“It’s man behind the machine that matters”
Interview/Q&A with Vice Adm Paras Nath (Retd) AVSM, VSM, Group President, Crown Group Defence
Government of India’s thrust on ‘Make in India’ and ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ vis-a-vis current environment and ecosystem, great opportunities have arisen for MSME groups to build their capability and to meet future challenges in defence MRO. Indian defence forces have equipment and platforms from multiple sources hence challenges are even greater. Necessity for Make in India does not need reiteration. Indigenizationand innovation must now be the primary focusparticularly for MSMEs who alone can fill the gap for MRO activities in critical defence sector.
Crown Group, which has established itself as India’s leading defence MRO provider for critical services to Indian Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard through its various wings, is again at the forefront to meet the recent challenges.
The Group is establishing newer MRO centers and forging technological tie-ups to indigenize & provide mission critical services to Indian armed forces.
Vice Adm Paras Nath (Retd) AVSM, VSM, Group President, Crown Group Defence shared his views on how multiple challenges can be turned in to opportunity by groups/ companies like Crown Group.
Q: What are your views on the steps taken by the Government of India to make India self-reliant in Defence MRO? Do you think India is on the right track to becoming a Defence MRO hub?
Ans: The Government of India’s initiative in making Indian defence forces MRO self-reliant is indeed laudable and timely. As a nation with multiple security challenges and huge defence assets, we have to develop critical indigenous MRO capabilities as we need to maintain and service military assets to be in mission mode all the time. The current environment and threat perception necessitates that our industry gears up to the new activities.
Therefore, Make in India is a critical national necessity in defence sector which will pay very rich dividend for the country in times to come. We see a distinct focus from the defence forces to support and push the indigenization agenda in our Indian interactions with them. Sooner than later our friendly neighbors will look up to MSMEs for MRO in defence sector making India into adefence MRO hub.
Q: Crown Group’s defence verticals have been in MRO business for long, what are your plans to expand and take on ever growing needs of defence forces?
Ans: Crown Group’s verticals are definitely expanding on war footing. We have already strengthened our marine presence in Vishakhapatnam and Andaman & Nicobar. Karwar and Chennai facilities are being augmented with state-of-the-art equipments and facilities. Partnerships with Marine and Aviation OEMs are being expedited for quick transfer and absorption of latest technology. Moto of Crown Group is to “Serve the Nation” by partnering with reputed OEMs to provide quality support to defence forces.
Q: Do you find major difficulty in partnering with foreign OEMs
Ans: Difficulties! Yes major and minor. But we look at the difficulties differently. To achieve big and be good, one has to overcome hurdles by innovation and evolution. Fortunately, most foreign OEMs have accepted the concept of “Make in India”. They have understood that the thrust is a ‘win-win’ situation for all in terms of economy of scale, cost cutting and expeditious service at sea front.
Q: What is Crown Group’s core competency and how do you plan to enhance technical and professional manpower?
Ans: I think Crown Group’s core competency is it’s technical and professional team. This is a unique group wherein we have Ex-servicemen (ESM) from Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard backed up by finance, legal and strategy planners from civil environment. As mentioned earlier, we are in the process of upgrading our infrastructure and machinery equipment on a regular basis. As the maxim goes “It’s the man behind the machine that matters”. Our manpower is the best one can have. We are further augmenting the human resource as the requirement grows. Our team comprises of some of the best, Marine division is headed by Cmde Rakesh Anand (Retd), former CMD of MazagonDock, Aviation division is led by Rear Adm Devender Sudan (Retd),former ACNS (Air) and a Fighter pilot, Commerce and Purchase separtment is haeded by Cmde SK Iyer (Retd), a seasoned logistician and over nine years of experience in BRAHMOSE and Strategic planning is looked after by Mr. Vikas Banga. We have a long list of senior and mid-level veterans taking Crown Group forward.
Q: Is Crown Group planning to harness the defence infrastructure and core competency in civil environment?
Ans: Yes, very much. We have taken baby steps in making of shallow water crafts and river dredgers for IWAI with foreign collaboration. IWAI is giving full support and guidance in this area. We also have plans to create an exclusive ‘Make in India’ vertical under the Crown Group.
Q: Please tell us about some of the critical MRO services you have provided for Indian Navy as your marine vertical is quite elaborate and one of the oldest.
Ans: There is a long list and some of them cannot be shared for obvious reasons. What we can share includes successful MRO job for India’s only aircraft carrier ‘INS Vikramaditya’, amphibious warship ‘INS Jalashwa’ and various other Marine, Aerospace and Avionics projects.
We have one of the largest facilities in Karwar, which is Asia’s biggest Defence Naval Base, to undertake mechanical and electro-mechanical repairs primarily for the Indian Navy. In Goa, we have set up two facilities catering to Defence Aerospace MRO and Avionics repairs, including an NABL accredited calibration laboratory.
We have set up an electronics repair/manufacturing facility in OIPL Mumbai where we are doing repairs of complex weapon equipment, PCBs and electronic modules.
In addition, we have two ship repair workshops in Chennai and Vizag with satellite nodes in Cochin, Port Blair, Calcutta, Andaman & Nicobar. Our corporate office is in Delhi, which coordinates and provides strategic decision support to our customers.
Q: Apart from critical MRO services, does Crown Group Defence plan to get into manufacture of defence components and equipment in India?
Ans: Crown Group has already established facilities and received orders for design & manufacturing of complex PCBs for specialized equipment in OIPL, Mumbai.
We are further working towards establishing indigenous manufacturing facilities for components and spares that have higher volumes or are categorized as consumables.
Keeping with government’s focus on promoting self-reliance in defence manufacturing and positioning India as an exporter of military hardware, Crown Group’s focus is on indigenization through both tieup with international OEMs and in-house research and development.
In a drive to support the indigenization of equipment for Indian Naval Ships and Submarines, Crown Group has tied up with major pump manufacturers to provide sea front service to the Indian Navy ships and submarines and take on component manufacturing subsequently.
We are also engaging with academia across India to bring out technologically advanced solutions that will strengthen and modernize the Indian Defence sector. We have tied up with Amrita University to promote Defence R&D. We are also in advance talks for collaboration with IITs & other reputed Universities for various Defence projects.
Q: Crown Group has emerged as the partner of first choice for international OEMs for setting up mission critical defence MRO and manufacturing facilities in India. So what makes Crown special and a preferred partner?
Ans: We have a legacy of more than four decades in serving Indian defence forces. Right from the beginning, the Group has had non-negotiable focus on quality and timely delivery because we understand critical importance of both these attributes for defence operations. The appreciation of the outstanding MRO services and on-time delivery of critical projects has helped the Group secure a good deal of MRO contracts from the Indian Armed Forces.
On the other hand, global OEMs that are looking for organized players to help them maintain and service their equipment, provide quality service to their customers in India, find it easy to partner with Crown Group. This is because we have a professional team with experienced personnel from defence and have set up world-class facilities for MRO of Indian naval marine and aviation assets. All these together put Crown Group Defence in a strong position to support any foreign company in setting up their manufacturing/MRO base in India and taking forward the vision under Make in India.