Willing to do a copy-and-paste Sweden factory in India: Saab

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on February 17, 2016

JAN WIDERSTROM Chairman, Saab India

Company gearing up to make the Gripen fighter aircraft here, says Jan Widerstrom

Swedish defence major Saab AB is keen to manufacture its Gripen fighter aircraft in India. In order to meet the requirements to set up operations for the next-generation fighter, the company is looking at 100 per cent technology transfer to India, and investment help from Indian partners, Jan Widerstrom, Chairman, Saab India, told BusinessLine at the Make in India event in Mumbai.

Have you offered to manufacture the Gripen fighter aircraft in India?

Yes, we are offering complete aerospace capability, not just manufacturing capability. We are willing to do a copy-and-paste Sweden factory in India for the Gripen. We are looking at setting up a complete eco system here, which will provide 100 per cent benefit to India for 100 years.

Are you looking at technology transfer?

We are planning to put up an entire facility here, right from R&D to production to final testing. We are setting up everything here, so basically everything will be located in India, so it would be 100 per cent transfer. If we are to supply our product here, we need to be here. We need to be local. It is not such a big thing though, for we are setting up a full aerospace capability. It is a natural part of what we do, and we are successful. Huge investments would be required. This is an area where we would need our Indian partners to help.

You mean Saab’s Indian partners for the Gripen would have to pitch in with money?

Yes, since we are looking at substantial investments to set up the facility. If we are doing this together, it would be a joint investment.

Are you looking at joint ventures to take this ahead?

Currently, 49 per cent FDI is allowed through the normal route. Higher FDI is permissible in cases where high technology is being brought into India. We have to join hands with Indian partners and, in this case, since we are building an entire ecosystem, it will require more than one joint venture, and more than one partner. We are going to indigenise our products, and are going to require a lot of Indian partners.

Though we already have a number of partners here, it will require a lot of work.

We are looking at a cluster with a number of different partners and are also looking to develop tier-1, tier-2 and tier-3 suppliers.

Will the Gripen be covered by a government-to-government deal?

Doing this business (defence), it is a is understood that handshakes between governments are necessary (for each defence deal).

In this case, we are happy to have the full support from the Swedish government. The fact that Sweden’s Prime Minister was here at the Mumbai event shows the support.

Where will you set up the factory?

We are looking at a number of places to set up the aerospace factory. We have looked at Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat...wherever we can get the best place. Due to security reasons and the fact that we are manufacturing military aircraft, we have to listen to the customer, in this case, the Indian Air Force.

It is a sensitive, secretive product that we are building, and we would not mind taking the help of the IAF in identifying the best place.

Saab has announced a joint venture with the Kalyani Group for air defence missiles. You have also teamed up with Ashok Leyland earlier. Any other joint ventures?

We have a joint venture in Belgaum with Aequs.

We are looking at opportunities and partners to harness the defence offset opportunities here.

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Published on February 17, 2016
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