Mahindra Aerospace is the first private company to manufacture aircrafts in India. The man at the helm, Arvind Mehra shares the company’s vision and its roadmap for the ‘Make in India’ initiative, and how it gives wings to Indian manufacturing.
To start with, could you tell us about the birth of Mahindra Aerospace?
Our aerospace journey started a couple of years ago when we acquired a company called Plexion Technologies in Bangalore, which had an existing relationship with NAL to build a 5-seat aircraft.
We had to then decide what we do with the 5-seater aircraft. The group took a conscious call that since it’s a commitment with the government of India, and since it’s the first public-private participation, we should stand behind it. However, at the same time, we had India opening up to various opportunities in the defense offset. So we took a steady, strategic decision that this is an area we must focus on.
This would allow us to capture the growing aerospace market in the years to come, and that was the beginning of our aerospace journey. In the aircraft business, we were the first company in India to enter into a public-private partnership. We were also aware of the fact that being the first private company to produce aircrafts in the country, we needed to expand our portfolio to succeed. And since it takes time to develop aircrafts IP, it’s always better to look at acquisition opportunities, so we went around the world and finally picked on a company called GippsAero in Australia.
What is the company’s vision for the future?
Our vision is to be a supplier of best quality at best price – What you might call a ‘best value solution’ as far as the aero structures business is concerned. If you see the aircraft business, it relates very well to our automotive business. When we launched automobiles many years back, the advertisements said “The roads will follow.” And in the aircrafts business, we say “The runways will follow.” So, this aircraft is capable of short take-off and landing in very rough environments. We firmly believe this is the need of the hour for developing countries like India, and we see a lot of potential.
What is Mahindra’s roadmap for the ‘Make-in-India’ initiative?
I think this particular initiative has given an incentive to larger companies to seriously look at developing themselves in the aerospace domain, particularly in manufacturing, and government support definitely helps a lot. In our case, when you set up a plant in India, and you have an ambition to be the best value service provider, you automatically feed that ambition. Therefore, I think it’s very well aligned.
‘Make-in-India’ has brought additional focus to it. As a group, when we decided on our strategy, we were always prepared that if you are the best value service provider, you will create an opportunity to produce within India.
And what about future expansion plans?
Our future plans are to bring the aircraft to the emerging markets, which is India. It’s a large country with a network of airfields which are under-utilized right now. There are rugged strips which we can land, or take off from. The same is going to apply to China. Both countries also have a large number of waterways, and we’re developing an amphibious aircraft on floats right now to take advantage of that opportunity as well.