SKY S THE LIMIT
Palak Bhatia describes the growth of the Aerospace industry in India, The Economic Times, NEWS URL
The modern era of the Aerospace & Defence industry started only 110 years ago, with the Wright Brothers’ first flight on 17 December, 1903. Since then, the industry has landed a man on the moon, gone supersonic, developed aircrafts that have transported over a billion people per year, and sent a spacecraft outside our solar system, just a few notable achievements to mention. The industry has changed the very nature of the ways consumers travel by commercial aircraft, communicate via satellites, shop over the internet, conduct armed conflict when necessary, and assist with humanitarian missions to the far reaches of the globe.
The global commercial aerospace sector is expected to sustain its significant revenue and earnings growth in 2014, underlined by extended record-setting production levels both at the platform and supplier base. This is expected to be driven primarily by the accelerated replacement cycle of obsolete aircraft with next generation fuel efficient aircraft, as well as the continued increases in passenger travel demand, especially in the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions.
For the overall global aerospace and defence (A&D) industry, revenue growth in the five per cent range is expected for 2014. This would be similar to the growth experienced in 2012 and likely in 2013, all of it and more due to the rising fortunes of the commercial aerospace sector. The Indian aerospace and defence industry has become an important investment platform for Indian as well as foreign companies across the globe. With the third-largest armed forces in the world, India sends a large portion of its defence budget on acquiring equipment and capital. The past few years have witnessed many mega-sized deals and the future looks equally attractive. The vision of the government for the sector mainly involves the indigenisation of the industry and acquiring advanced technologies which will facilitate the lowering of dependence on imports.
This will require a synchronisation of the various global and Indian large, medium and small-sized organisations. The Indian Aerospace and Defence Industry is a combination of reforms, modernisation, and technology. Research & Development and the established Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) suppliers for Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) play a major role in the continued functioning of the sector. MSMEs come with the advantages of possessing low setup cost, good skills and efficient production of smaller systems. Over the years, they have been recognised as critical for development of Aerospace & Defence sector have been allowed non-tax benefits for up to three years after they grow out of their category. There is also a huge market and potential for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities across the globe as they are very important in increasing the life cycles of existing equipment and keeping operational costs in check.
Sunil Goel, MD, GlobalHunt, explains, “Airforce is one of the key segments of the defence services in India. The force includes large fighter planes, logistic and passenger aircrafts, emergency helipcopter/ choppers as well as surveillance aircrafts, which put together, make a good fleet size for the defence system. It requires regular upgradation in order to improve its ability to deliver at different conditions. As a result, the sector keeps inviting bids for defence services technologies and developing aircrafts to operate in the most complex environments.”
The Indian aerospace industry is striving to gain larger responsibility in making the country self-reliant in defence production. The growth of the manufacturing sector has been significant and the future looks bright. Sanjay Kumar, CEO & MD, Altran India, elaborates, “There are several factors driving growth in manufacturing in India’s aerospace industry which comprise both macro and micro factors - strong economic growth that has resulted in rapidly growing domestic aircraft demand, the liberalisation of civil aviation policies, offset requirements, a strong domestic manufacturing base, cost advantages, a well-educated talent pool, the ability to leverage IT competitiveness and a liberal Special Economic Zones law that provides attractive fiscal benefits for developers and manufacturers. This implies huge opportunities will emerge in engineering and manufacturing if the government puts in place a more efficient regulatory framework to harness the real intent of the defence offset policy.”
Over the last decade, the Indian aviation sector has grown manifold with both commercial and private aviation segments registering a very high growth in fleet sizes. Therefore, to keep the skies safe, the infrastructure for engineering and maintenance must keep pace and be able to service the increasing fleets of these airlines. The same would apply for training of pilots and cabin crew. The private air charter segment has also similarly seen growth in the number of aircrafts. Here, as a number of these aircrafts are owned by individuals/companies whose core competency is not aviation, it is all the more important for support facilities to ensure safety in the skies. Keeping pace with this growth has been the development of airports in all major metros, which now are of international standard. However, the smaller cities also need to be given proper attention. At the same time, we must ensure the best technology is used to monitor aircraft movement in our skies, i.e. Air Traffic Control, and this should always be on top priority in terms of facilities and people.