DefExpo has been extremely encouraging for GRSE: CMD in exclusive interview

Lucknow: As DefExpo 2020 draws to a close, GRSE CMD RAdm Vipin Kumar Saxena, IN (Retired) says that the platform has provided a great opportunity for reaching out to global investors. In an exclusive interview given to Defence Watch, he talks about the company’s experience at DefExpo and the kind of avenues it has opened up for the shipbuilding PSU. Here are excerpts:

How would you describe your experience at DefExpo?

At this particular Defexpo, the experience has been extremely encouraging for GRSE. A lot of stakeholders have visited us over the course of the event. From the export perspective as well, the experience has been great. We have had a lot of delegations from friendly foreign countries visit us. Our capabilities have evoked a lot of interest. It looks like the kind of environment that has been created, the confidence that has been built on their side in our capabilities… all of it is a positive kind of a sign. To my mind, it is now up to us to use this platform, and the confidence that we have managed to build during these interactions, and to follow it up long-term and make sure that these are converted into orders, contracts. This is a great opportunity for India to amp up its exports in defence production.

Now that you expect more orders to come in, is GRSE looking at expanding its capabilities?

At this point, I must say that GRSE has a healthy order book of Rs 27,000 crore-plus. Currently, GRSE has a total of 6 orders from the Navy and the Indian Coast Guard. Out of these, three projects will be completed in the next 3 to 4 months. Other projects under construction include the P17A stealth missile frigate project. Then we have four large survey vessels. And eight shallow water craft ships.  At the moment, our capacity allows us to build 20 warships concurrently. To my mind, this is a huge capacity. We have a good order book. Despite this, because of the large Request for Proposals (RFPs), which has come up, we are planning to expand our capacity to building 24 warships concurrently in the next 3 to 4 years’ time. There are a total of 6 RFPs in the pipeline as of now which we have responded to. I am sure that in the next month or so, we should be the winner in some of the orders.

How do you think modernisation and Artificial Intelligence can change the business of shipbuilding?

We have been planning on undertaking modernisation of machinery and equipment, and are preparing to bring in the Industry 4.0 practices and Artificial Intelligence. We already have a virtual reality lab in our Design Department. In addition to this, we are also focussed on digitising our processes. The aim is to improve our efficiency in various areas of operations. This will give us a lot of cost benefits, pull up our profit margins. I am happy at the progress made by the shipyard at this point in time. And we now need to take this to the third level by bringing in automation and digital technology. All this will give us a huge amount of edge as compared to others.