In­ter­view: An­to­nio Bu­droni, Re­gional Del­e­gate, WASS

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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

years.

• 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

uct de­vel­op­ment.

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