VIF-CODISSIA meeting on Defence Manufacturing in India
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The Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) and Coimbatore District Small Scale Industries Association (CODISSIA) held a virtual meeting on 31 January 2024. The meeting began with a presentation by CEO, CDIIC, Dr B. Vinodh Kumar and then remarks by Director, CDIIC, Mr. Sundaram. It was followed by a brainstorming discussion on various aspects relating to defence manufacturing in India, challenges and opportunities in developing indigenous capacity and capability in the defence and strategic technologies; and role of MSMEs in setting up a robust defence manufacturing ecosystem in the country. The Directors of CODISSIA Defence Innovation and Atal Incubation Centre (CDIIC), prominent captains of industry, senior government officials, and members of the strategic community in addition to VIF expert group members participated in the meeting.

In the meeting, the government of India’s flagship programmes such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Make in India, Make for the World’, ‘Self-Reliant India’, Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) among others were also deliberated upon. Director, VIF, Dr Arvind Gupta chaired the meeting and in his remarks highlighted some of the earlier studies that have been done on the family owned businesses. Though some incremental improvements have been made in the defence indigenization process. Dr Gupta underlined that the ‘Amrit Kaal’ has already begun and we need to make quick decisions, expedite policies and processes to start delivering indigenously designed developed components and systems. In this regard, all the stakeholders must collaborate and work together to achieve this national goal.

The CODISSIA, which was founded in 1969, comprises some of the most competent family owned businesses in the country, manufacturing a wide array of products, ranging from small turbojets, machine parts made from compressed graphite; pumps, motors of various rating; industrial cleaning appliances; sophisticated instruments panels; gauges; complex pneumatic components, to mighty bull and propel machines, vital for construction and laying of roads, etc. It is a non-profit organisation supported by two organisations – NITI Ayog under its AIM initiative and Ministry of Defence under the iDEX. In the meeting, the rich industrial prowess of Coimbatore region, were highlighted, especially the items critically important for the Indian military.

The CODISSIA expressed their intent and capability to manufacture. They stressed that it is fully capable and well equipped to design, develop and manufacture any military system required by the defence forces. They highlighted various products that can be manufactured for the defence. It however, suggested to handhold and repose faith with this industrial conglomerate by entrusting the design, development and manufacture of a few systems required critically by the Indian military. The board of Directors of CDIIC want to make Coimbatore a defence manufacturing hub for which they have been vigorously working for last few years. It was underlined that they have knowledge and technologies, but need to find out how to go ahead with developing collaboration for manufacturing critical defence technologies.

The MSMEs in general are facing a number of challenges to manufacture defence technologies. Some of the major challenges include: identifying potential products that are needed for the defence forces; lack of awareness about the procurement procedures; getting access to products or specifications from user (Army/Navy/Air Force) or buyers (DPSUs); awareness on certifications DGQA/DGAQA/CEMILAC, etc.; MSMEs find it difficult to go into the specifics and identify products for indigenization in the SRIJAN portal; costs involved testing and certification as they are not having access to testing facilities; new MSMEs face challenges to participate in indigenization tenders as previous defence experience emphasized; and; though the venture capitals are allowed to invest in defence startups, the procedures are too cumbersome that they are not willing to come for it.

Streamlining policies and procedures are very important for building indigenous defence industries. Given the lengthy timelines and delaying bureaucratic procedures, often it’s not clear whether new industries or MSMEs will get order or not. Nevertheless, the DRDO has been working with Coimbatore based defence companies and academics for a long time. The Ministry of Defence and the DRDO has taken a number of initiatives for hand-holding partners. For reaching out to the industry, the DRDO has signed MoUs with industry chambers. They also reach out to the industries often for explaining the policies and procedures as well as the problems and challenges that they face. The DRDO has signed MoUs with defence corridor agencies as a technology and knowledge partner. In addition, the importance of improving interface between the defence forces and defence industries was highlighted. Today, Coimbatore is well placed to manufacture and supply required technologies which are currently imported from countries like China, the supply chains of which remain geopolitically vulnerable. The capacity of MSMEs such as CODISSIA can be used to build a strong supply chain in the country.

For better identification of potential products, there is need of more awareness sessions and physical display of products for vendor participation. In this regard, it was recommended that the next defence expo could be thought of holding at Coimbatore as the venue and B2G meetings could be held to explore ways to partner in the defence indigenization activities. On creating awareness on certifications DGQA, the CDIIC has expressed its willingness to provide requisite office spaces for Quality Assurance (QA) and Certification agencies in addition to Liaison Cells of the Services. There is need of nodal officers or logistic officers to conduct frequent interactions or awareness sessions with industries to familiarize about the procurement procedures. Given that there are costs involved testing and certification processes, it was recommended that reimbursement for new product development can be considered and allow MSMEs to access test facilities with low cost or no cost. It was also recommended that previous defence experience need to be removed to be eligible to participate in tenders. It was emphasised to simplify the procedure so that the MSMEs can partner in the indigenization process.

Event Date 
January 31, 2024

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