Hind High Vacuum Co (HHV) - which started its journey from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, in 1964 - is today one of the leading players in the vacuum technology in India. In the initial years, vacuum technology was mainly focused around applications related to atomic energy, space and research but over the years our applications have become highly diversified, says Prasanth Sakhamuri, Managing Director of Hind High Vacuum Co. Today, HHV is working in various areas in applications of optics and night vision device development, ALD technologies, and development of specialised transparent heater which are used for various purposes. In this interview with Rakesh Rao, Prasanth Sakhamuri explains the changing dynamics of Indian manufacturing sector and how SMEs can contribute to even hi-tech areas like space and atomic energy.
Hind High Vacuum Co (HHV) is the pioneer in vacuum technology in India. How has been the journey of HHV since its inception five decades ago?
Starting from incubation at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in 1964, HHV has grown to be the leader in the vacuum technology in India and also as a major exporter of thin film components in the world. The 55 years journey has been filled with many challenges, successes, failures and achievements. Further, over the last five decades, HHV has built a capability of top class infrastructure, trained people, process capability and knowledge to support the requirements of Indian aerospace, defence, atomic energy and industrial growth in vacuum technology. It has pioneered growth in thin film technology, optics and solar technology.
How has application of vacuum technology evolved over these years? Which are the new areas of applications for vacuum technology?
Vacuum technology in the initial years was mainly focused around applications related to atomic energy, space and research but over the years our applications have become highly diversified. Our products, being either equipment or components, are used in almost several spectrum industries be it pharmaceuticals, automotive, FMCG products, medical technology, printing technology, life style, aerospace etc. In the recent years, we are seeing growth in applications of vacuum technology evolving in areas related to IOT (Internet of Things) for making various kinds of sensors, detectors and in areas of nanotechnology which are quite diversified in areas like chemistry and biological applications.
In the last two years, how has been the performance of HHV’s three divisions – vacuum systems and special projects; thin film equipment and contract manufacturing and optics and thin film coatings?
This year, the company has grown almost 18 per cent and we had tough challenges in managing growth in the equipment business due to limited investment climate in India. However, our exports in this area were extremely good and we have grown in our exports towards the Far-East, China and in Europe. Our coating and optics have also seen growth in our export markets and in applications related to aerospace technologies. In addition to the above, HHV has diversified interest in the vacuum pump manufacturing which has grown over 25 per cent and our international sales in the UK which has grown over 20 per cent.
In September 2018, Hind High Vacuum was selected by ISRO to supply thin film metallised circuits for its satellites. What is the significance of this for HHV? Will it result in increase in business from defence and aviation sector?
Thin film metallised circuits developed by HHV are unique and have resulted in a significant business growth for HHV. This have been developed over years of investment in process optimisation and developing a very stable process has allowed world class thin film circuits to be developed indigenously. These supplies are largely met by imports and are seen as very important indigenisation requirement keeping in mind the aggressive growth in the space sector and defence sector. For the Make in India initiative, the need to have these capabilities is enormous and we see the growth in business will be substantial. Our satellite program has almost doubled in capacity and the need for ensuring constant indigenous supply continues to grow.
How is the market for watch crystals? Are you seeing a rise in demand for watch crystals?
India is fairly large market for watches and the growth in this industry has been significant. India has one major manufacturer of watches namely Titan Industries. HHV has been supporting Titan with the supply of special watch crystals especially coated and metallised. The growth has been steady and the demand has been continuous. We expect the demand to continue in spite of various other mechanism of telling time due to the large consumer base within the country which is growing. We are also coming out with new models and new process which help in developing new models of watches and have been successful in indigenisation most of the imported components which earlier Titan would bring in from overseas.
What is driving the growth of thin film equipment and contract manufacturing division?
Thin film equipment and contract manufacturing division is primarily being driven by the growth in the international market. Significant amount is being invested in research in places like Singapore, Vietnam, China, Europe, UK and in certain countries in the Middle East. The demand for HHV products has been good and our ability to service the products through our network of service engineers and distributors around the world has led to rise in good customers’ confidence. This has enhanced the sales through our UK operations.
Industry 4.0 is a buzzword in the industry. How is HHV preparing for it?
Industry 4.0 involves significant amount of automation and process control. HHV to a large extent is in the equipment business involving specialised and customised manufacturing and since it is not a mass producer of products and it will not be using too much of automation. But, Industry 4.0 will provide various levels of operations support through better IT applications on the manufacturing sectors. We will be using lot of cloud computing and sharing of information to enhance our ability to produce most effectively. Industry 4.0 will enhance our ability to provide better customer support, improve the quality of our products and provide better capability to our customers. Most of our equipment are already designed to be compliant to be integrated into the internet.
What are the challenges faced by SMEs like HHV? What are probable solutions to overcome these hurdles?
SMEs like HHV continue to always face hurdles of acceptance especially of being a high-tech Indian company. It faces challenges regarding availability of funding, high cost of money and excessive amount of paper work to manage the various compliances within the country. I would like to see significant reduction in the amount of paper work especially related to operations within the country.
Are initiatives like Make in India, opening up of defence and aerospace manufacturing, Government’s decision to ask PSUs to raise procurement from SMEs etc benefitting the industry?
Campaigns like Make in India in enhancing defence manufacturing are all great initiatives by the Government to increase manufacturing within the country. But, it is also important to ensure success of these initiatives. The Government must ensure that there is no back door entry of foreign manufacturers through guise of being small and medium manufacturers in the country or have Indian agents import and supply as Indian products.
Which are the new areas of opportunities that HHV is exploring?
HHV is working in various areas in applications of optics and night vision device development, ALD technologies, and development of specialised transparent heater which are used for various purposes. HHV is aiming to grow at the rate of almost 25-30 per cent continuously over the next 3 years.