NEW DELHI — Set up three decades ago, Data Patterns is India's only medium-scale private company having over 800 intellectual property rights or patents in the aerospace and defense sector.
The company develops world-class products indigenously, ranging from gas chromatography in its early days to mission-critical aerospace and defense electronic systems at present.
With a workforce of more than 500, Data Patterns specializes in the design, development and manufacture of critical electronic systems for land, air and sea platforms. The company operates a state-of-the-art design and manufacturing facility spanning more than 100,000 square feet in Chennai, southern India.
In an exclusive interview with Defense News, CEO Srinivasgopalan Rangrajan says the company aims to boost its current annual turnover of more than $20 million to $100 million in the next three years.
How will the government's Make in India initiative for the defense sector play out in the private sector?
A forced Make in India happened during the period when a "thermo-nuclear bomb" was detonated by India [in 1998] and sanctions did not allow India to import critical technologies. This opportunity was effectively utilized by the state-owned space agency, Indian Space Research Organisation, to establish their own eco-system to indigenize multiple aerospace systems.
Data Patterns has benefited being a product company, with indigenous development capabilities. Similarly, now that the government has introduced a policy to Make In India in defense, it will be a major game changer for companies like us.
How can Make in India provide a practical and realistic solution to reduce imports and dependence on foreign original equipment manufacturers?
Make in India will emphasize the need for developing and producing products in India and curb the import route. The majority of product developments happens in micro, small and medium enterprises, or MSMEs. If end users and system integrators realize Make in India through MSMEs, this will help Data Patterns in a big way to leverage the existing domain level product capabilities to quickly deliver cost effective, contemporary systems.
This is the right time for private sector in the defense eco-system to maximize their business and benefit from their unstinted efforts at indigenous product development.
For example, we already have developed IFF [identification of friend & foe] technology along with state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation. It will have to be procured under the Indian Designed, Developed and Manufactured, or IDDM, category, thus eliminating the dependency on foreign OEMs.
Similarly, we have developed wind-profile radar, coastal-surveillance radar, electronic warfare systems etc. All such systems, if bought through the IDDM category, will reduce imports substantially. Importantly, being developed by Data Patterns, the life-cycle cost is reduced and dependency on foreign OEMs during peace/war time is reduced.
Why is there always a preference to big private players for big- ticket programs when they do not have patents and no past experience?
Unfortunately, there is a wrong perception that only big private players should be given preference for big-ticket programs. While this may have been perceived due to the financial strength required for producing platforms like aircraft, helicopters, warships and submarines, there should be a similar policy like IDDM for such programs too.
If not, we will be in a similar import-dependent situation through such big private players later. There should be a prime or tier-one arrangement between platform manufactures and system developers like Data Patterns and this should be part of the policy to avoid imports of sub-systems/systems.
The typical life of such platforms varies from 20 years to 40+ years. Hence we should have a proper eco-system to address their life-cycle support and mid-life upgrade requirements. This can be done cost effectively if more of the sub-systems are designed in India through a tiered approach which does not exist today.
On high-technology, standalone systems like radars, electronic warfare, missile launchers, defense satellites etc., companies like Data Patterns can be the prime supplier, since these systems are completely based on high-end electronics and require domain capability to address development, production and life-cycle support.
The typical life of such systems is 10 to 20 years, and within this period, technology may change completely and continuous development is required to address new challenges in such domains. Hence the government should have a policy for platforms and standalone systems in such a way that both big private players and indigenous developers shall benefit while India also achieves true benefits from this Make in India initiative in spirit.
What should the Ministry of Defence do to encourage this?
MoD should visit private companies along with their technical team to assess the capabilities and make a database of private companies to address their present and future requirements.
Also, MoD should open out their facilities for field testing and participate along with private companies during their testing to provide valuable feedback.
For example, we have developed an airborne unit by ourselves, but this cannot be field-tested unless the test facilities are provided to private players.
Certification and acceptance testing is presently possible only with approved agencies. With more Indian developed systems available, it is imperative that MoD allows self-certification and have a mechanism for regular audits to validate adherence to quality standards.
How will Make in India work in the defense sector?
Make in India has been happening in the country for many years through MSMEs. It is necessary that this is documented and classified for understanding existing capabilities and incentivizing this core group to develop required technologies and systems.
If products have already been developed in India, such requirements should be procured without competition with international OEMs/ partnerships.
We should have the list of systems where it will have to be completely made in India within 10 years. During this time complete transparency should be there and full cooperation to be given to private players to understand and develop/produce such systems in India.
Thus in 20 years of time, our dependency on foreign OEMs should be reduced by more than 75%, except for support for already procured systems.
We should ensure that processes are created to regulate a tiered approach to developing and delivering platforms and large weapon systems. This will ensure that competent MSMEs are developed in the country with domain skills capable of competing in the international market.
The defense public sector undertaking should be authorized to select preferred Indian private partners to meet the tier 1 requirements.
Present processes prevent such partnerships. This will allow better use of DPSU facilities in developing and testing required systems and also build technology driven private sector.
What is Data Patterns' role in the Make in India initiative?
Data Patterns is a completely homegrown aerospace and defense company. Having developed products for ISRO and DRDO for over two decades, it has a rich set of design competencies covering the entire spectrum of electronics.
The company has deep domain knowledge on radars, electronic warfare, communications, and navigation, imaging, control systems, etc., and has developed and certified products for land, air and sea platforms.
The company has around 300 design engineers addressing the complete requirements of electronics, embedded and test software, engineering, thermal and structural modelling. Our products designed are completely manufactured in-house in a certified, world-class facility with in-house environmental testing to meet defense standards.
As you see, Data Patterns is a completely homegrown, "Made in India" company. However, we are looking at international partnerships to design and build products for India and international requirements.
How is Data Patterns different from other Indian companies?
Data Patterns has been a product company from inception. It develops technologies and products and then addresses the market. Instead of importing commercial off the shelf building blocks, all COTS hardware for rugged military as well as test systems are designed in-house. These building blocks are integrated along with re-engineered hardware and associated software to realize end systems.
This allows Data Patterns to re-use tested circuits, software and practices to realize end systems quickly, and at a lower cost. Further the life cycle costs are lower with higher up-time due to local bsolescence upgrade. This is very important as imported COTS hardware is prone to rapid obsolescence, especially in an environment where the products have to support for more than 20 years.
Our focus now is to build complete systems in radars, electronic warfare, cockpit displays & avionics, fire-control systems and small satellites in partnership with DRDO, DPSUs, ISRO and OEMs.