CARACAL’s operational and business growth story has been spectacular under the leadership of its Chief Executive Officer Hamad Alameri. He brings in two decades of experience and expertise in the defence industry. He has served as a Special Forces Officer in the UAE Presidential Guard. He holds a Master of Science in Project Management from George Washington University, US, and a Diploma in Commissioning Military and Academic Training from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, UK. In an interview with Editor – Raksha Anirveda, Hamad Alameri explains in detail about the company’s present business activities, its plan for Indian market foray among others.
Q. What are your prime offerings for the India market? In what ways are you trying to make your product range different from others?
A. CARACAL is a leading small arms manufacturer that designs, tests, validates, constructs and assembles high-performance products. With over 15 years of experience, we have established ourselves as pioneers in building high-precision weapons. Our field-tested firearms combine accuracy and reliability for law enforcement, security, and military forces. We have a portfolio of 17 products of various calibres, covering the full-range of small arms from latest-technology combat pistols to submachine guns, tactical and sniper rifles (from 9mm to 12.7mm calibre). It is our impression that possessing this comprehensive range of performance weapons is a key differentiator as many of our competitors specialise in more narrowly defined segments of the small arms sector and do not offer a range as complete as ours.
Another key differentiator for CARACAL as a company is the fact that we are part of EDGE Group, an advanced technology innovator for defence and beyond and one of the top 25 defence contractors globally. It comprises over 22 operating companies that span the entire range of military hardware, software, and solutions, making CARACAL a part of a formidable global defence entity.
Q. Do you have any plans for joint manufacturing in India? In which products?
A. We do. Localising defence manufacturing is a big step towards self-reliance. Speed-to-market and access to technology expertise are fundamental, and joint ventures and partnerships with international companies will help catalyse these efforts.
We will announce details regarding a local partner in India at the appropriate time. CARACAL has always been supportive of indigenous manufacturing and is committed to enhancing India’s defence preparedness through the ‘Make in India’ initiatives and we are ready to manufacture any of our products in the country. As I am sure you are already aware, CARACAL was selected to supply close-quarter carbines to the Indian Army in 2018, following a rigorous selection process. We went on to fulfil all necessary requirements and procedures set out in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), with our CAR 816 having undergone extensive trials across different terrains both inside and outside of India. This weapon would obviously be the first candidate to be manufactured in India should we receive the official mandate to do so, with others to follow as the circumstances dictated. We are deeply committed to the small arms industry and the defence sector in general in India.
Q. What is the potential of collaboration in India and how far would you go?
A. As I mentioned earlier, we are extremely open to collaboration in instances where it is beneficial to all parties involved, and such joint ventures and partnerships with international companies can help catalyse localisation and indigenisation efforts. As part of EDGE Group, which has as its corporate values as being bold, agile, and disruptive, CARACAL is open to business models that create value and suit the circumstances. We embrace collaborations and partnerships with entities large and small.
Q. Is there any misgiving over the 93,000 close quarter battle rifles issue despite being the L1 bidder? Are you discouraged?
A. Not at all. We surpassed global competitors in terms of performance and technicalities to win the bid in 2018. CARACAL was selected to supply the Indian Army with CAR 816 on a fast track mode, after having undergone a rigorous selection process. We have maintained our commitment to the ‘Make in India’ initiative and we remain on standby to supply the product to the Indian Armed Forces. India is a strategically important defence market globally, and we have a long-term vision, commitment and intention to be successful in it.
Q. On your company aims, is the plan to be confined largely to the small arms market?
A. CARACAL specialises in the manufacture of small arms and our wide portfolio of products gives us major competitive advantages, so our intention is to remain focused on this area of operation. We also are part of EDGE Group, and through our parent company we are able to bring to bear enormous capabilities, products, and solutions to help support the further advancement of the defence sector in India.
Q. What is the implication of the India-UAE FTA on trade of military equipment and services in general? How do you see it in your company’s perspective?
A. The UAE and India already enjoy extremely strong bilateral trade relations, with UAE being India’s second largest export destination with exports valued at approximately USD 29 billion in 2019-20. We believe this strengthening of the relationship between the two countries through the signing of the comprehensive economic partnership agreement, will further boost trade and investment between both countries.
From CARACAL’s perspective, we believe this agreement helps confirm the company’s position as a strong ally to India’s defence sector, and we possess the proven ability and have shown the willingness to contribute to the development of India’s sovereign capabilities. We therefore look forward to greater engagement and interaction with defence stakeholders in India with us supplying our highly rated products to the market.
Q. What to your mind are the greatest challenges of the Indian market?
A. India is one of the top-3 defence industries globally from an annual defence budget perspective. It is a vibrant and complex market and we believe we possess numerous key advantages to successfully participating in it. Bilateral diplomatic and economic relations between the UAE and India are extremely close, with the two countries having just signed a further trade agreement.
The two countries are also near each other geographically, helping with logistical and transportation considerations. The UAE itself remains a politically neutral country internationally, and taken together, we believe these factors can be utilised to enhance and strengthen the two countries’ existing ties to include the defence sector.