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

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