Interview | Ajay Kumar National

Start-ups will be the game changer, says Defence Production Secretary

Dr. Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Defence Production.

Dr. Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Defence Production.   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Will help in moving from era of transfer of technology to innovation, says Ajay Kumar

Indian start-up companies will be the game changer for the defence sector, and the government is looking to expedite the procurement process of defence equipment through various means, Dr. Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Defence Production, told The Hindu in an interview. Excerpts:

The defence procurement process over the years seems to have been long drawn out. Is there an effort to have a look at the procurement timeline?

The defence procurement process is working at one of its fastest ever (pace). We have spent 105% of our Budget allotment last year. You can’t go more than that. In fact, most of the years, we had not spent the whole Budget.

Secondly, in the new system, the process is very streamlined. Some of the time-consuming processes have been reduced. The total time from conception of project to contract award has been reduced to two-thirds. Weekly timelines have been given.

One of the other major issues is the slow turnaround time of the Defence PSUs. Is that something that the government is looking at?

We must speed up. There is no question about that. The question is how other countries are able to do. We are trying to move from a system, which is largely dependent on PSUs, to a system which is more PSU and private sector oriented. This will create a balance between the two.

Secondly, we are bringing start-ups now. They have their own pace, which is much faster. Big private companies are resorting to the method of start-ups to encourage innovation. Start-ups have a very important role in the future if we have to move from an era of transfer of technology to an era of innovation. That is why we initiated the process of linking start-ups to the defence sector. The IDEX is an initiative for that. We will quicken the pace using different methods.

How serious is the government about making ideas of the start-ups work?

We are very serious. The IDEX scheme was launched yesterday (Thursday). But we have already started working with CODISSIA (in Coimbatore). The implementation has started in one place. There is tremendous response to the whole idea of IDEX. Start-ups will be the game changer for defence.

One of the very interesting features of IDEX is that if you are a start-up and you have come up with a new technology idea, the government realises if this is of strategic importance… other countries might want to buy you out. We have provided that if the government of India wants to use this, it will have the first right to buy, but at market price. So the incentive is there, that they get market price and their interest is protected.

One of the models about indigenisation that’s working well is the ISRO model. Can it be replicated in the defence sector?

The ISRO model is a successful model. Today the start-up model is also very successful. Look at what Israel is doing, the U.S is doing, where defence is going to Silicon Valley and (they are) scouting for start-ups. We could do the same in India.

For the defence corridor project, is enough land available?

We are not acquiring any land. There is plenty of land available with defence PSUs, OFB, State governments, private industries, and I think that land can be used to bring investment.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 7:14:34 PM |

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