Exclusive interview with Cmde. Siddharth Mishra, CMD, BDL by Kamal Shah
Q1: BDL is in the service of the Nation for over five decades. Could you please take us through the journey undertaken by the company over these years?
Bharat Dynamics Limited is a Defence Public Sector Undertaking under the Ministry of Defence. It is the only company in the country manufacturing Missiles and Underwater Weapons like ATGMs, SAMs, Torpedoes etc. BDL, since its inception in the year 1970, has been producing Anti-Tank Guided Missiles. Over the years, the company has evolved into the manufacturer of various categories of Missiles like the Surface- to- Air Missiles, Air- to-Air Missiles and Air-to- Surface Missiles. In the field of Underwater Weapons, BDL is manufacturing Light Weight Torpedoes, Heavy Weight Torpedoes and Decoy System. Under the Government of India’s flagship Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme started in the late 80s, BDL was nominated as the Prime Production Agency for all the Missiles covered under the programme The company also provides its services for Refurbishment & Life Extension of vintage missiles available in the inventory of Indian Armed Forces. BDL evolved from a Missile Manufacturer to becoming a Weapon System Integrator and today, it provides the complete solution to the customer on a long-term product life cycle support. The Company is also working on new programmes in association with the DRDO and foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) as well as in-house R&D in the field of Missiles, Torpedoes, Mines and Artificial Intelligence based next generation defence products.
Q2: Looking at the competitive export market, how does BDL see the export potential of its products?
The main customer of BDL has been the Indian Armed Forces and the major share of the order book continues to come from domestic customers. However, with the recent policies of the Government of India and the thrust given to export, all DPSUs have been mandated to export their products to Friendly Foreign Counties. The company is offering Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, Surface-to-Air Missile, Air-to-Air Missiles and Torpedoes in this direction. The Light Weight Torpedo produced by the company has already been exported and new leads have been received for its Akash Weapon System (AWS) from several countries. The simplified export authorisation procedure of the Government of India is facilitating the company to maximise its global outreach. The company is actively pursuing its production deadlines for AWS which will boost the export targets of the company.
Q3: The Govt of India recently came out with list of defence items to be banned for imports. What will be the implication of this on BDL?
As a part of Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative announced by the Government of India, the Ministry of Defence has brought out initially, a list of 101 items which are banned for imports in the phased manner by the year 2025. Subsequently, another list of 108 items has been added, which are also earmarked to be banned in a phased manner till the year 2025 for the Indian Industry. BDL manufactured Short Range Surface-to-Air Missile (Land Variant), Astra Mark – II Air-to-Air Missile, Land Based Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile, Helicopter Launched ATGMs (Up to 7 Km range) and Smart Anti Airfield Weapon are some of the products covered under the lists. This policy of the Government is creating an opportunity for the Indian Defence Industry to grow and the orders for these products will be placed on companies like BDL.
Q4: What efforts are being made to enhance the in-house R&D of the company?
Over the years, BDL has built up a strong R&D division with a pool of young talented engineers drawn from premier institutions of the country. Some of the products like the Counter Measures Dispensing System (CMDS), Fagot Launcher Adapted to Milan Equipment (FLAME) have already been inducted into Indian Air Force and Indian Army respectively and delivery of these products has been made in bulk quantities. The Missile Development group of the R&D team is also working on Next Generation Missile Programsmes. BDL has also developed successfully Missile Test Equipment and Launcher Test Equipment for ATGMs and is executing orders for Indian Army. The company looks to expand and diversify its Products portfolio to enter into New Business arrangements with foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer/Developmental Agencies to offer cutting edge technology products to the Indian Armed Forces as well as become a leading global player in the field of Defence equipment.
Q5: Under your leadership what measures is the company taking to increase Atmanirbharta in Defence sector?
BDL has rich experience of over five decades in manufacturing Missiles, Underwater Weapon and allied Defence equipment for Indian Armed Forces. This experience coupled with the state of art facilities, will be the ‘Driving Force’ for BDL for contribution to Atmanirbharta in Defence Sector. To give an impetus to this, BDL is setting up new manufacturing facilities in its premises such as Seeker Facility Centre, Warhead Production facility and High Temperature Carbon Composite manufacturing facility. In addition to these, the Surface-Mount Technology centre and High Performance Computing Facility have been set up at BDL. BDL is expanding its vendor ecosystem particularly MSMEs to create a strong supply chain. The items currently imported are also being offered to the vendors for indigenization through Indian Government’s ‘Srijan’ portal. BDL is also encouraging Startup companies to become partners with BDL for development of New Technologies and converting them into business opportunities. Such measures will not only contribute towards the realization of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, but will also result in substantial saving of foreign exchange for the nation.