Thales has been instrumental in providing technologies and expertise for the development of the defence, aerospace, transportation as well as digital identity and security sectors in India, thereby supporting the country in achieving its big modernization ambitions. “Over the years, Thales has established a strong industrial footprint and strong partnerships with the local industry (public and private) in the country, says Emmanuel de Roquefeuil, VP & Country Director, Thales in India. The company has been closely associated with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for over five decades; has formed JVs with Bharat Electronics Limited, Reliance Aero-structure Limited, and also joined hands with Bharat Dynamics Limited, Kalyani Group and MKU Limited for co-operations that embody the spirit of the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Indian government. It has more than 50 offset partners (and more than 75 supply chain partners). With these associations, Thales has created a mature and reliable industrial ecosystem that allows it to maintain and support its equipment in use with the armed forces in India and the world.
On the eve of Aero-India 2021, Emmanuel de Roquefeuil, VP & Country Director, Thales in India, talks to Huma Siddiqui about the company’s ventures and updates on existing programmes in India.
Following are excerpts
Thales has recently relocated its corporate office to Noida. Does this fall under company’s expansion plans for India?
We relocated our India headquarters that also has a bigger Engineering Competence Centres for our Digital Identity and Security business to Noida, Uttar Pradesh recently. This new office is a key stake for Thales in India; it symbolizes our long-term commitment to the country, and demonstrates how Thales is growing bigger and becoming more local here. This office spreads over 150,000 sq. ft. and hosts over 1100 employees with the aim to grow. The engineering centre includes teams working on data protection & encryption, cyber security, IoT, biometrics supported by state-of-the-art engineering labs and data centers.
The plan is to continue fostering collaboration and innovation in our teams as we grow our business while remaining close to our customers across defence and civil markets in India. This development represents another milestone in our long and cherished presence in the country which spans close to seven decades.
Thales and BDL have recently signed a Teaming Agreement to work in partnership on the STARStreak Air Defence system. Can you provide some insights on this?
The STARStreak missile system is presently in service with the British Army and has been procured by defence forces worldwide. STARStreak is unique due to its three laser-guided darts, which cannot be jammed by any known countermeasure. The fastest missile in its category, it has the capability to defeat any air target – even armoured helicopters – as the last line of defence.
Thales recently signed a Teaming Agreement for STARStreak with Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) with the support of both the Governments of India and the United Kingdom. Through the agreement, BDL will become a part of the STARStreak global supply chain, providing the opportunity for export of Indian manufactured components to existing and future STARStreak Air Defence customers, including the UK Armed Forces. It will also provide the opportunity for BDL to offer a ‘Make in India’ STARStreak solution to the Indian Government, with a capability that will match the immediate air defence needs of the Indian Army and Air force, and with 60 per cent of the system manufactured in India.
How is Thales’ contributing to the government’s Skill India initiatives?
India constitutes one of the most vibrant and growing technological ecosystems in the world. Over the past years, there has been a greater focus on enriching the education sector, especially technical education system in India, as it is directly proportional to the country’s economic growth. Education and growth have a common link – innovation. More education leads to more innovation, better skills and therefore, more prosperity.
For Thales, innovation is central to its strategy of growth, competitiveness and people development. Thales believes in delivering innovations that make a difference to its customers and society at large, and build a future we can all trust. Keeping this in mind, it recognizes the potential India holds, and through its local ecosystem comprising of its own forces including the engineering Centre and teams, joint ventures, partners, suppliers and the academia, it actively contributes to the ‘Skill India’ initiative of the Indian government.
Our engineering competence Centre in Bengaluru and Delhi NCR that have over 1,200 engineers have been fostering R&D and innovation create jobs every year. The Bengaluru engineering Centres specializes in defence, aerospace and transportation, and the one in Noida and Gurugram is focused on Digital Identity and Security including cyber security, IoT, biometrics as well as big data analytics solutions. These Centres aim to accelerate innovation and digital transformation to serve the needs of both the Indian market and the Group’s global objectives. They work closely with Indian supply chain and engineering partners, thereby increasing industrial activity as well as development of their complex system engineering skills and domain knowledge respectively.
Thales also lays emphasis on a continuous learning culture among its employees. Through its various up skilling programmes organised in India as well as at our sites across the globe, it has been working relentlessly towards instilling confidence in its engineers while developing their skill sets to further support their careers in core engineering and contribution to the ambitious initiatives such as ‘Skill India’ of the Indian government. It also collaborates with India’s dynamic institutes such as IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, and Indian Institute of Science Bangalore to continue fostering an ecosystem for research and consequently securing innovations for tomorrow in the country.
What is the status of the company’s JV Reliance Defence?
Embodying the spirit of “Make in India”, Thales Reliance Defence Systems has been working towards developing Indian capabilities in integration and maintenance of Radar and Electronic Warfare sensors. Situated in the Special Economic Zone of Mihan-Nagpur, this JV is developing these skills and activity together, with an Indian local supply chain, for the manufacturing of microwave technologies. The team is already up and running these developments from the facility in Nagpur.
Thales signed an agreement at DefExpo 2020 with Bharat Forge to manufacture F90 rifles. What is the update on that?
In August 2019, Thales joined hands with Kalyani Group for the design, development, and manufacture of next generation weapons systems. At DefExpo 2020, both companies took a step further to develop their cooperation for the F90 rifles in India, which will serve the Defence and Law Enforcement sectors in India and abroad. This partnership is in line with the “Make in India” initiative of the Indian government and paves the way to a potential licensing agreement.
This collaboration seeks to combine Thales’s advance technology, knowledge, and experience as an OEM with world class design, development, and manufacturing capabilities of the Kalyani Group. Through this partnership, both Thales and Kalyani Group aim to provide indigenously manufactured solutions for both the Indian and international markets, thereby furthering the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Indian government.
What is Thales showcasing at the Aero India show this year?
This year, Thales will provide the visitors a chance to witness the latest cutting-edge technologies across civil and defence aerospace as well as land and naval defence along with a special feature on its efforts towards ‘Make in India’.
Some of the other highlights will include military and civil avionics, Air Traffic Management Systems, among others.