Saab Will Make In India

Interview with Lars Olof Lindgren, Chairman, Saab India

What are your expectations from Aero India 2015?

Aero India brings together key stakeholders from the industry as well as the government and armed forces. It serves as a rare opportunity for a credible display of our products and showcase for Swedish technologies, thereby enabling the Indian stakeholders to better understand the Saab offer for India. In the long run, we expect engagements like these to open more windows of opportunity for us and strengthen our business proposition in India. 

At this Aero Show, we look forward to connecting with the Indian defence forces, homeland security forces, the public, defence research establishments, defence public sector units and the private sector. We believe that it is an exciting place for some very interesting discussions to get rolling and to put focus on state-of-the-art military technologies and products under one roof.

Saab’s core message is ‘Teaming up with India’ – for modernization of defence forces and systems for safe air and maritime environment along with a secure homeland. Saab has made a long-term commitment to India, and plans to team up with Indian companies on major programs. This Aero Show, we will also explore newer opportunities for long-term industrial cooperation with both the public and private sector players in India.

What is Saab’s approach to the Government of India’s focus on ‘Make In India’? Does India remain an attractive market for global partners if India will prefer to buy from products made in India?

At the core of India’s development premise today is the new government’s focus on Make In India. Make in India is a program based on the realization that rapid industrialization is the only way for India to meet its great challenges including finding employment for the millions of people entering the labour market each year.

Make in India is also in line with the ambition to create an indigenous Indian defence industry of global scale. Building this capability requires partners with state-of-the-art technology that can be transferred to India with the support of their government. More importantly, such companies should have a genuine interest in true transfer of technology and joint development of a new generation of products.

Saab is looking at the Indian Industry as their potential partner in product development for the world market. We believe that the Indian Industry has the necessary capability and can absorb the state of the art technology for manufacturing world class products.

For us, India is more than a market. The focus is not simply on winning bids but on building business in partnership with reliable Indian partners across the entire hierarchy of manufacturers, all the way from sub-component suppliers to strategic partners.

What are the partnerships that Saab is pursuing in India?

Saab is working with multiple partners and suppliers in India, in R&D, machining, composites, and other areas. In the area of machinery and composite parts, we work with Aequs (formerly QUEST Global Manufacturing), Tata Advanced Materials Limited, and CIM Tools. These companies play a very valuable role in helping Saab develop, industrialize and manufacture complex airframe assemblies for Airbus and Boeing. Saab and Aequs have also established a joint venture, Aerostructures Assemblies India, an AS9100C-certified company located in Belgaum, Karnataka. AAI specializes in build-to-print assemblies for commercial and defence aircraft.

We have also set up the Saab India Technology Center, a Research and Development Center, in partnership with Tech Mahindra in Hyderabad. Engineers at the Centre are working on multiple Saab programs to develop critical technologies for the next generation of aircraft, missile & radar systems, to support Saab’s global market.

We work closely with partners such as BEL, HAL and Pipavav. Saab and Bharat Forge Limited have signed an agreement to work together on the Indian Army Air Defence programs VSHORAD and SRSAM. Also, Saab and Ashok Leyland have entered into an agreement to work together for the SRSAM program. Ashok Leyland will deliver high mobility vehicles for the BAMSE SRSAM solution.

Saab is also an equity investor in Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Ltd. Further, Saab and Pipavav are jointly developing the next generation of Combat Management Systems in India. Saab, in collaboration with Grintex, has been selected by the Airports Authority of India to deploy Advanced Surface Movement Guidance & Control Systems (A-SMGCS) at five airports in India. The Saab A-SMGCS will enhance situational awareness and runway safety at these growing airports.

In 2012, Saab, in collaboration with Elcome Integrated Systems, implemented the National Automatic Identification System on the Indian coast line. The NAIS provides coverage to entire Indian Coast, whereby 74 lighthouses are now fitted with the Saab systems. This system is helping safeguard India’s coastline through monitoring and identification of maritime traffic.

What new opportunities and challenges do you see for Saab in India in 2015?

This year will be an important year for the Indian defence industry. With a new government in place since the middle of last year, we have seen a renewed vitality and interest in the defence sector – and also a sense of urgency to modernize the defence forces, and provide them the equipment they need to safeguard India’s borders. We have also seen signals from the defence ministry that they want to simplify defence procurement, and provide greater clarity in the procurement process.  

Also, the government’s “Make in India” initiative should energize the Indian defence industry.  We look forward to strengthening our existing collaborations in India, and forming new ones. We have always believed that Indian defence companies have the potential to become suppliers to the world – and this year should see these companies take important steps, such as increasing investment into R&D, in that direction. However, some of this will be contingent on the FDI limit being increased further.