February 04, 2013
Credit: Credit: Aeronautical Development Agency
Graham Warwick Washington
India is spending billions on defense procurements, bringing with them massive packages of offset work for its industry, but the country's ambitions to become a major player in commercial aerospace manufacturing are still in their early stages.
Already significant providers of engineering services, including complete aerostructures design packages for Western airframers, several of India's private-sector companies are making a push into manufacturing.
But progress is being hindered by the lack of a national vision for aerospace, such as exists in China, and the absence of a complete “ecosystem” of suppliers to support the emerging major players such as the Mahindra and Tata groups.
The main drivers of India's aerospace industry growth have been major military programs and the offset obligations attached to offshore procurements. But more companies are looking for not only market access to India and more widely to Southeast Asia, but also a partner with engineering and manufacturing capability.
“What is bringing work into India is changing,” says Ramaseshan Satagopan, head of the aerospace engineering practice at Mahindra Satyam, the Indian conglomerlate's engineering-services subsidiary. “Five to 10 years ago, cost was the major thing driving outsourcing. Now market access in this region is the prime driver, offset-related work is second, and third is cost and the availability of capability.”
Outside perceptions of India's aerospace industry are that it is bureaucratic and painfully slow in developing aircraft that, when produced, fall short of the customers' requirements and the standards of Western manufacturers. While not disputing that characterization, Satagopan argues the view from outside does not recognize the challenges India has faced in building an industry.
“India's aerospace industry is only 40-50 years old in terms of technology, and still far way in terms of very advanced technologies in sensors, etc.,” he says. “In engines there is R&D going on, but we have yet to see a final product. Engines are 3-4 times more complex than other technologies, and do not come cheap. We have still to catch up.”