BEL Expands its Geo-Strategic Reach with Thrust on Exports

By Editor 2021

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BEL is fast expanding its global presence, putting its best foot forward to give a thrust to exports worldwide. All-out efforts are being made to tap new markets across the globe. In a bid to develop new markets in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), BEL has operationalized overseas marketing offices in Oman, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. BEL has also expanded its Singapore and New York Regional Offices to handle marketing activities. BEL is also thinking of establishing similar offices in Nigeria, Brazil, Armenia and Kazakhstan. “BEL has identified Exports and Offsets as one of its thrust areas and has drawn up plans to offer its select products and systems to various export markets. BEL has been putting in continual efforts to diversify into several new areas in both Defence and non-defence to sustain growth,” said Anandi Ramalingam, Director (Marketing), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). In an interview with Aeromag, she talks about the company’s focus areas and expansion plans.  

How does BEL gear up to realise the Government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative?Defence has been identified as a core sector to boost the Make in India vision of achieving Exports worth USD5 Billion. Major initiatives by BEL towards Make in India/Atmanirbhar Bharat include strong thrust on R&D, collaborative R&D, defence innovation organisation incorporated by BEL and HAL to create an ecosystem to foster innovation, and technology development in defence by engaging R&D institutes, academia, industries, start-ups and individual innovators.

To promote the Make in India initiative, BEL has established Make in India Display Cells, appointed Nodal Officers for Outsourcing & Vendor Development in all its Units and updated its policies and procedures. BEL has implemented the Make-II Policy of the central government and issued several Expressions of Interest (EoIs) to Indian vendors. The company has been putting in efforts to create a strong vendor base in India and has currently more than 21,000 vendors including domestic vendors and MSMEs. BEL is extending its test facilities for use to private industries.  

BEL is pursing development/ production opportunities with DRDO under DcPP model for various indigenous development/production programmes. The company has entered into partnerships / strategic alliances with foreign OEMs as well as major Indian industries to address large and strategic programme requirements, leveraging its complimentary capabilities and assuming the role of a Lead integrator / Tier-1 partner for indigenous manufacturing. BEL is constantly exploring possibilities of forging JV Partnerships.

BEL successfully rolled out 30,000 ICU ventilators within a record time for treating Covid-19 patients and make India self-reliant in high-end medical equipment. The project involved substantial import substitution within a short period of time. Post COVID, A separate vertical called Medical Electronics Division has been opened to focus on networked and remotely operated solutions with latest technologies like IoT, AI, Cloud-based services, e-diagnostics and online healthcare services.  

What are your plans on increasing BEL’s exports? How do you plan to increase your global presence?

BEL is fast expanding its global presence, putting its best foot forward to give a thrust to exports worldwide. All-out efforts are being made to tap new markets across the globe. In a bid to develop new markets in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), BEL has operationalised overseas marketing offices in Oman, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. BEL has also expanded its Singapore and New York Regional Offices to handle marketing activities. BEL is also thinking of establishing similar offices in Nigeria, Brazil, Armenia and Kazakhstan.

The Government is encouraging defence exports through many policy initiatives and has set a target of Rs.35,000 Crores by 2024-25. BEL has identified Exports and Offsets as one of its thrust areas and has drawn up plans to offer its select products and systems to various export markets. The company has put in efforts for  increasing  its business  opportunities  in  South  East  Asia,  Europe,  Middle  East,  Africa  and  North  America  through constant engagement with customers and is also working closely with other Indian companies and local partners in the respective countries as part of maximising its geo-strategic reach and increase its global footprint.

What are the products that you export and to which all countries do you export?

BEL has been exporting products such as communication systems, coastal surveillance system, missile systems, radars, electronic warfare systems, electro optic systems and electro optic fire control systems, radar finger printing system, naval systems, radar warning receivers, electronic voting machines and various other equipment to USA, UK, Russia, Italy, Brazil, Germany, France, Israel, Indonesia, Honduras, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and many other friendly countries. BEL achieved Export sales of US$ 48.59 Million during FY 2019-20.

Some of the other products and systems which are being promoted for exports include Homeland Security solutions, Smart City solutions, Border Protection systems and Coastal Surveillance System. Having established a Coastal Surveillance System (CSS) for a few neighbouring countries, BEL is interacting with Ministry of External Affairs for supply of CSS to other friendly countries.

Recently, the Government approved the export of the indigenously developed Akash Missile System to friendly foreign countries.

How do you plan to tap the Offset clause for exports?

BEL is also focusing on Offset as a potential avenue for revenue generation. BEL is interacting with many foreign OEMs to meet Offset obligations in various RFPs of the MoD, on account of the Offset policy incorporated in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). BEL has identified contract manufacturing (build to print and build to spec) for foreign OEMs and partnerships in the form of Transfer of Technology (ToT) of the latest systems and solutions as areas of emerging export opportunities. Efforts are also on to establish long-term supply-chain relationship with global players.

Can you shed some light upon the key growth drivers for BEL going ahead?

Existing business segments such as radar & missile systems, communication & network centric systems, anti-submarine warfare & sonar systems, tank electronics, gun upgrades, electro-optics, electro-explosive and electronic warfare & avionics systems will continue to drive BEL’s growth in the coming years.

BEL has been putting in continual efforts to diversify into several new areas in both Defence and non-defence to sustain growth. Some of the areas BEL is focussing on in defence are next generation weapon programmes, electro-optics, airborne radars, arms & ammunitions and explosives, unmanned systems, night vision devices, inertial navigation systems solutions for various platforms, helmet mounted display systems, counter measures systems for airborne platforms, composites, etc.

In the last 5 years, BEL’s turnover from non–defence business has been around 15% to 20% of the total turnover. some of the areas being focused upon in non-defence are air traffic control radars, space electronics, Space-grade solar cells, satellite assembly & integration, railway and metro solutions, software, electric vehicles (Li-ion Battery Packs, Fuel Cells, Charging Stations), Homeland Security and Smart City businesses, Smart Metres and healthcare electronic equipment including ICU Ventilators to combat COVID-19.

What is your current order book size?  How much growth in order book do you expect in coming quarters?

BEL’s order book as on 1 December, 2020 is more than Rs.52,000 crores. BEL has been consistent in order acquisition year-on-year. The company has orders worth over Rs.8,000 crores in the pipeline. All-out efforts are being made to tap new markets across the globe.

How do you see the Government policy of 74% FDI through automatic route impacting the business?

The current FDI policy of 74% through automatic route is permitted for industries applying for fresh licence. Nevertheless, BEL considers it to be a positive step towards establishment of some niche technologies in the country. BEL with its long experience in the Defence sector has developed certain core strengths which is its USP to stay competitive in this sector.

What are the latest products and systems that you are planning to exhibit at Aero India 2021?

At Aero India 2021, BEL will showcase state-of-the-art products and systems spanning every domain of its business. The products and systems on display during the Aero India 2021 are clustered as airborne & space application, satellite and space application, products and systems for self-reliance (Aatmanirbhar Bharat), high performance computing & artificial intelligence systems, land and naval products and systems, communication and laser based products, non-defence/diversification and outdoor display products.

In addition to the above, BEL will also showcase its R&D capabilities by launching/demonstrating some of its new products / technologies. The entire set of state-of-art equipment on offer will be a force multiplier for any defence force.

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