The future of the Indian aerospace industry will to a large extent, depend on how extensively India can work together with the leading players of the French aerospace industry
The Bengaluru chapter of the Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry, popularly known as IFCCI, hosted a seminar on December 1 this year on Defence and Aerospace at Novotel Techpark in Bengaluru.
Established in 1977 in Mumbai, the IFCCI is a bilateral business organisation that has 500 active members from the different sectors of the industry in India as well as in France. IFCCI is also an active member of a French organisation called Union des Chambres de Commerce et d’Industrie Françaises À l’Etranger. Stated in English it is the Union of French Chambers of Commerce Abroad that has representation in 78 different countries across the globe. In India, IFCCI not only facilitates and promotes networking amongst the business communities from both nations, it also plays a vital role of economic influence to the said community. IFCCI provides various services to its members through conferences, seminars, publications, press release, trade shows and various other activities. The organisation also helps non-members to develop their business or trade in India and France. The membership of this organisation is open to French individuals, companies or their subsidiaries already engaged in business in the Indian market or are keen to develop business in India. IFCCI also provides professional assistance to Indian businessmen or companies who are interested in interaction with the French business community or are prepared to venture into the market in France.
Objectives of the Seminar
The Seminar on December 1, 2017, provided an excellent opportunity for interaction amongst a large number of French and Indian C-Level executives from aerospace and defence firms, original equipment manufacturers (OEM), representatives from the local aerospace industry and services providers, defence analysts and even policy makers. The objective of the Seminar was to exchange ideas and perspectives on the following:
The event was presided over by François Gautier, the Consul General of France in Bengaluru, who was also the chief guest. A special invitee to the seminar was Dr Prahlada Ramarao, an individual with impressive credentials. He is a Distinguished Scientist and was the Chief Controller at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and was the Vice Chancellor of the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT) Pune. At present, Dr Prahlada Ramarao is a Professor in the Department of Management Studies in the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) at Bengaluru and at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) also located in Bengaluru. In 2015, he was conferred the coveted award of Padma Shri.
Address by the Chief Guest
The chief guest François Gautier, the Consul General of France in Bengaluru, delivered the inaugural address. Extending a hearty welcome to those present, he said that the Bengaluru chapter was only two years old and was the youngest amongst the IFCCI chapters in India and its membership had already reached 100. The event being hosted on December 01 was the second edition in the series. Bengaluru has a large presence of the aerospace community from France and the interaction between the two nations in this regime is increasing. While the partnership between the space agencies of the two nations goes back many years, today, Airbus alone has 500 employees in Bengaluru which is a technology hub centre. The strengthening partnership is evident in the growing number of SMEs coming up as joint ventures with French companies. There is greater interaction between the scientific communities and the academia of both the nations thus helping the growth of a healthy ecosystem to support the aerospace industry in India. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is already manufacturing doors for the Airbus A320 family of airlines that are operating all over the world. Very recently, the foundation stone for a new Indo-French JV was laid in Nagpur. The partnership between the aerospace industries of the two nations is strong as also is clearly on a growth trajectory.
ENHANCING COLLABORATION WITH THE FRENCH AEROSPACE AND DEFENCE INDUSTRY WILL CERTAINLY OF HELP PROPEL THE INDIAN AEROSPACE AND DEFENCE INDUSTRY TO GREATER HEIGHTS
Keynote Address by Dr Prahlada Ramarao
In his keynote address, Dr Prahlada Ramarao recalled his first interaction with the French aerospace industry when he was involved with the Pilotless Target Aircraft project in the year 1972. India obtained liquid engine technology from France for space launch vehicles. Currently, there is urgent need to collaborate with the French aerospace industry in the regime of gas turbine engine technology for aircraft. In fact the future of the Indian aerospace industry will to a large extent depend on how extensively India can work together with French aerospace industry. In this effort, IFCCI will have a major role to play as it can provide the Indian aerospace industry access to high end technologies. He said that the Indian aerospace and defence market is growing and fortunately the youth of the nation is capable and innovative as also is blessed with energy and dynamism. The prevailing conditions in the Indian aerospace and defence industry are intense and plagued with adversities; but our professionals can still deliver. However, there is urgent need to develop the required modern infrastructure and the ecosystem. China is in the lead in manufacturing, but India is ahead in IT. In the regime of aerospace and defence industry, volumes are small but requires technology of high quality and value. India is strong in R&D and has a lead in the world in this field. The city of Bengaluru itself has as many as 40 R&D centres engaged in projects related to the aerospace and defence industry. France today is a technology giant in the world and we need to partner with France to produce among other systems, a regional transport aircraft as also unmanned aerial vehicles for both civil and military applications.
The opening addresses were followed by two sessions of panel discussion. Participants in the two sessions were as under:
The first session was moderated by Yogesh Singh and the second by Kosturi Ghosh, both from Trilegal, Bengaluru. Trilegal is a high profile full service law firm with offices in five of India’s major cities namely Mumbai, New Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The issues under discussion were the four objectives of the Seminar listed under Para 3 above.
What emerged in the two rounds of panel discussion is that there have been significant changes in the last 15 years in the ecosystem related to manufacturing for the defence and aerospace segments of the industry. More recently, the changes in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), the launch of the ‘Make in India’ programme and formulation of the Strategic Partnership policy have elevated motivation levels in the defence and aerospace industry. This is evident in the number of global aerospace and defence majors forming JVs with the leading Indian companies. The list of new JVs includes Lockheed Martin with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), tie up between Saab of Sweden with the Adani Group, Reliance Defence JV with Dassault Aviation as well as with Thales of France and Mahindra in collaboration with BAE Systems.
The panel discussion also highlighted a number of areas that need attention of the government. Currently, there is lack of focus on quality control as there is no centralised test facility, advanced technology materials still need to be imported, investments are high and the volume of production is low for understandable reasons. Unfortunately, this makes return on investment low rendering the business unattractive for the private sector. There is a need to go beyond manufacturing of components to design, development, testing and integration of platforms, all within the country. The whole effort needs to be backed by the development of the right skills which is somewhat inadequate at present. There is also the need for greater synergy in several areas of the industry between defence and civil in the domain of manufacturing of dual use platforms such as transport aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles as also in the regime of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for which particularly the business aviation fleet is almost fully dependant of foreign sources.
What was clear from the panel discussions is that while there has been considerable forward movement in the private sector of the Indian defence and aerospace industry in the recent past, there is a still a long way to go before the Indian industry will be in a position to rub shoulders with the global aerospace majors. Enhancing collaboration with the French aerospace and defence industry will certainly of help propel the Indian aerospace and defence industry to greater heights.