Exceeding last year’s export figures, despite the difficulties posed by the global pandemic of COVID-19, Uttar Pradesh based MKU Limited is expected to touch Rs 250 crore of exports this year (2020-21). Though exports contribute nearly 70-75 per cent of MKU’s sale, which is a leading defence company in India, the company is in the midst of fulfilling orders from the Indian Army for bulletproof helmets. As has been reported by Financial Express Online earlier, the company which is based in Kanpur and is part of the UP Defence Corridor had received orders for 1.58 lakh helmets in 2016 from the army.
With the focus of the armed forces in India and globally more on technology, the company has ventured into the network-centric system and this helps in combining the sensors, weapons, wearable technology and communications. And it has also invested in electro-optics including night vision equipment based on Image Intensification and Uncooled Micro Bolometer technologies with investment in technology, infrastructure and manpower.
The company with four manufacturing facilities in India and Germany is playing a critical role in `Make in India’ and `Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiatives of the government and is engaged in the manufacture of systems and solutions in the sectors of Personal Armour, Platform Armour and Electro-Optics.
It has exported to more than 100 countries in Europe, Middle East, Africa, ASEAN nations as well as South America and the Caribbean region.
The Managing Director of MKU Limited Neeraj Gupta interacts with Huma Siddiqui and talks about the company’s portfolio and its focus on `Make in India’ and `Atmanirbhar Bharat initiatives’. Excerpts:
What are you exporting? And are they `Made in India’?
Items exported include Bullet Proof Jackets, Ballistic Helmets, Ballistic Plates, Armour kits for platforms, and Night Vision Devices. We have a global footprint across all geographies.
All products have been `Made in India’ in our factories in Kanpur, which is part of the UPDC (UP Defence Corridor). All the products have been made as per technology developed in house by MKU engineers and they are in response to the contracts which have been won via International Competitive Bidding – since our products were not only cost-competitive but also technically compliant.
Many of these countries are ‘focus countries’ for promoting defence exports by the government of India. In order to boost defence exports, the Government has shortlisted 84 countries which have the potential to increase defence cooperation. With the help of industry associations like FICCI & SIDM, webinars have been planned in these countries to enable Indian industry a platform to interact with these potential countries. In the first phase, 35 countries have been identified. At MKU we have already exported to many of these countries. (These are in the list of countries shortlisted by Ministry of Defence (MoD) to promote defence exports.)
Any details on your recent international contracts?
We have won some major international contracts this year, despite the slowdown due to COVID-19 which has restricted international travel completely. Some of the major contracts bagged this year have been from countries like Singapore, Philippines, Nepal, UAE, Oman, Egypt, Tunisia, Estonia, Brazil and Chile besides many others. There are several others in the pipeline too.
In fact, our order pipeline today remains quite healthy and we are confident of exceeding last year’s export figures for the whole year. This has happened due to the tremendous focus on exports and the persistent efforts of team MKU. In fact, despite the lockdown, we are today working on more enquiries than before!
We have made a major breakthrough in Night Vision Devices and secured contracts for these highly technical products from countries like Brazil, Philippines and Tunisia competing against major international OEMs. We are quite confident that going forward this sector will be a major growth driver for us.
What about the domestic orders which the company has received and executed?
We are close to completing the contract for 1.58 lac Ballistic helmets received from Indian Ministry of Defence. We have received some critical orders this year from but overall the input of domestic orders has been rather muted this year. We are hopeful going forward many more contracts will get concluded in the coming year.
More about the new products and new technologies …
We have introduced ILDS; Mukut with MACS and Thermal Weapon Sights.
Development work on some niche technologies in Electro-optics is in an advanced stage and we expect these to materialize next year. When matured, these will provide a great fillip to `Make in India’ as some of these technologies/ products are currently not available in India.
We have also tied up with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and are in discussion with them for Transfer of Technology (TOT) of several technologies – to develop products to meet not only Indian requirements but also for exports – `Taking India to the World’.
Further, as part of our expansion plan we are looking at backward integration and at the development of major input materials (capabilities) currently not available in India. This is being contemplated under ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’
What about Foreign Collaborations?
As part of our growth strategy, we are all for a strategic tie-up with leading FOEMs to co-develop and manufacture in India. We are already running a successful JV with EIS Electronics in India for the manufacture of electrical wiring harnesses for Aerospace and Defence applications and have successfully developed and manufactured for several Indian programmes besides exports.
We have also tied up with Thales to co-develop and manufacture Advanced Night Vision Devices at our plant in Kanpur, India. We hope to roll out the first device next year.
We are open to other such collaborations which bring synergy and give a boost to not only the Make in India theme but also ‘Made in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
What about having an edge in Technology?
Our company has invested a considerable amount in R&D – this is at the core of our development strategy. We hold the complete IPR for the products we manufacture. Besides we are holders of 16 international patents with many more in the pipeline. And, we have built the in-house capability for manufacture and testing of all our products including electro-optical devices.
This gives us an edge in our R&D efforts and in the development of customized solutions.
We also have an in house design capability which helps us innovate to address customer problems. ILDS, INSTAVEST and MACS are some examples of this capability.
What new technologies is the company working on?
Our company has invested a lot in R&D and we have indigenously designed and developed Night Vision Devices which is based on the latest Generation 3 technology. This offers great enhancement in the quality and resolution of the devices, even in very low light conditions.
We have also designed and developed a range of thermal devices based on Uncooled Micro Bolometer technology. These include Thermal Weapon Sights compatible with weapons like Carbines, Insas, AK-47 and other Assault rifles.
Where are these facilities based?
The State of the Art manufacturing facility is based in Kanpur (UP). This is fully equipped with test equipment for environmental testing as per JSS 55555 and MIL Std 810 G along with complete test facility for EO devices and sensors. The company also offers repair and service facility for the Night Vision Devices.
What about the Bullet Resistant jackets? And are you complying with Indian Standard: IS17051:2018 for the BPJs?
We not only comply with the Indian standards but look at the stringent international standards also so that we not only meet but exceed customer expectations. Many of our products are NIJ 06 compliant – the most stringent international protocol for body armour.
Our latest body armour solutions for bullet-resistant jackets are focussed on weight reduction and they comply with the latest industry standards. For survivability, enhanced comfort and mobility, there are added features and functionalities in the new line of ballistic vests.
.Also, as threats are evolving, the weight has become another crucial requirement in the BPJs, as lightweight armour is no more lightweight. Today, the weight is around 12 kilos and this is a matter of concern. However, the weight is expected to increase in view of the evolving threats. At our facility, the focus is on keeping the weight down and protecting the soldier! Further, we have introduced design features and developed ILDS which again helps ‘take the weight off the soldier’s shoulder’ literally!
There is a new line of helmets. What is unique about them?
Patented Boltfree helmets have been developed using RHT technology and specially designed harness and padding systems. This has helped in reducing the trauma in ballistic helmets caused by projectile hits. Another major problem faced by the soldier was the instability of the helmet which has been solved using the new Twist Fit technology; this gives the helmet a snug fit. And for the comfort of soldiers in different Indian weather conditions, special materials and coatings have been used to fight fungus and mould. All these features combined make the helmet much more comfortable to wear even for extended periods.
Alongside we have also developed ‘MACS’ (Multi Accessory Connector System) and adapter that enables accessories to be attached to the helmet without making any mechanical or physical changes.