By Rohit Srivastava
IDI - Tell us about your company's journey in the defence sector?
Zeus - Numerix was incubated in IIT, Bombay in 2004. We are the first company in India to develop a commercial engineering simulation software like CFD, some of them were under sanctions. We work primarily within the Defence, Nuclear and Aerospace sector. Our very first project hypersonic launch vehicle software was developed by us indigenously. We successfully exported software for Ramjet to Korea as early as 2006. We have now graduated from being a software company to build-to-specification company. With 200+ defence projects for all three forces, we are the No 1 Know-Why company in the country.
IDI - Tell us about your core competence in the defence sector? What are your future plans?
Zeus - As Zeus Numerix has homegrown technology built on the strong fundamental understanding of the physics. Our vast repository of knowledge is accumulated from elite pools of IIT/ NIT and experienced personnel with domain expertise. So what is our core competency, it’s the understanding of Physics and Engineering and our team that is passionate about engineering. Consciously we are focusing on build-to-specification projects. Thanks to Technology Development Fund (TDF) DRDO and Indian Navy, we have become second company globally to make a composite seawater pump for Naval applications.
In future, we wish to own innovative mechanical and electro-mechanical products. We wish to remain fabless and will work with small and large companies to produce our designs. We have been and will like to remain an IP oriented company.
IDI - As an MSME, you have successfully demonstrated your design and simulation capabilities in various projects including ATAGs and laser guided bombs, how difficult it is for an MSME to convince System integrator for including new firms in their projects?
Zeus -The major problem in convincing the system integrator is the yes man marketing person. He is the face of the company and if he is technically not qualified then the user becomes sceptical. Having passed the first barrier, the next important milestone is cost and timelines. For the project to go through, the user must be convinced that you understand the problem statement and that you will not fail. Failures are costly. One major aspect of our success is the documentation pre and post-project. Technical results can sometimes be uncomfortable but effective communication means a temporary glitch but a permanent comfort working with you. Unfortunately, Indian companies especially MSMEs or mostly the employees do not find the work of writing minutes, technical reports glamorous. Don’t think as my promotion but read the portfolio we have created in excess of 125 pages and you will see how documentation helps www.zeusnumerix.com/portfolio
Finally to succeed you need to the know the procurement procedure. Start-ups and MSEs sometimes have an unjustified sense of entitlement and expectation from the authorities to change the procedure to suit their requirements. This will never be done and we should stop asking for it.
IDI - What is your take on DPP provisions for MSME sector? Would you like to suggest some changes in them?
Zeus - The current DPP and its associated schemes are perfect documents. I do not believe in changing them. I want them implemented. Let us work like the demonetization days, take a decision and then tailor it to achieve the objective. We have to shed the mindset of a policy set in stone will make us superpower. We need a fluid policy with minimal attention to writing and maximum attention to implementing. My advice to the MSEs is that they must understand that Government principles are designed in a way where every grievance must be accommodated and inquired. So do not complain about the procedure, complain about the loss of time due to paperwork. Let anyone get a project, don’t cry if you were not the beneficiary. Form consortiums and partnerships that are based on technical prowess and trust. Deliver products and bring the conversation in the realm of development and testing instead of policy, policy, policy.
IDI - Often, we come across MSMEs complaining about the lack of orders, how do you see the current order scenario? IS it possible for an MSME to survive only on defence business? Is it possible for an Indian MSME to develop a subsystem for any of the major defence platform?
Zeus - This is a niche market and there will always be lack or orders or surplus in good times. Believe me, we have seen both. We have survived on the defence orders. The trick is to put your foot at many places, at least 10 and then only 1-2 will succeed and will keep you going. Unfortunately, this means spending more time in the office. If you are ready to do that, you can sustain. There is a bright side too, not many can do this kind of hard work so competition will gradually decrease.
This does not mean I advise you to survive solely on defence. The defence is used for developing cutting edge technology and then use that know-why to develop the project in the civil sector. Whatever be your calling, please do not make tall technical claims. As Prof Feynmann once famously said “nature cannot be fooled”
IDI - Zeus is primarily a design firm, how is the market for design firms in defence?
Zeus - Design is the most complicated market as no one can ascertain if you have the capability. Nomenclature is also an issue like CAD drawings in marketing parlance becomes high-end modelling and design. In defence, everything is designed for the first time. Being an MSE further aggravates the doubt on the capabilities. So it is better to take a risk and say, not only will I design it but also manufacture and test it for you. It is all about taking responsibility. We cannot say that I will design and then it is your headache to get it fabricated and tested. If it does not work, it is not my fault. The second big challenge is that the internal teams are going to catch up with you in design. So, we need to constantly upgrade ourselves in new methods and technologies. Finally, we need to own a set of design methodologies that people cannot copy.
IDI - Tell us about your three success stories and ongoing projects in defence sector?
Zeus - Though there have been many successes, the ones we cherish and can reveal for each of the forces is (a) development of technology for certification studies of aircraft missile integration (b) design improvement for various artillery gun parts like recoil, muzzle brake etc. (c) reduction in radar cross-section or stealth by 70 per cent of a ship. We have received commendation letters for saving a lot of money for the technology developed for missile integration with aircraft. Stealth technology is a unique feature of our company with only a handful of people in the country understanding this tech. But I am tempted to say that our biggest success in this field is getting continued support from the customer. Surviving 15 years after being incubated from IIT Bombay is an achievement in itself.