NEW DELHI — India’s state-owned defense electronics enterprise Bharat Electronics Ltd., BEL, has increased sales by 17 percent in fiscal year 2017, according to Venkateswara Gowtama Mannava, chairman and managing director.
“The company has projected the sales to grow from the current level of $1.35 billion to $1.54 billion next year,” Gowtama said.
He added, “BEL will create new business partnerships with both domestic and overseas defense companies and enforce quick decision making within the company in order to remain competitive in the Indian defense market.”
The market will become much stronger, he said, because the government has made much quicker decisions and the (procurement) cycle time is shorter. Many of the pending cases have been resolved.
The list of weapons projects executed for the Indian defense forces include the short-range surface-to-air missile system Akash, a handheld thermal imager with laser range finder systems, a 3-D tactical control radar, a weapon locating radar, upgraded L/70 air defense guns, fire control systems, hull mounted sonars, radio relays systems, major sub-systems of integrated air command and control systems and ship-borne electronic warfare systems.
Gowtama announced that the company has an order of $6.15 billion. “There is no vertical where we do not have an order at this point of time,” he said.
BEL is undertaking research and development worth more than $385 million. “One of the major programs we are investing in is with the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organization, or DRDO, for development of quick reaction surface-
to-air missiles, or QR-SAM,” Gowtama added.
The entire QRSAM system is worth over $3 billion to arm eight air defense systems regiments of the Indian army.
The Indian army urgently needs to replace the aging Russian air defense systems, and the new Indian army chief has publicly announced that the need is “critical.” The Indian army has been pursuing the QRSAM systems since 2011 through a global tender.
An executive of BEL said: “The company is establishing a defense systems integration complex at Palasamudram in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh with an estimated investment of $123 million over a period of five years.”
“The proposed complex will be a world-class facility with automated guided vehicles and industrial robots for material movement and handling with state-of-the-art manufacturing infrastructure for radars and weapon systems integration,” the BEL executive noted.
Asked whether BEL will begin manufacturing missiles, the company executive said, “BEL is not planning to enter into manufacture of missiles, focusing on development of electronics systems for missiles.”
Gowtama said that 88 percent of its sales revenue is from indigenous technology, which includes procurement of systems and sub-systems from micro, small and medium micro enterprises, or MSMEs. He said procurement from MSMEs had been increased to 20 percent and BEL’s test facilities were being provided to private vendors.
A BEL executive said the company’s exports include “coastal surveillance systems, advanced composite communication systems, a shipborne electronic warfare system named Sanket, [and] electro optic fire control system, among others.”
However, the export order book was only $82 million as of April 1, 2017, which includes an offset order book of $15 million.
An official of the Ministry of Defence, however, said, BEL will have to compete more keenly with private-sector defense companies as the government wants to boost defense production in the private sector.