BY VINAY KUMAR
BAE Systems, a defence, aerospace and security company, employs 93,500 people worldwide. Its wide-ranging products and services cover air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology, and support services.
With a presence that goes back over 60 years, BAE Systems has developed India as a home market with a strategic vision to become a major and integral part of the domestic Indian defence and security industry, leveraging its global expertise to develop technologies and solutions in India for both the Indian market and for export.
It has a joint venture in India with Hindustan Aeronautics – BaeHA. Based in Bangalore, it is focused on providing engineering and business solutions services. BAE Systems has a long-standing association with HAL on aircraft programmes such as Jaguar, Harrier, and now, the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer which HAL manufactures under licence for the Indian Air Force and Navy.
The board of BAE Systems, led by its global chairman Dick Olver, visited India for the first time. In this e-mail interview to The Hindu, he outlines the company’s plans for India.
What is the Board’s overall impression of the market in India?
BAE Systems has a long association with India in many areas of aerospace and defence, with all three of the Indian Armed services — dating back to pre-independence times. I have personally had an opportunity to visit India many times — most recently in February as part of Prime Minister Cameron’s delegation. And, I am thrilled to lead the visit of the BAE Systems plc Board here this week. India is an incredible country. It is a key market for our company. So, I was keen that my fellow directors had the opportunity to see and experience that first hand. We have a solid team here, who are privileged to work with some exceptional people across the customer community and through our relationships with Indian companies. The Board has been impressed with what we have seen and experienced during our visit.
The Indian market holds considerable opportunities for us, and I and the other directors are very excited and energised by the potential that exists here, illustrated by the steady trend in defence expenditure at around 2 per cent of GDP, a stated intent of $100 billion worth of acquisitions over the next five years, and the focus on self-reliance in defence.
A personal highlight was the launch of the mobile mini hospital called ‘Smile on Wheels’ that will provide primary healthcare services to underserved communities in Bangalore. The mini hospital is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility programme in India through which we support development programmes in the areas of primary education and healthcare in rural and urban communities across seven states of India. .
BAE has had a longstanding association with HAL on the India Hawk and even has a JV with the aerospace major. How do you view the future of the relationship?
Our relationship with HAL for the Indian Hawk programme is the cornerstone of our operations in India today. We are privileged to enjoy a strong relationship with HAL, and our latest collaboration is for the licence to build Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer. India has ordered a quantity of 123 aircraft with another 20 in negotiation.