|Focus on increasing indigenous products|
Bharat Electronics Ltd says it has pushed the gears on R&D and put in place a pro-active policy to increase indigenous products. The strategy now is to have technology ready for commercialisation when the customer comes calling.
There is a greater focus on R&D investment and talent, the BEL Chairman & Managing Director, Mr Y. Gopala Rao, told Business Line. It has been consciously going slow on technology collaborations, strengthening in-house R&D as well as its engineering pool. As a result, the defence electronics PSU expects to get 75 per cent of its anticipated Rs 4,000-crore revenue this year from indigenous products — the highest so far.
Mr Rao said there has been a steady cut on the dependence on borrowed foreign technology in recent years. It has been able to progressively move up from around 70 per cent of indigenous products in 2005-06 - a growth from 65 per cent in 2004-05 and 50-60 per cent indigenous products in 2003-04.
"For the past two years, BEL is taking in 250 engineers a year. We have also started to put more engineers into R&D. We will not allow their strength to be depleted," Mr Rao said. Its R&D pool is 1,120 scientists or 40 per cent of the engineering pool of 2,880.
The strategy has intensified in the past couple of years, so much so that "We now develop products at out own cost, even without customer commitment, and will be ready with the product when the customer comes," he said.
R&D investment, too, is showing an uptrend in value terms, though it hovers at 5 per cent of a proportionately increasing turnover in recent years. This year's R&D investment of Rs 160 crore would be considerably higher than the Rs 130 crore made during 2005-06.
Strong market competition, the post-liberalisation concerns and the US sanctions of the late 1990s have all helped it to find ways out of component sourcing and come out with its own solutions, Mr Rao said.
The result is that BEL will be delivering five new indigenously developed products to its main customer, the Armed Forces, this year, all worth around Rs 800-900 crore, in addition to its regular supplies. Defence supplies would account for 80 per cent of the turnover this year.
The jamming-proof frequency hopping VHF radio has been developed fully by BEL. The portable device has been evaluated by the Army and will translate into a Rs 450-crore order. Some products have been co-developed with national defence research labs and could be supplied this year or the next. They include 3D surveillance radars for a Rs 360-crore order from the IAF and Navy; the weapon locating radar for a Rs 45-crore order which replaces imports of Kargil days; night vision products and thermal image radars.