Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Defence manufacturing in India has huge potential to bring investment and create new jobs: Shree Harsha, Dassault Systemes


Besides automobiles, defence manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, smart city projects – Dassault Systemes believes simulation and validation technology can be implemented across all these segments to increase efficiency, minimise errors, and waste of investments.

From automobiles to the healthcare industry, agriculture to defence equipment manufacturing – simulation technology can play a key role in all these domains to up the efficiency. While the healthcare industry has shown the importance of it during the Covid-19 crisis, there is a huge growth potential for local manufacturing in the segment under the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ or self-reliant campaign.

The agricultural industry has a strong potential to implement simulation technology. The defence equipment manufacturing industry has huge growth potential and simulation technology can play a key role in that strategy. Dassault Systemes, a part of the France-based Dassault Group has been taking a pivotal role in all the abovementioned domains with its technological expertise, software, know-how.

Autofintechs spoke to Shree Harsha, India Marketing Director, Dassault Systemes, where he exclusively talks about the various aspects and implementation potential of the simulation technology and validation in the industrial domains such as agriculture, healthcare, and defence.

Edited excerpts below.

Q. Indian healthcare sector has been in the limelight since the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country. How do you see the technology aggregators (e.g. Dassault Systemes) driving this momentum?

Very few people in India know that in February 2020, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we announced the shift to life sciences. In 2019, we acquired a company called Medidata in North America at $5.8 billion, which is the cusp of every back scene development of Covid-19. 60-65% of all global Covid-19 vaccine trials are happening on Dassault Systemes’ Medidata platform. Very few people in the Indian market know that.

Covid vaccine healthcare

Our focus on life sciences is in three folds.

1.) Pharmaceutical and drug discovery – We provide tools and techniques for scientists and engineers in many of these pharmaceutical companies and researchers, scientists; who are working in any of these laboratories in India. These people are at the forefront of trying and reformulation of drugs. We provide software and technologies for them called Biovia, which is used in many of the Indian pharmaceutical companies. Many API manufacturers use that in the market as well.

We partnered with the Government of India and provided licence to more than 200 scientists for free of cost for six months, during the peak of the Covid in creating a drug discovery hackathon in helping them find the solution to Covid-19. That’s the involvement we have in the drug discovery phase right now. We touched more than a billion Euros in revenue in life sciences globally in 2020, because we had huge investments.

2.) Medical devices – In Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, in some parts of Hyderabad we have more than 200 medical device companies today that are using our tools and techniques for product design, simulation and validation, creating cutting edge medical devices – right from handheld temperature scanner to surgical devices that are getting designed and developed in India.

3.) Patient care – The next generation of personalised healthcare is coming into play. We have partnered with Bengaluru-based NIMHANS, which used modeling and simulation techniques for the brain, lung diseases, and even implants. This is another domain, where we are working with many startups like Lucid Implants, Inali Foundation.

We provide our software and technologies free of cost to these startups and help them with the support they require. We not only provide high-end industry assets, but we also work with these startups, and our investments in the life sciences are for the long term. It means that we want to become the partner of choice for pharmaceuticals, drug discovery, medical devices, and patient care in the healthcare segment.

Dassault Systemes

Q. In the light of the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign, the Indian defence sector is warming up for increased local production of defence equipment. How technology aggregators are aiding the growth momentum in localised defence equipment manufacturing?

Dassault Aviation is one of our largest customers. It is a group company, but Dassault Systemes is a separate legal entity. Dassault rightly pointed out the collective opportunity available in the defence sector. The ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign has focused on defence as well. The Government of India has listed more than 100 components across commercial and military-related supply chain development.

In fact, there are many projects coming up for localisation of design, manufacturing, maintenance, repair, etc. We are looking at all the opportunities. There is a sudden increase in people adapting design and technology associated with quality, control system manufacturing, compliance, and lightweighting. The lightweighting is an area where there is a sudden increase in demand from the Indian market on 3D printing technologies.

Space is a domain, where India has a huge growth opportunity.

In fact, we announced 3D printing in India for many of the Indian defence manufacturers to take advantage of the global supply chain and become self-reliant much faster. We are partners even in Aero India. In February we had a physical event and we saw a significant increase in Indian defence supply chain companies to partner and collaborate on this transformation.

Space is another domain, where we that India has a huge opportunity. Not only Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its supply chain, but we are also the partner of choice for many global companies for satellite, rocketry component development, or even launch as well. Globally, we are partner with many companies in this space. In fact, we came up with a white paper on the top 100 Indian startups in this particular domain and what is the level of opportunity they have.

Defence is an area new jobs and companies would come up and we will become self-sufficient and can be a global player in 5-10 years.

So overall, aerospace, defence and space – all these segments are quite ripe for digital disruptions and India can be able to leapfrog to take the right stage using the digital transformation technology in these domains. There is not only an opportunity to grab the Indian market but the global market too. Suddenly many automotive suppliers and other industrial equipment suppliers are shifting towards opportunities in defence and space as well. Because they really see the manufacturing prowess they have established over the years, including the quality acumen they have built over the years, is helping them to create new business in the space and defence domain.

The drone market in India is growing more from a consumption perspective to military options.

I believe this could be another area where we would see new jobs coming up, new companies coming up, we will become self-sufficient and can be a global brand in 5-10 years. Dassault Systemes will be really happy to be a partner and provide the know-how and technologies to such companies.

Dassault Systemes

Q. Recently we have seen Dassault Systemes hosted ‘Drone-a-thon: Propelling Sustainability’. How do you see the UAV market’s growth potential in India and in which sectors?

Early last year, we looked at the drone market to see how it is evolving. One thing is clear that growth in this particular segment in India is very visible on a personal level for weddings, photography, a little here and there for military purposes, surveying by large mining companies, and even for aerial surveys. The road-based surveys, many infrastructure companies started using drones.

Agriculture is an untapped segment, where implementation of drone technology can really help the customers.

The market in India is growing more from a consumption perspective to military options. In fact, we are part of the Drone Federation of India (DFI) look at the entire drone ecosystem in India. We realize that one area that is really untapped is agriculture, where the implementation of drone technology can really help the customers.

In the agriculture sector, because of a lack of labour, timely availability of labour in many of the rural areas during Covid, people switched to drones for spraying pesticides, looking at crops, and taking images of them for assessment of the quality. There are a lot of application areas. We work with General Aeronautics, a Bengaluru-based startup. While working with them, we looked at how to repurpose drones for Covid-19 management, spraying pesticides across many of the areas around Bengaluru.

Drone design is all about aerodynamics, thermal management, lightweighting, knowledge of new materials.

The market for drones in India is there, at an infancy stage. But there are new players coming with lot of investments for local design and production. But, again we saw a lot of lack of depth in know-how in this segment. Drone design is all about aerodynamics, thermal management, lightweighting, knowledge of new materials. There has to be a lot of fundamental research if these companies want to leapfrog and take the market in this domain. China is a little ahead of us.

In the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) in Chennai, Kharagpur, Bombay; where youngsters are investing in drone technologies and seeing the potential market as well. The Government of India is actively supporting drones as a big initiative altogether. We believe many of the companies in the market could be coming up, who could be global players as well.

Farm mechanisation penetration in India is very low as compared to the global level.

At the headquarter level, we work with many electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) companies. There are some of the startups that we support with simulation technologies and know-how. This could be another area of growth for the youngsters to form not only startups, but there will be a new set of jobs coming in. Many logistics providers are using drones for retail delivery. In 5-10 years from now, getting delivery by drones could be a reality and then there will be investments coming in big time for locally designed products.

Dassault Systemes

Q. GDP from agriculture in India averaged Rs 4228.15 billion from 2011 until 2020. The sector also employs more than 50% of the Indian workforce. However, technology implementation in the sector is still at a minuscule level. How do see growth opportunity of tech implementation in the segment without impacting farmers’ earnings?

Farm mechanisation penetration in India is very low as compared to the global level. We have the knowledge and know-how in India for the potential possibilities of developing harvesters, high-end tractors. Very few people know that Mahindra is one of the leaders in the global tractor segment. They are doing much more analysis in the particular space. We have learnt from our partner companies, especially a global tractor and agricultural machinery manufacturer called Claas that is based out of Germany, who were applying the technology during the Covid-times to come with faster product roll out to the market to cater to the demand.

India should investment in skill development.

In India, there have to be investments in skilling. We have to explore how we can adapt to this kind of virtual technology. Investing in frugal engineering practices for the Indian market is what we need. Today, we are taking quite some western solution and trying to apply. But, there are many youngsters who are trying to invent new devices to climb up a tree, to pick fruits, etc. These are non-existent worldwide.

Potentially, this is a segment of growth in India, given that the agriculture sector has so high impact on GDP. As a society, if we are focused on agriculture as a segment, that could be another space for huge growth for us. We are looking at potential partnerships with state governments in this particular space. In Telangana, we work with the government to create awareness about how technologies can help the agriculture domain.

Another element is yield management. If we are able to tell exactly what sort of quality of the mud, particular season, how to design and use artificial intelligence technologies to look at all possible angles in identifying the right crop for that particular environment, and if we are able to manage that, there will be huge scope for yield management and potentially increase the earnings of the farmers as well.

Last but not least is quality control, given that the food supply chain is getting disrupted right now and there is a huge export opportunity there. If we are able to manage the quality of the crop in a better manner using these technologies, it will be beneficial for the ecosystem.

Reimagining the city based upon the constraints is critical for smart city projects.

Lastly, the logistics and supply chain of the food is a key aspect. For example, even if the farmer is producing the fresh crop, but by the time it reaches the consumer, what sort of network it has to navigate, what is the best price the farmer can get for the crop. There are many startups in this segment, who will support the farmers with a new initiative called the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy. How can you get faster and how technology can aid in that journey.

For this, we are working with quite some global companies in this space. We are actively validating potential partnerships, collaborations with state government in investments in agriculture. We not only need our ability and knowledge in automotive and industrial equipment to help the agriculture segment, but to learn together in the Indian ecosystem.

Smart Cities

Q. India being one of the most congested countries in the world with a huge population, how do you see the smart city projects shaping up in the country?

Many people think that putting some new streetlights is a smart city project. To us, reimagining the city based upon the constraints is critical for smart city projects. How do we make the decisions on our urban landscape? Where should be the next metro line? Where should be the flyover? Where should be the pedestrian crossing bridge in the city? How the ring road circling the city connecting the highways will be built?

Currently, city planning is done in a very ad hoc way with historical, empirical knowledge.

Currently, these are done in a very ad hoc way with historical, empirical knowledge. This is where smart city planning needs technology implementation. How? We are taking data regarding current traffic congestion, current sizes and restrictions of the roads, key heritage sites in the cities, green belts, etc. We get these data by scanning using phones and the scanned data is then converted into 3D. Once the 3D data is available we do ‘Urban What If’ planning.

The data points help in making decisions at large to give contracts for cement, steel, and other raw materials. We believe we can play an active role in making decisions on smart cities. The technology can help in making informed choices on where to invest, given that it is about spending public money. Using 3D-based project visualisation and validation, management and execution are where India can leapfrog for smart city adoptions.

With the current scenario of investments coming in for smart city projects, if they not effectively planned, just go after the blind empirical routes, it will be just like making constraints again, by shifting to some other congestion, traffic jams rather than really solving the problem.

Q. What has been Dassault Systemes India’s growth like in 2020? How the pandemic has impacted the company’s business?

We clearly cut out our strategies. Three things are most essential – we care for employees, customers, and partners. Like any company we too have dealt with challenges associated with the business in particular industries and subsegments. But we are continuing our growth. Globally we have raised our forecast in the market in the last shareholder meeting. We still continue the targets we are keeping.

Globally our annual revenue touched the 4 billion Euro mark for the first time with double-digit year-on-year growth. We are being fortunate to look at our business in three macroeconomic spheres –

1.) Manufacturing – The bread and butter of the economy was hit. We supported many companies, survived with them with the cloud technologies, walked through to continue their businesses and sailing through the Covid times.

2.) Life sciences – We are lucky to have our new strategy announced called ‘From Things to Life’, which means refocus on life sciences. Our business in this segment did pretty well in 2020, more than the pharmaceuticals and medical devices segment globally, especially in North America and Europe.

3.) Infrastructure – We are working on Jaipur smart city project in India, while globally we are working with the Singapore government’s smart city project. There are several projects on infrastructure, pandemic management.

Overall, we have spread out our focus between manufacturing, life sciences, and infrastructure. We are well equipped to look at the challenges and exploring opportunities.

Also Read: Indian automotive suppliers have a great opportunity to go global and look at export markets through simulation technology: Shree Harsha, Dassault Systèmes

(This is the second part of the interview where Shree Harsha speaks about the simulation and validation technology in the agriculture, defence, healthcare industry and smart city projects. Read the first part here.)

Shreyasi Dey
Shreyasi Dey
Having extensive experience in accounts and inventory management, Shreyasi Dey has been a passionate writer and a city journalist. Worked with The Times of India, Ei Samay, Discovery India, Dainik Sambad, Aajkaal.


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