Interview | Chairman, Kalyani Group, Baba Neelkanth Kalyani

In Less Than Five Years We Will be One of the Leading Artillery Houses of the World. And We Will be Extremely Competitive

Chairman, Kalyani Group, Baba Neelkanth Kalyani

What drove you to start investing your own money to develop artillery systems, not done with any great measure of success in India before, without any government orders in hand?

When we started five to six years ago, there was no one in India making artillery guns, except for the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) which was making the 75/24 Pack howitzer and the 105mm field gun. This has been going on for 30 or 40 years now without any technological improvisations or even new activity in the field of artillery guns. This was causing me a lot of agitation — why, a country the size of India cannot create this kind of capability.

The second factor was that artillery by its very nature is metallurgical equipment. This is almost in line with our day to day activity. And, therefore, the urge to learn something new and develop a new product was the driver for us to get into this area. With this background, we decided to go ahead and make a gun on our own.

Of course, we had a lot of learning to do. Making an artillery gun is not about simply beating the metal into shape. We started with the materials. So, we developed new material and new material heat treatment processes. We had to develop testing processes and Computer Aided Engineering to do simulation because these are expensive things. You can’t just make and throw them. Then designing experiments to see where they produce the same results as simulation.

This was followed by learning how the dynamics of the gun work. For instance, what is the ballistics in a gun? What are the pressure curves in a barrel? What happens inside the barrel when the ammunition is fired? These were few of the issues that we had to learn quickly. The good thing is it’s a flat world as far as access to knowledge is concerned. Everything is available and if you put smart engineers on the job they can master the technology easily.

Given that Bharat Forge is among the top three or four companies in the world when it comes to metallurgy, learning this aspect of artillery was not very difficult for us. There is a misconception in India that Indians and Indian companies do not have metallurgical knowledge. This was another reason why we were driven to disprove this widely-held belief.

Today, we are in the position to design and develop any artillery system from the scratch. We have all the knowledge about the metal, the metallurgy, the ballistics, the pressure curves in the barrels, the structural force, the recoil pressure that comes with the gun and the system architecture. We know the nuts and bolts of how a gun works.

When you started, what was the endgame for you? Were you confident that the government of India would place orders on you?

Our endgame was very simple. We wanted to create expertise in this area in India. We have created expertise in artillery now. We make the steel ourselves. We forge and machine it. We do the structural components ourselves. We design, integrate and put it together ourselves.

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