“BEL is fast expanding its global presence,” Ms Anandi Mahalingam, Director Marketing, Bharat Electronics Limited.
On the eve of India’s leading aviation show AeroIndia-21, IDI caught up with Ms Anandi Mahalingam, to discuss her company’s vision for India’s self-reliance in defence.
By Rohit Srivastava
Ms Mahalingam – BEL is fast expanding its global presence, putting its best foot forward to give a thrust to exports worldwide. All-out efforts are being made to tap new markets across the globe. In a bid to develop new markets in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), BEL has operationalised overseas marketing offices in Oman, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. BEL has also expanded its Singapore and New York Regional Offices to handle marketing activities. BEL is also thinking of establishing similar offices in Nigeria, Brazil, Armenia and Kazakhstan.
The Government is encouraging defence exports through many policy initiatives and has set a target of Rs 35,000 crore by 2024-25. BEL has identified Exports and Offsets as one of its thrust areas and has drawn up plans to offer its select products and systems to various export markets.
The Company has put in efforts for increasing its business opportunities in South East Asia, Europe, Middle East, Africa and North America through constant engagement with customers and is also working closely with other Indian companies and local partners in the respective countries as part of maximising its geo-strategic reach and increase its global footprint.
On products for export
Ms Mahalingam – BEL has been exporting products such as communication systems, coastal surveillance system, missile systems, radars, electronic warfare systems, electro optic systems and electro optic fire control systems, radar finger printing system, naval systems, radar warning receivers, electronic voting machines and various other equipment to USA, UK, Russia, Italy, Brazil, Germany, France, Israel, Indonesia, Honduras, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and many other friendly countries. BEL achieved Export sales of US$ 48.59 Million during the Financial Year 2019-20.
Some of the other products and systems which are being promoted for exports include Homeland security solutions, smart city solutions, border protection systems and coastal surveillance system. Having established a Coastal Surveillance System (CSS) for a few neighbouring countries, BEL is interacting with Ministry of External Affairs for supply of CSS to other friendly countries.
Recently, the Government approved the export of the indigenously developed Akash missile system to friendly foreign countries.
On utilization of offset clause for exports
Ms Mahalingam – BEL is also focusing on offsets as a potential avenue for revenue generation. BEL is interacting with many foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to meet offset obligations in various request for proposals (RFP) of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), on account of the offset policy incorporated in the defence procurement procedure (DPP).
BEL has identified contract manufacturing (build to print and build to specifications) for foreign OEMs and partnerships in the form of transfer of technology (ToT) of the latest systems and solutions as areas of emerging export opportunities. Efforts are also on to establish long term supply chain relationship with global players.
On Atmanirbhar Bharat
Ms Mahalingam – Defence has been identified as a core sector to boost the ‘Make in India’ vision of achieving USD 5 billion exports. Major initiatives by BEL towards Make in India/Atmanirbhar Bharat include strong thrust on research and development (RandD), collaborative RandD, Defence Innovation Organisation incorporated by BEL and HAL to create an ecosystem to foster innovation, and technology development in defence by engaging RandD institutes, academia, industries, start-ups and individual innovators.
To promote the Make in India initiative, BEL has established ‘Make in India’ display cells, appointed nodal officers for Outsourcing and Vendor Development in all its units and updated its policies and procedures. BEL has implemented the Make-II Policy of the government and issued several Expression(s) of Interest (EoI) to Indian vendors. The company has been putting in efforts to create a strong vendor base in India and has currently more than 21,000 vendors including domestic vendors. BEL is extending its test facilities for use to private industries.
BEL is pursing development/ production opportunities with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under development-cum-production partner model for various indigenous programmes. The Company has entered into partnerships with foreign as well as Indian industries to address large and strategic programme requirements, leveraging its complimentary capabilities and assuming the role of a lead integrator / Tier-1 partner for indigenous manufacturing. BEL is constantly exploring possibilities of forging partnerships.
BEL successfully rolled out 30,000 ICU ventilators within a record time for treating Covid-19 patients and make India self-reliant in high-end medical equipment. The project involved substantial import substitution within a short period of time. Post- COVID, A separate vertical called Medical Electronics Division has been opened to focus on networked and remotely operated solutions with latest technologies like internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-based services, e-diagnostics and online healthcare services.
On key growth drivers for BEL
Ms Mahalingam – existing business segments such as radar and missile systems, communication and network centric systems, anti-submarine warfare and sonar systems, tank electronics, gun upgrades, electro-optics, electro-explosive and electronic warfare and avionics systems will continue to drive BEL’s growth in the coming years.
BEL has been putting in continual efforts to diversify into several new areas in both Defence and non-defence to sustain growth.
In the last five years, BEL’s turnover from non–defence business has been around 1 per cent to 20 per cent of the total turnover. Some of the areas being focused upon in non-defence are air traffic control radars, space electronics, space grade solar cells, satellite assembly and integration, railway and metro solutions, software, electric vehicles (li-ion battery packs, fuel cells, charging stations), homeland security and smart city businesses, smart metres and healthcare electronic equipment including ICU Ventilators to combat COVID-19.
On order book
Ms Mahalingam – BEL’s order book as on December 1 is more than Rs 52,000 crore. BEL has been consistent in order acquisition year-on-year. The Company has orders worth over Rs 8,000 crore in the pipeline. All-out efforts are being made to tap new markets across the globe.
On exhibit at Aero India-21
This time, BEL will showcase state-of-the-art products and systems spanning every domain of its business. The products and systems on display during the show are clustered as airborne and space application, satellite and space application, products and systems for self-reliance (aatmanirbhar bharat), high performance computing and artificial intelligence systems, land and naval products and systems, communication and laser based products, non-defence/diversification and outdoor display products.
In addition to the above, BEL will also showcase its research capabilities through its new products and technologies. The entire set of state-of-art equipment on offer will be a force multiplier for any defence force.
On 74 per cent FDI in defence
Ms Mahalingam – The current foreign direct investment policy of 74 per cent through automatic route is permitted for industries applying for fresh licence. Nevertheless, BEL considers it to be a positive step towards establishment of some niche technologies in the country. BEL with its long experience in the defence sector has developed certain core strengths which is its USP to stay competitive in this sector.