Interview: Antonio Budroni, Regional Delegate, WASS
WASS has been operating in India since 1976 and successfully supporting the Indian Navy in underwater field. During this period it has formed a number of associations with Indian industry, especially BDL, and has established its subsidiary (WIN Blue Water Services Pvt Ltd) in India, to provide better services. WASS is committed in supporting the Indian Navy, Indian industry and research and development organisation in their endeavours for indigenisation. The first contract that WASS received was for supply a number of A244s LWTs.
These torpedoes have been the backbone of IN underwater operations for more than 30 years. WASS has supported the Indian Navy in its efforts to maintain and operate these optimally. In 2010, IN contracted WASS for upgradation of these torpedoes, with all the latest and modern features. In addition, since 2005 WASS has become premier and the only supplier of Torpedo Decoy Systems for the Indian Naval Submarines and has been selected for the supply of Heavy Weight Torpedo for the Scorpene submarine. Here in an interview with SP’s M.A.I., the Regional Delegate Antonio
Budroni of WASS explains how India is as good as its second domestic market and what the company plans in terms of partnerships.
SP’s M.A.I. (SP’s): Could you tell us about the journey of WASS in India since its initial steps in 1976?
Antonio Budroni: In 1976, WASS was called Whitehead, the surname of the torpedo inventor Robert Whitehead and it has had relations with the Indian Navy since then. WASS has been a trusted and respected supplier to the Indian Navy and this relationship has been growing till date. It is a good reciprocal relationship. SP’s: What were the entry challenges, if any, for WASS underwater systems, in the predominantly Soviet/Russian origin platforms in India? Budroni: About 10 years back, WASS initialised an industrial relationship with Soviet/Russian shipyards and companies and India gave WASS an opportunity to increase such relationship in the fields of submarines and ASW avionics, such as kilo class submarines, IL38 ASW airplane and K28 ASW helicopters. The HWT (heavy weight torpedoes) and LWT (light weight torpedoes) families are in the process of integration on the above mentioned platforms for both India and the worldwide market. The relationship with Russian companies has shown high growth potential that WASS products can reach not just on Soviet platforms but also those on the NATO side. SP’s: What has been the strategy of WASS in India to make permanent inroads for its underwater systems for the Indian Navy? Budroni: WASS lays emphasis on customer care, continuous contact with the customer and new product development keeping in mind the requirements of the Indian Navy. WASS also works with Indian companies without contractual obligations such as offsets or transfer of technology.
SP’s: How would you assess the existing infrastructure and growth potential available with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), theNaval Science and Technology Laboratory (NSTL) and the indigenous production agencies such as Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), etc. to absorb transfer of technologies from WASS?
Budroni: WASS has proposed collaboration and support to DRDO and NSTL since 2003. The collaboration with BDL since 2005 in submarine torpedo countermeasure field has strengthened. The potential for growth of these organisations are enormous, but the roadmap in India is indigenisation. In state-art-of-the art technologies, WASS believes that the right, reliable and safe way to indigenise production is to find the right partner, preferably a leader in the sector and offer it a production share as to develop technologies. WASS proposals to DRDO and NSTL were in this direction, but till date no agreement has been signed.
WASS believes that Offsets, transfer of technology, either with public sector companies or private companies, are not enough to
guarantee real absorption of technologies. All these instruments are based on programmes and not on product. The way BrahMos was indigenised is the most reliable way. SP’s: Consequent to sustained mutual interaction and cooperation in transferring key technologies from WASS, how has the growth curve evolved in enhancing the indigenous contents of underwater systems for the Indian Navy?
Budroni: Transferring key technologies is a dynamic issue. Even when we are in the process of transferring a given technology, technology itself is developing. The timing in procedure, contractual constraint for transfer of technology is Slower than the change in technology in the market. Hence it is necessary to find a solution byproduct and not by programme. To clarify better the concept, we have to focus in :
• A BID In InDIA BEComEs A ContrACt In An AvErAGE tImE oF FIvE to sIx
• THE spEED wItH tECHnoloGy CHAnGEs In tHE mArkEt toDAy Is muCH
faster than five to six years.
As a consequence of the above, the product offered in a bid, at the time of delivery, can be no more the latest technology. Enhancing the indigenous contents can be obtained only by a “real partnership” between Indian companies and WASS by product. SP’s: What is the roadmap for transfer of technologies from WASS for manufacturing effectors and torpedo decoy systems both for submarines and surface ships of the Indian Navy? Budroni: Not just for the Indian market but also the world market, the key issue is to identify the right partner to build a joint venture for every product. In India once the foreign direct investment reaches 49 per cent, the joint venture then needs to define the work share and develop products. WASS considers India as a second domestic market. SP’s: The WASS light weight torpedoes (LWT) have been in service with the Indian Navy for some time now. What are the future plans for upgrade of its technologies, modernisation, etc.? Budroni: WASS is running a contract for A244/S modernisation. WASS has also proposed collaboration with NSTL/DRDO, to develop the LWT for the future requirements of Indian Navy. The proposal includes joint development of the weapons and industrial work share from the beginning between Indian industries and WASS on 50 per cent share basis. Such a proposal is not limited to the Indian market, but includes the world-wide market where WASS can facilitate commercialisation. SP’s: Despite the proven track records of LWT, not much headway has been made as far as HWT – Blackshark is concerned. What is the strategy on the anvil for inducting this potent underwater weapon system for the Indian Navy’s ships and submarines?
Budroni: The HWT tender for the supply of HWT for Scorpene class submarines was won by WASS. The time necessary by the Indian bureaucracy to clear the contract is affecting all the strategies in this field. Black Shark torpedo can be the weapon with 50 per cent indigenous content, for all the platforms today and also for future programmes. To stop any tender in India is very easy. It is enough that one tenderer claims irregularities and the process gets stopped. Even after all the possible verifications, the tender can be stopped again. Such approaches are against the interest of the country and it adversely affects combat readiness and modernisation of the armed forces. Additionally the ageing of the selected product in terms of technology and performances, will render null and void the modernisation foreseen, as the purchase procedure takes six years to sign the contract. Delivery after the contract is signed takes another two or three years, in all about a lapse of nine years from the time of bid. SP’s: Lastly, how do you envision growing eminence in India of WASS? Budroni: The WASS policy for India can be summarised as: • InDIA Is WASS’s sEConD DomEstIC mArkEt • JoInt vEnturEs By proDuCt For tHE worlDwIDE mArkEt Is A must • RIDE tHE tECHnoloGy tHAt Is GrowInG In tHE Country For FuturE proD