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Hope The Draft Policy Furthers Self-reliance: Babasaheb Neelkanth Kalyani, Chairman, Kalyani Group
BW Businessworld’s Manish Kumar Jha chats up Kalyani Group Chairman Babasaheb Neelkanth Kalyani about the group’s numerous defence forays
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Apart of the $2.5-billion Kalyani Group, Kalyani Strategic Systems manufactures artillery guns for the Indian Army. The group now aims to expand into aerospace and developing jet engines. BW Businessworld’s Manish Kumar Jha chats up Kalyani Group Chairman Babasaheb Neelkanth Kalyani about the group’s numerous defence forays.
What are the focus areas for Kalyani Strategic Systems (KSSL)?
The focus areas for KSSL are artillery guns, armoured vehicles, protected vehicles, air defence systems, and ammunition. Our aim is to indigenize all the three aspects of any defence manufacturing, that is design and technology; manufacturing capability and infrastructure; and maintenance and life cycle support.
What is the outlook on aerospace and defence? What kind of incremental growth do you see in the future from these businesses?
Aerospace and defence are a natural progression for us. These are areas where we can leverage our existing capabilities, skills, resources, knowledge, experience and acumen. We see tremendous potential here, especially with the product profile we have developed over the last few years. Kalyani Group is participating in land platform segment programmes worth $3-4 billion for the Indian Armed Forces. A majority of these programmes are in various stages of procurement by the customer. Once in production, they will steer Kalyani Group to be the market leader in the segment. We are already executing medium-level Ministry of Defence orders like dual technology mine detectors, export orders for armoured troop carrier, ammunition, etc. We are also engaged with OFB and HAL in meeting their component and sub-system level requirements. Our Make in India strategy is also well on its way, wherein we are targeting import substitution across all verticals.
Also, please tell us about collaborations with foreign OEMs?
We are also working on a number of joint ventures and strategic partnerships with global OEMs in order to bring in technology and undertake joint production and manufacturing in India, as part of our commitment to Make in India. We have two joint ventures, BF Elbit Advanced Systems with Elbit of Israel for artillery systems and Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems with Rafael, again of Israel, for air defence technology, BMP upgrade and advanced armour solutions. We have strategic partnerships and technology tie-ups with many other leading foreign OEMs for niche defence products.
The Draft Defence Production Policy 2018 puts thrust on the private sector by making a few changes in the policy framework. What is your take on that?
It is a much-needed thrust. Private companies with their pool of management, scientific and technological skills, product innovation, technology upgradation, quality control, finance and human resource management, are best poised to lead defence production in India. The private sector can easily pick more than 50 per cent share of defence production.
Any recommendation from the industry perspective that could help create a robust defence ecosystem in India?
The government has taken many steps in easing out various roadblocks, including various policy and procedure related changes. In the recently concluded Defence Expo 2018, we saw Indian companies exhibiting Indian products in far greater number than before. The government/MoD has assured full support in not only promoting indigenisation but also in promoting export of defence products from India. The need of the hour is to continue with this momentum and introduce many more such encouraging steps which will help the private industry in establishing a vibrant defence industrial base in the country. The draft policy 2018 is eagerly awaited by the industry, with hopes that it will remove the lacunae from its previous versions, and furthers the cause of self-reliance.
What are the future projects of KSSL that will critically address the needs of the Indian Armed Forces?
The group aims to design and develop state-of-the-art military hardware using indigenous talent and innovation. We have realised major breakthrough in artillery systems through our 100 per cent indigenously designed, developed and manufactured product profile, which includes a series of 155/52/45/39 and 105/37 guns. ATAGS, the 155mm/52 calibre gun co-developed by Kalyani Group along with DRDO, has created a new world record by registering the longest ever distance of 48 km surpassing the maximum ranges of 35-40 km fired by any artillery gun in this category. We have also developed our own version of the famous M777 ultra-light howitzer, one in titanium and another in steel. The titanium version weighs 4.5 tonne. The steel version is heavier at 6.7 tonne. We took this version to Itarsi for firing in June, where it successfully completed its validation trials. All these developments and products are in line with the needs of the Indian Army.
The group has also established a world-class facility at Hyderabad for manufacturing of air defence systems. Spread across 24,000 sq. ft, this facility of Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems (KRAS), a joint venture between Kalyani Group and Israeli defence OEM Rafael Advance Defence Systems, enables indigenous production of high-tech air defence systems, new generation precision guided munitions (NGPGM), long range guided bomb (LRGB), MRSAM, LLQRM, QRSAM as well as the naval gun program and drone dome system. This JV will bring in niche technology in the country for such advanced defence systems, and address the critical need of our armed forces in these areas.
We are also working on other critical areas like precision ammunition, jet engines, seeker technology and small arms.