“There is no dearth of opportunity in aerospace sector”

Since decades, Indian aerospace sector has been importing everything from nuts and bolts to complete equipment and platforms. With government focusing on indigenisation of aerospace & defense (A&D), the sector offers lots of opportunities to Indian manufacturers, especially SMEs.
“There is no dearth of opportunity in aerospace sector”
Since decades, Indian aerospace sector has been importing everything from nuts and bolts to complete equipment and platforms. With government focusing on indigenisation of aerospace & defense (A&D), the sector offers lots of opportunities to Indian manufacturers, especially SMEs. With about 25 successful indigenisation projects under its belt, the Bengaluru-based Radel Advanced Technology Pvt Ltd (RATPL) has shown how SMEs can leverage their strengthen and make significant contributions to the A&D sector in India. In this interview with Rakesh Rao, G Raj Narayan, Founder & Managing Director, Radel Advanced Technology, highlights challenges faced by manufacturers in aerospace industry and probable remedial measures to be taken to overcome these hurdles.
 
What is Radel's current focus in the aerospace sector?
Radel Advanced Technology Pvt Ltd has a very impressive portfolio of products developed completely in-house for the Indian Armed Services. This includes airborne LRUs that are certified for use on MiG-29, Jaguar and AN-32 aircraft of IAF and many other ground based equipment for use by all the three armed services. This has been possible due to the deep knowledge and expertise of its promoters in the aerospace sector for five decades with extensive platform exposure.
 
Radel has focussed on high value addition areas of indigenisation such as complete D&D of avionics and electrical LRUs, both for airborne and ground test applications. Radel’s track record of successful indigenisation covers RF equipment, HV and LV power supplies, armament controls, navigation and communication units, control units, etc.
 
Is government taking steps to overcome challenges that are stifling growth of aerospace manufacturing industry? 
While every government of this country has been talking of ‘self-reliance’ and ‘self-sufficiency’ for the last 7 decades, very little has been done to encourage the participation of the private sector, particularly MSMEs. There are many factors connected with this situation.
 
Aerospace is a domain that demands extreme levels of reliability, safety, long life, miniaturisation, light weight, low power consumption, etc. This needs a high degree of design competence that can be imbibed only when an industry is exposed to it. However, due to the fact that this sector was strictly confined to DPSUs (defence public sector undertakings) and DRDO all these decades, there is very little exposure to the private players in this area. This therefore has been an entry barrier to many competent MSMEs.
 
Small quantities of serial production orders post-development, is a disincentive for private players who would prefer to focus their resources in more lucrative sectors.The IAF and HAL, the two main stakeholders appear to lack confidence in Indian private players and find it easier to import from foreign OEMs. Excessive bureaucratic red-tape in these organisations results in long delays in execution of projects leading to loss of interest among private vendors.
 
Lack of an aerospace ecosystem makes it very difficult for private players to stay motivated. Holistic development and growth of all stakeholders has not been addressed. A good ecosystem should comprise multi-disciplinary design organisations, manufacturing supply chain, raw material banks, training establishments, MRO organisations, stockists of standard parts, import-export support, vibrant knowledge sharing mechanisms and a mutually supportive environment. This is completely missing at the moment.
 
Further, an aerospace 
ecosystem should encompass both the civil and defense aerospace sectors. The civil aerospace sector is at the moment non-existent in India. However, there is now a window of opportunity by HAL’s intention to launch the civil variant of ALH. Integration of both sectors would lead to not only more opportunities within the country, but also opens up the global civil aerospace market for Indian vendors.
 
What kind of opportunities are there for SMEs in the aerospace & avionics segment?
There is no dearth of opportunity for MSMEs in the aerospace sector since everything from nuts and bolts to complete equipment and platforms continue to be imported since decades. All these can be indigenously produced if concerted efforts are made by all stakeholders, primarily the users, DPSUs and large private sector players. A collaborative effort is required. There are many MSMEs in the country that have a proven track record in their own spheres of activity in various engineering domains. Many of them are already part of the supply chains of foreign aerospace industries.
 
Is opening up of aerospace and defence manufacturing sector for private sector in India helping domestic manufacturers?
Opening up of the aerospace and defense (A&D) sector to private players is certainly the right step. However, the GoI has to act as a facilitator for the creation and growth of the aerospace ecosystem so that all stakeholders could grow together for mutual benefits. Once this is established, more and more opportunities would be thrown open for existing as well as new players entering the fray.
 
Are you exploring more business opportunities in aerospace segment?
Radel has been able to make significant contributions to the A&D sector over the last 10 years with about 25 successful indigenisation projects. Some of the products developed so far have immense potential for a wide variety of platforms and also have export potential. Radel hopes to leap forward over the next few years riding on all these successes.
 
How do you see the future of aerospace manufacturingin India?
Both aerospace and defense sectors possess similarities in terms of harsh environment, ruggedisation, high levels of reliability and nature of technologies adopted on the platforms. It, therefore, makes sense to look at both these sectors holistically and encourage participants to specialise on specific domains within the sector so that they can leverage their competencies across both sectors. For example, armament control systems, communication systems, navigations systems, hydraulic & pneumatic systems, fuel management systems, warning systems and so on. Such a strategy would improve sustainability of private players in spite of small volumes from each sector. Even the cost of D&D would be amortised over a wider client base.
 
What are your growth plansfor the company? 
Radel has put in place a growth plan that includes additional manufacturing infrastructure as well as enlargement of trained engineering design manpower so as to target highly challenging projects of our A&D users as part of self-reliance.
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