Nagpur: Can Nagpur really become the national hub for Aviation and Defense Industry, with world wide potential?
Will our many Engineering colleges succeed in imparting the ‘skills’ required to make our youth employment worthy in these sectors? (Because that is said to be the main cause for industry not coming in a big way to Nagpur and rest of Vidarbha.)
Will Industry, like Tatas and giants in the Defense and Aviation sectors lend a helping hand to both local industrialists and Academicians to make this happen? Or will they remain on the sidelines and just comment?
These and many such issues were dealt with at the AEROSPACE AND DEFENCE SUMMIT 2017 which was slated as being ‘Initiative to co-create sustainable ecosystem for Aerospace, Automotive & Defence- Vidarbha Region’.
Dignitories and industry people who attended and addressed this summit conference included Lt Gen. Ravindra Thodge, Ex- MGO & Advisor to GOI, Mr K N Madan, Ex-Executive Director and DGM, Air India, Dr Rajarajan Shanmugam CEO, Tata – HAL, Mr Sridhar Dharmarajan Senior Director SAARC & ASEAN, MSC Corporation USA and Mr Harsh Gune CEO, WOM India.
Mr. Anoop Kumar, Divisional Commissioner, set the boll rolling by laying out his vision for future growth of Nagpur and Vidarbha region.
Vidarbha has been paying the price for generations because of its locational advantage and other factors, it is time it got some reward too said Anoop Kumar in an impassioned plea.
Locational Jinx of Nagpur
“Others may call it our locational advantage, that we are the very centre of the country, but I see it as a locational jinx! Nagpur being so far inland prevents Export oriented industries from coming here. Also we have been in Agro industries like Dal Mills, Cotton processing etc. for so long that other sectors haven’t progressed while even Textiles were taken away from here.” He opined.
“I feel pensive when I think that the British found Central India, specially the Nagpur plateau, a very lucrative and safe place to store (hide) arms and armaments. They created not one or two but four Ordinance depots and factories in Vidarbha. They took thousands of acres of agricultural land away from our farmers to create these depots. Many of these depots are very old, over 100 years, so we have been paying the price for them…”
“We have also been paying the price for being mineral rich! Our coal mines have brought many power plants in our midst which have only caused pollution and rising heat and dust for us – very few benefits. It is time we began reaping some benefits, making gains for all the pain endured”. Here was Anoop Kumar, speaking not like a bureaucrat, but as a Vidarbhite who has his heart in the right place in the heart of the nation! (Pun intended).
“But we have two Engines driving the Nagpur train now – they can definitely make it a Bullet train” commented Anoop Kumar.
About the new Defense Minister
He mentioned Nirmala Seetharaman, the new Defense Minister of India as someone who was senior to him at JNU, Delhi.
“She is a free thinker, a performer… I am very proud of her. In the excel sheets on the subject she must have ranked pretty high in the performance index of our Cabinet Ministers so she was chosen for this post. I hope she does justice to the potential of India as a Defense eqeuipment hub.” He said.
Later, in the panel discussion, many practical problems and their probably solutions were taken up by the eminent speakers.
Dr. Raja, CEO, TATA, outlined the potential for small planes, helicopters etc. which can be manufactured in India. He said all big international companies such as
Airbus, Boeing Business Jets, Bombardier Aerospace, Cessna Aircraft Company, Dassault Falcon, Gulfstream Aerospace are also looking for smaller partners to have spread out manufacturing locations. He bemoaned the quality of Engineering graduates we produce and lack of R&D in our country of Scientists and Engineers.
“Even where light aircraft and helicopters that we claim are ‘India made’ at least 60% to 70% components are imported. How does that make it ‘Made in India?’ he asked.
Mr. Madan, former Executive Director of Air India mentioned his 30 years of experience in the Aviation industry, which included looking after big planes.
“As far as MROs are concerned the sky is the limit for growth opportunities. There are only 3 – 4 MROs in India and Nagpur is one of them. It has the scope to employ at least 1000 local people, if it can find the right skills. That is a challenge before educational institutes” he said.
He said a lot of private Airline companies of the country are flying planes all the way to Hong Kong or Jordan just for ‘servicing’.
“Imagine if we could do it in India; in Nagpur! How much time, energy and fuel expenses could be saved?”
Speaking on the same subject Parag Karkhanis of Tata Technologies had said that within the next 3 to 5 years India would be the largest Aviation market leaving behind countries like China.
“This will open huge employment potential which has to be met with commensurately skilled manpower. Tata Technologies would themselves be requiring over 10,000 employees for their activities soon.”
Lt. General Ravindra Thodge, (Retired) said that there was potential of 7000 crores market in Defense manufacture.
Mr. Sridhar Dharmarajan of MSC Corporation USA spoke about the huge potential in the field of Digital Validation Domain.
He said any product has to has these two features: Form and Function. Form is the outward shape, size etc. while Function is what it is intended to do. Its use.
“Form depends on your imagination, but the real skills lie in defining its function. ‘How will it behave?’ ”
Aviation products are so expensive and huge that one cannot afford to first build prototypes. “Therefore you need skills for digital validation or Simulation.”
He said if you look at the Design departments of Boeing or Airbus abroad, you will find that 60% or more engineers at work are Indians!
So, with training if these guys can perform for international companies why can’t we set up facilities in India?
Reviving Flying Club in Nagpur
This subject was also discussed at length. In fact it was mooted that the Indian Airforce or Defense dept. could have a stake, or a partnership in training of pilots for their needs as well. Anoop Kumar promised to look into this aspect and come up with a solution in 6 months.
Vidarbha Industries and Educational institutes well represented
At the summit which was held in Radisson Blu, one could spot a good representation of Industrialists, Industries’ Associations and Principles of many Engineering colleges. MIA and BMA office bearers, Captain Randhir Sharma and Nitin Lonkar respectively raised questions about the role their members could play in future developments. VIA was also represented by its Vice President Pankaj Baxi.
Academicians from KDK and other institutes appealed to industries like Tatas to lend a hand in training students in various required skills after their Engineering degree course was over.
The summit was hosted by Vidarbha Defence Industrial Hub represented by its Director Dushyant Deshpande, Tata Techologies and MSC Software Solutions.
The encouraging factor for Nagpur is that post retirment Lt. General Thodge is planning to settle in Nagpur, being of Nagpur origin, and help Nagpur students and industrialists in realizing their plans and their dreams!