Like its neighbours, the peninsular state of Tamil Nadu (TN), India, is also seeking to attract aerospace and defence (A&D) manufacturing investments to its territory. In particular, as Vikram Kapur, Principal Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu, Industries Department says, ‘Tamil Nadu wants to seed an A&D ecosystem along the upcoming Chennai-Bangalore (CB) and Chennai-Kanyakumari (CK) industrial corridors being developed with Japanese assistance’. In support of this objective, the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) is setting up the ‘Chennai’ A&D Park (CAP) in Sriperumbudur, some 40 kilometres (km) from Chennai Port. To institutionalize the overall push to draw in A&D related investment, TN is currently finalizing an industrial policy tailored towards micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the A&D space.
Image: Vikram Kapur, Principal Secretary, Industries Department, Tamil Nadu speaks to DDR on the sidelines of Aero India 2017. Photo Credit: Sriram Thiagarajan
Sriperumbudur lies at the Eastern end of the CB corridor and has been chosen on account of resource availability in terms of land and water. TN officials seem quite confident about being able to provide land at short notice to potential A&D investors. Spread over an area of 250 acres at the moment, CAP can expand to 600 acres in the course of time. Incidentally, a second A&D park is being envisioned in Hosur.
Some 14 MSMEs have already signed up for plots in CAP, which are of varying sizes and come with all necessary utility connections such as electricity and water as well as physical connectivity infrastructure. Actual usage of utility services will be metered at standard industrial rates as applicable in TN.
But TN officials insist that it isn’t merely a utility connected ‘site’ that is being offered. Secretary Kapur, while delineating the standard package of fiscal incentives that TN will put forward to investors, emphasizes TN’s strategy of ‘offering an innovative eco-system to companies by adopting a cluster based approach’. Indeed, the centerpiece of CAP, according to Mr B. Elangovan, Managing Director of TIDEL Park Ltd (TIDEL), a subsidiary of TIDCO involved in the development of CAP, is the Advanced Computing and Design Engineering Centre (ACDEC) that is being setup to ‘enable several aerospace design based computing companies to scale up their operations to support larger Tier- I & Tier-II companies’. ACDEC will house a virtual reality design centre, supercomputing facilities, a data centre and even rapid prototyping facilities.
Mr Elangovan further mentions that a Multi-floor Manufacturing Complex (MFMC), which will act as a plug & play facility for common aerospace manufacturing facilities is also being set up on 12 acres of land inside CAP. According to Dr K. Tamilmani, Independent Director, TIDEL, companies that offer manufacturing services such as the use of cutting-edge CNC machines, that may not be readily available to a MSME, will be encouraged to set up shop inside MFMC on a government owned company operated (GOCO) basis. So, MFMC is essentially being developed to act as an outsourcing hub for machining and manufacturing processes that MSMEs locating units on CAP land may not be able to invest in themselves.
Further recognizing the specific needs of the A&D sector, common test and certification facilities will also be created in CAP which will be run on a model similar to what the Direction Générale de l’armement of France offers, says Dr Tamilmani. These facilities will make no profits and will only seek to cover operating costs.
Though TIDCO feels that such innovative support measures will make CAP stand out, there is a realization that the key to A&D success lies in being able to bring in the requisite human resources. Here, Mr Elangovan feels that ‘TN’s proven track record of supplying engineering and scientific talent not just to the massive automotive sector of the state, but also to A&D worldwide provides a basis for optimism’. It seems that the state is not only betting on being able to source the necessary talent from a gamut of institutes located on its soil, but is also expecting to attract overseas returnees with A&D project experience.
TN officials do seem to believe that A&D is a natural step up from the state’s success in automotive industries and Secretary Kapur posits that ‘TN’s overall industrial climate characterized by good industrial relations and a disciplined work force lays the ground for the concerted development of an A&D sector in the state’. However, to bring that work force up to aerospace standards, TN wishes to enlist the help of global OEMs in securing trainers for the workforce of MSMEs that locate units in CAP. The expenses for these trainers will be fully reimbursed by the developers of CAP.
The cluster approach adopted for CAP would not be complete without providing consolidated marketing services to the mass of companies that make up the cluster. As per Dr Tamilmani, a consultants’ group is being put together for CAP that will leverage the overall weight of TIDCO to provide marketing support to CAP located companies for tapping global OEMs. This group may also seek to bring together banks that can provide concessional credit to MSMEs operating out of CAP.
To be sure, TN already has companies that are making their mark on the A&D map. While one often hears of Data Patterns based out of Chennai which now even supplies radio frequency seekers to the Defence Research and Development Organization’s missile projects, TN also has companies like Aerospace Engineers Pvt Ltd. that is the primary supplier of cockpit seals for a range of aircraft in Indian military service and Metallic Bellows Pvt Ltd., which supplies aerospace grade bellows to the Indian Space Research Organization. TN’s new thrust on A&D industrial development is also intended to build on the work already done by such companies. Mr G. Shankar of Metallic Bellows feels that initiatives such as CAP are ‘a step in the right direction’ and ‘have the potential to spark off appreciable A&D related industrial growth in TN’.
To provide consistency to that thrust, TN is in the final stages of drafting an industrial policy for A&D enterprises in the state. ‘We want to provide a single window facility for A&D companies, not just for manufacturing, but also for those interested in becoming players in the maintenance, repair, overhaul (MRO) space’. He adds that the state has several unused airstrips which can be made available for those looking to set up MRO facilities. Moreover, given that CAP is itself located in a very large industrial zone, TN is also hoping to bring global primes to its clusters. However, Secretary Kapur accepts that patience will be a key factor in securing the state’s objective of accounting for a major share of India’s A&D output. Be that as it may, it is clear that the competition between Indian states for securing A&D investments has begun in right earnest. And that is a good omen for the development of India’s indigenous innovation economy.
Feature Photo: Artist’s impression of what Chennai Aerospace & Defence Park’s Multi-floor Manufacturing Complex will look like on completion.
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