mindset”, and it was only when he won an award for electronics in 1987 that he thought, “I must shift to an industrial estate in order to become a bigger player.”
He has taken care to ensure that R&D is Radel’s core strength. “The R&D team gradually grew, but took a quantum jump when the company set up its facility in Electronics City in 1995. The team now has about 16 engineers who design the electronic circuits, the software, the printed circuit boards, the mechanical housings and structures, the plastic cabinets and everything else that contributes to complete product design,” he says.
The disadvantages of being small are repeatedly felt. Though his aerospace company alone has orders in hand worth Rs 1 crore, working capital is hard to get from public sector banks. However, Raj Narayan turned one such disadvantage into a business opportunity. He found it hard to recruit engineering talent. Moreover, new recruits, once trained, would soon depart for greener pastures. So he set up the Drona Centre for Excellence as a division of Radel, “primarily to produce trained and productive engineers out of fresh graduates”.
Since Radel also possesses core aerospace domain expertise, “Drona also offers training courses in avionics systems, besides electronic product design. This allows the trainees and engineers a hands-on exposure to live projects that they can also see physically implemented for a real client,” says Raj Narayan.
This finishing school is the group’s third revenue stream, and so far it has taken in two batches of 30 students each and trained them, after which they were free to leave and join other companies. The centre also holds short-term courses for engineering students during their holidays.
Though in his mid-sixties, Raj Narayan intends to continue at the helm of Radel for six or seven years more. “I am in the process of grooming a second line of leadership, who can take over when I retire,” he explains.
The original article appeared on Business-Standard
The Government of India needs to nurture and assist SMEs with proven track records. SMEs who have specialised in their own domains which may be electronics,hydraulics, pneumatics or mechatronics and so on need to be provided facilities of interacting with government agencies, manufacturing establishments, DPSUs, so that they get familiar with defence technology and the specialization involved in those technologies. They would then be able to provide their services or products that can be integrated into the holistic platform. The government also needs to create a new classification of A&D SMEs. This is very important because, once a special classification of a defence SME or an aerospace SME is established, that SME could be entitled to special incentives, funding packages and so on.
The government also needs to create R&D funding facilities for those SMEs involved in design and development of products that will result in significant saving of foreign exchange, because ther imported equipment are very expensive, not only to import but also to support as a part of maintenance. The Government will then have to facilitate the formation of Defence clusters along with their own self-contained common facilities centres across the country. The Government should also simplify the import and export procedures because quite a significant amount of materials, especially electronic components are imported and the procedures of import by paying duties and then claiming the duty drawbacks etc. are very cumbersome. Finally the government would do well to provide some tax incentives to encourage the participation of SMEs into the priority sectors, that is, defence and aerospace.