Interview | Vice president and country director, India-Thales, Ashish Saraf

For 7 Decades, Thales Has Been India’s Trusted Partner, Sharing Technologies and Expertise in Defence, Aerospace, Transport and Digital Identity & Security Markets


From Thales’s perspective, how is Aero India 2023 different from its previous editions in terms of your exhibits and participation?

Thales’s participation at Aero India this year reaffirms our engagement to the significant modernisation and indigenisation unfolding in the Indian aerospace and defence sector. We are committed to contribute to the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ vision and will showcase our high-end technology solutions across aerospace, defence as well as space in that spirit.


Thales has expanded its presence in India. What does its future in India look like currently, especially given the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

As India progresses towards its goal of becoming Aatmanirbhar, constructive measures are being taken across sectors including defence. These measures along with the collective efforts of the industry will pave the way for long-term success of India’s indigenous defence sector.

For seven decades, Thales has been India’s trusted partner, sustaining its growth story by sharing technologies and expertise in defence, aerospace, transport and digital identity & security markets. Thales continues to develop a mature industrial footprint in the country through a diverse range of high-tech products, services, and collaborations with the Indian industry and academia. The Group has been proudly supporting the Indian armed forces’ modernisation efforts, helping them to prepare for, achieve, and maintain tactical superiority over any form of risk.


The group planned to set up a maintenance and repair organisation (MRO) in India to support Indian airlines. What is the progress on this?

Thales has extensive and recognised expertise in providing, maintaining and upgrading avionics systems. From initial equipment providing to maintenance, overhaul, equipment trading and Aircraft on the Ground (AOG), Thales covers the complete product lifecycle and supports its customers across the world, including India, to protect their valuable assets. Our team in India already provides services and support to airlines. We are now assessing localisation and repair options in this area for airlines flying in India and abroad.


At the DefExpo 2020, Thales signed an agreement with Bharat Forge to manufacture F90 rifles. Any new development since the signature?

Under this agreement, Bharat Forge is to manufacture rifles using technology and equipment supplied by Thales. This partnership aligns with the Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, which aims to boost domestic manufacturing and reduce the country’s dependence on imports. This cooperation is progressing well with the aim to manufacture rifles for the Indian armed forces as well as for export, thereby boosting domestic production.


Thales has been engaged in capacity-building in India through its engagement with both academia and industry. Can you share some details on this?

India is one of the key engineering pillars of Thales. Today, we have more than 1,300 engineers working with Thales in India in our engineering competence centres (ECC) in Bengaluru and Noida. Our engineering centre in Noida focuses on the Digital Identity and Security business of Thales, including technologies around data protection & encryption, cybersecurity and biometrics, etc. Our engineering centre in Bengaluru is a first-of-its-kind in India, focusing on hardware, software and systems engineering capabilities for both the civil and defence sectors, serving global needs. Thales has been ramping up its teams at these engineering centres, continuing its commitment to create jobs and nurture talent in the country.

Thales also continues to partner with academia to fuel R&D in the country. Both of Thales’ ECCs complement the cooperation undertaken with several IITs (namely IIT Madras, IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay) and Indian Institute of Science Bangalore. In April 2022, Thales signed an MoU with the Central Manufacturing Technology Institute (CMTI) of India for advanced collaborative research and development in the field of Open Hardware. This partnership involves the designing of micro-processors using open-source assets which will enable the indigenous development of hardware and complete control of the behaviour of the processor tailor-made to software applications, which is not doable with proprietary hardware.

In July 2021, Thales joined hands with IIIT-Delhi on open hardware Research and Development. The collaboration seeks to enable co-development of complex microprocessor architectures and multi-core processing systems using configurations available with the RISC-V open ISA specification. These systems will bring value to applications in areas such as edge computing, smart manufacturing, defence and space.




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