Achieving Aatmanirbharta Depends on Leveraging Evolving Technologies, MSMEs are the Backbone of Entire Ecosystem: ADG, Army Design Bureau

Major General C. S. Mann, VSM, Additional Director General, Army Design Bureau (ADB) emphasizes leveraging evolving technologies as key to achieving Aatmanirbharta while discussing NCNC demos, suo moto proposals and, scalability potential in the defence sector

Indian Army

New Delhi: Emphasising their crucial role, Major General C S Mann, Additional Director General, Army Design Bureau (ADB) referred to MSMEs as the backbone of the entire defence ecosystem.

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Speaking at PHDCCI’s 3rd International Conference on Defence & Security held in New Delhi on March 19-20 on the theme – “Navigating Evolving Technologies in Defence and Security”, Maj Gen Mann stated that the ecosystem is currently in a learning phase, and achieving Aatmanirbharta depends on leveraging evolving technologies.

Discussing the main projects of the Indian army, he mentioned that out of 32 projects, 11 are specially reserved for MSMEs, with 28 of them involving active MSME participation. Many of these projects are enhancing capabilities through suo moto proposals.

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Highlighting the basic requirements, he mentioned of a regional portal with approximately 35 thousand items listed and further informed about recent government relaxations aimed at assisting startups in leveraging these technologies.

He further added that the formalisation of spiral development has added value to capabilities, with procurement procedures, scaling, and costing being handled on a case-by-case basis. Payment terms have been relaxed for raw material procurement, and security bonds have been added.

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Additionally, Maj Gen Mann mentioned NCNC demos-based procurement and emphasised the potential for scalability, citing relaxations in various eligibility criteria provided by the government. He also discussed exports, noting the interest shown by friendly countries.

While concluding, General Mann also discussed innovation developed by service personnel and plans to expand it to bulk procurement by involving academia.

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Joint Secretary, Ministry of MSME, Govt. of India, Mercy Epao highlighted the ministry’s support of key sectors, emphasising its multi-sectoral approach. She mentioned the importance of Udyam registration and informed about the availability of over 4 crore data of MSMEs on the portal, with around 30 thousand onboardings per day.

She mentioned that special emphasis has been given to women and the informal sector, recognising their critical role in the MSME sector. Approximately 16,000 MSMEs contribute to the defence sector, playing a significant role in projects like Chandrayaan-3, Tejas combat aircraft, atomic energy replacement units, and areas like defence, and space. She emphasised the importance of technology intervention for MSMEs and discussed various government schemes and initiatives, including the Champion Scheme and Incubation Scheme.

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Further, the joint secretary Mercy Epao added that the ministry has identified 729 host institutes for R&D to help create viable business models and offers numerous courses for upscaling. Collaboration with Germany and the Netherlands has resulted in the establishment of technology centres, with more upcoming centres expected.

The ministry has recently launched two important centres- an Export Facilitation Centre in Hyderabad and a Green Technology initiative in collaboration with IIT Hyderabad. These initiatives aim to support MSMEs in entering the global value chain and adopting green technology.

Talking about the latest collaboration with the EXIM bank which has led to the creation of the Global Market Intelligence System portal, assisting MSMEs in exporting by providing market information and certification details, she added that the ministry is currently developing a specialised program and a five-year plan for the industry, with continuous stakeholder consultations.

Additionally, efforts are being made to keep the environment clean through schemes like Zero Effect and Zero Defect, she concluded.

Rudra Shriram, Chair, Defence & HLS Committee, PHDCCI & Joint President, DCM Shriram Industries Ltd. highlighted the vital role played by the MSME Ministry, particularly in the defence sector and discussed that this conference will pave the way forward in harnessing technology powers for national security. This event underscores the critical need for stakeholders to collaborate, innovate, and strategically navigate the complexities posed by emergent technologies, he said.

He further added that it embodies the essence of adapting to rapid advancements in AI, cybersecurity, robotics, and space technologies within the context of the defence and security sectors.

The conference aims to explore the opportunities, challenges, and implications of these advancements. Through engaging discussions, insightful balance, and knowledge sharing, the conference seeks to empower participants with accessible strategies and best practices for leveraging evolving technologies responsibly, enhancing signature security, and scalability, he said.

Lt Gen Raj Shukla (Retd), former GOC-in-C Army Training Command emphasised the critical importance of the trio of technology, talent, and innovation in emerging national security space. He said, “The volume and velocity of challenges we are facing today are having a persuasive impact. The world of business in international security has become increasingly brutal, and only the fittest will survive. National security is now driving politics like never before, and the grammar of foreign policy is also changing.”

He highlighted that we are in the midst of the most significant national security makeover since independence, making Aatmanirbharta critical to establishing India as a powerhouse in this realm. MSMEs can play a significant role in this endeavour by bringing in technology and innovation.

Events in Ukraine and West Asia serve as inspiration, with the buzzword in this conflict being innovation. While the American budget for defence is $950 billion and China’s is $290 billion, innovation holds paramount importance for both nations. In the battle between innovation and big corporations, innovation emerges victorious, he said.

Lt Gen Shukla also highlighted the potential of leveraging drone capabilities, discussing various startup initiatives and technology use in Ukraine for medical and combat needs during war. Adding, data leveraging in Ukraine has prompted the Indian armed forces to unlock and leverage their data as a business tool, presenting vast opportunities alongside significant challenges.

He emphasised the need for careful risk-taking and handling in this regard, while noting that the current scenario presents great opportunities for MSMEs. He urged for outstanding initiatives to upgrade emerging technologies within our legacy systems and emphasized the importance of moving away from copying and adopting failing programs of the Western system, advocating for Aatmanirbharta in defence.

Sanjay Dwivedi, Chairman & Managing Director, Armoured Vehicles Nigam Ltd. (AVNL), emphasised that the most relevant time to discuss technology, particularly in AI, is when we can integrate emerging technologies into all products of the defence sector. While conventional technology is still crucial, India is making good progress in emerging technologies like robotics and AI.

He highlighted India’s trajectory towards indigenisation in the defence sector, attributing much of the credit to MSMEs, which contribute 50% of the procurement. Further, he suggested that evolving technologies can be effectively utilized to enhance defence capabilities and stressed on the importance of exploring all areas and avenues for the use of these technologies and platforms to significantly strengthen our armed forces. The requirement is not only for developing new products but also for enhancing capacity.

M K Gupta, Co-Chair, Defence & HLS Committee, PHDCCI in his vote of thanks address drew attention on how the event underscores the imperative of collaboration and innovation in navigating the complexities of our evolving defence landscape and taking our nation toward greater self-reliance and security.

There were two very important Technical Sessions on “Increasing Dominance of MSMEs in Domestic and Global Defence Supply Chain” and “Emerging Technologies and Technology Cooperation: AI, Cyber, Space and Robotics” with the presence of technical experts from the sector, Government, and international speakers sharing their perspective on the subject.

The event was organised under the aegis of Ministry of MSME, Government of India and Department of Defence Production, Government of India and was supported by PHDCCI annual sponsors.