Interview: Stephane Lauret, CEO, Safran India
Safran is a high technology group in the realm of aerospace, defence and security and has registered revenues of $20 billion. With over 67,000 workforce worldwide, the group continues to expand its global footprint.
Stephane Lauret, Chief Executive Officer, Safran India, explains how the group has evolved over the years. Of the three businesses it is in, aerospace accounts for 75 to 80 per cent of the group’s revenues, of which engines account to nearly 50 per cent. Defence (Sagem) accounts for 10 per cent, followed by Security (Morpho). In Security, it is a world leader in some of the activities such as biometric (finger and face recognition) data management, explosive detection, etc. The company, he states, is in the process of reinforcing its global brand of Safran.
In India, the group is strong with over 3,000 workforce with about 1,700 based in the National Capital Region, about 1,200 in Bengaluru and the rest in Hyderabad where along with CFM it is in pilot training. In terms of workforce, the top two countries are France and the United States, followed by Morocco and Mexico. India is the fifth most important country for Safran. “We are in India for India,” he remarks and mentions that there are less than 20 French personnel in India. “Safran has big plans for India, we are Indians.”
Safran has an important 50:50 joint venture with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) wherein Turbomeca is providing technical support. For Turbomeca, after Airbus Helicopters, HAL is the second biggest customer. Safran has a 100 per cent marketshare on Airbus wheels and brakes on the Airbus 320 family and also on Boeing 737s in India. As regards Sagem, there are 700 professionals working on the inertial navigation systems (INS) and other products. India is the second biggest country for Sagem. The company has a transfer of technology understanding with HAL for the INS. “You don’t come to India, sell and leave.” Turbomeca has been partnering with HAL for years and is teaming up with local companies to develop technologies.
Here in conversation with the Editor-in-Chief of SP’s M.A.I, Jayant Baranwal, the CEO of Safran India, Stephane Lauret talks about Safran’s plans. SP’s M.A.I. (SP’s): Safran has leadership status in aerospace and France offers indigenous systems. Rafale is a French product not an international product and most of the solutions come from within the country such as engines, landing gears, airframes, fly-by-wire, armaments, etc. What does it take to create a strong base? You are not dependent on any other country? With such a background what does it take to create a base of indigenous solutions for your customers? Stephane Lauret (Lauret): It takes lot of time and lot of money. In aerospace business you cannot have too many players. France has got big groups in aerospace and a lot of SMEs. Before India, I was SP’s : What is the investment in R&D? Lauret: It is 20 per cent, that is about four billion dollars. in Mexico for four years. In Aerospace, there is need for Tier I and SMEs. One company alone cannot do everything. In Mexico they have an aerospace industry but the SMEs are missing. They don’t have a network. Mexico is like India where we see automobile companies getting into aerospace business. One should understand that aviation is totally a different business.
SP’s: Has your government been supportive of entrepreneurship?
Lauret: The government always helps. What is important is the association between the companies and government. You cannot have internal competition, but should compete with other countries. SP’s: What is the perception of opportunities in India in the near and long term for Safran?
Lauret: In aerospace, various companies have estimated sales of 1,400 to 1,600 commercial aircraft. At present In India, the number of people travelling by planes is very small, but this is expected to grow fast. The government is promoting air travel and it is promising for our engines.
In the defence segment we are growing here. One key aspect in India is the need for indigenisation and we are here to coordinate on that.
SP’s: How India can become self-reliant?
Lauret: It has to go through the transfer of technology route. A good case is the regional transport aircraft (RTA) which India is planning. They should do that in partnership aiming at the top end and it will take about 10 years to launch. It takes that long to come to the market with a high end product. Brazil and China have started doing it while India is just making a beginning. What is important is to pursue it. SP’s: What are the cutting-edge technologies for aerospace and defence markets? Lauret: We have many things. In association with HAL we are transferring technology in navigation systems. The plan is to develop inertail navigation systems (INS) in India. SP’s: Any partnership on aeroengines in India? Lauret: Part of the Rafale deal is to have engine assembled in India. We are working on other projects too, particularly to develop military engines with India.
SP’s: You had strong relationship with Russia?
Lauret: We developed one engine—Powerjet—with them. The Powerjet programme was 50:50 venture. They have developed the first Russian civil aircraft in the last 30 years. SP’s: Do you expect Superjets to sell in India? Lauret: I think so, it is doing well. SP’s: What do you think of the defence procurement procedures (DPP) in India and do you think it needs changes?
Lauret: The DPP is key for the Indian Governement to develop its industry and the OEMs have to follow them. The DPP is evolving year after year. It is good that India wants to build its defence industry. They should take profit of the contract they are signing.
SP’s: Lauret: Any It is views the same. on offset To use obligation? the offsets in all industries is welcome. They need to loosen up a bit. SP’s: Is it a political answer? Lauret: No, it is a candid answer. SP’s: The belief here is that the offset aspects are not handled professionally.
Lauret: It is a new process. The view is harsh. It is easy to criticise. You have to see positively the process. SP’s: Could you talk about propulsion engines run on fossil fuel? Lauret: In Mexico we had the green engine run on Jatropha. We
were using it for the engines. About two or three years ago biofuel was developed. The CFM Leap engine is about 15 per cent less fuel burn, less noise and less emission. We are working on green engines. SP’s: Any development with regard to MRO from Safran?
Lauret: We have been considering it but it won’t happen tomorrow here. The fleet size is not big as yet. In civil engines, we will wait a bit. It could be interesting for military engines, helicopter engines. Yes, it is on the map, though not tomorrow.
SP’s: Any team from Snecma working with IAF Mirage fleet? Lauret: We are there since the beginning of Mirage induction. We have a lot of interaction with the Indian Air Force. We have people working in Gwalior. SP’s: Is there any plan for the next-gen aeroengine in india?
Lauret: We would like to do. We are not the only one deciding. We worked on the Cauvery project. We are working on new project. We would love to do that. Partnerships or ToT in the aerospace business is the way to go ahead.
SP’s: What do you think about the MMRCA programme? Are you excited about it?
Lauret: Yes, of course. We are well positioned. On the project, discussions are still going on with the HAL. SP’s: What is the involvement of Safran in the Rafale programme? Lauret: It is two engines. We also do landing gear, wiring, basically one-third of the plane is Safran. Engine is the most critical part in the aircraft.
SP’s: Can you describe your involvement in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the space programme?
Lauret: The cryoengine storty with us started some years ago. We have very little business with ISRO presently. India is showing that it wants to be independent in space business. We will have space top level mission coming this year to meet with ISRO and discuss possibilities of opportunities. It is a core business for us. We will be happy to work with ISRO. I was in Trivandrum recently and I found the space engine programme interesting, not many countries are doing it. You cannot invent a space engine. It will take 50 years. The space business is very tricky and requires bilateral relationship.
Safran manufactures two engines, landing gear and wiring for Rafale