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50 yrs at helm of Bharat Forge: MD Baba Kalyani says company to grow multifold

Bharat Forge is no longer just a forging or auto component manufacturing company, but a technology company, says Kalyani.

A new factory is all set to roll out the Tork electric motorcycles this month. Next will be an electric truck, says Kalyani. Technology centres in Detroit and Los Angeles are working on e-mobility.

It took forging company Bharat Forge 61 years to reach an annual turnover of Rs 10,000 crore. Chairman and managing director Baba Kalyani is confident of the next Rs 10,000 crore coming at a faster pace, with the company set to double or triple turnover in the next 10 years.

Having joined the company started by his father Neelakanth Kalyani 50 years ago, Baba Kalyani, 73, says the past 10 years have been the busiest in his life. “If you have a passion to do something then many things can be done,” he says as he celebrates 50 years at the helm of Bharat Forge, which now has facilities spread across continents and is part of the $3-billion Kalyani Group, shipping 600,000 tonne with digitised manufacturing and industry 4.0 at work. Emerging technologies and an opportunity to play in these segments excite Kalyani, a BITS Pilani and Boston MIT alumni.

Bharat Forge is no longer just a forging or auto component manufacturing company, but a technology company, says Kalyani. With a presence in auto, defence, aerospace, oil and gas, electric mobility. railways and renewable energy, Kalyani says they are in the business of providing safety and security for mobility, energy and for the country.

The company is working vigorously in the electric vehicle business through a subsidiary company, Kalyani Powertrain. A new factory is all set to roll out the Tork electric motorcycles this month. Next will be an electric truck, says Kalyani. Technology centres in Detroit and Los Angeles are working on e-mobility.

Nobody is going to give you technology and especially not in the defence sector. This thought propelled him to invest in the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGs) programme eight years ago and tap the opportunities in the country’s indigenisation programme. Armed with Bharat Forge’s expertise in metallurgy, Kalyani built the full-Indian ATAGs (155mm X 52) caliber with the capability to fire 48 km compared to the existing 39-km range guns. Kalyani Strategic Systems, the defence arm of Bharat Forge, has completed multiple trials across the terrain. Kalyani is hopeful of getting his first order this year. The goal is to be the largest artillery player in 10 years. There is the armoured car, Kalyani M4, that is already operating at high altitudes (20,000 ft) and in the pipeline are drones and other products.

‘Do things that others had not imagined and keep innovating’ is the motto that has led to the company leading the industry and staying there unchallenged for two decades.

Fifty years ago, when he joined the business, Kalyani realised that they would have to compete based on technology and decided to move away from the conventional hammer to the modern press technology. The 80s were a tough time to import machines; so, they bought used machinery from abroad, refurbished, retrofitted, and modernised them. He invested in creating scale far beyond what a company of this size could imagine. Critics called it the white elephant. But this scale proved to be the turning point to making it the largest forging company.

A foray into the international markets when Indian manufacturing was yet to be accepted or recognised laid the foundation of the company’s global business. Bharat Forge is India’s first multinational, says Kalyani. The company has 10 manufacturing locations across India, Germany, Sweden, France and North America. He succeeded while many others fell by the wayside in international markets. “To be a global company and operate in advanced economies like the US and Europe you need the right mindset but people get intimidated by what is happening there and the scale of technology,” points out Kalyani.

“By 2030, India will be a very different country from what it is now. Our GDP can be around $7-8 trillion,” he says. Climate change and the shift to digital manufacturing would pose significant challenges, he adds. “The country historically has a talent pool that is based on analog technology and there is an immediate need to convert the existing talent pool to digital,” adds Kalyani. The workforce at Bharat Forge has completed their training in Industry 4.0 and not many want to leave despite multiple rounds of VRS.

Kalyani was felicitated in Pune on Saturday and conferred the ‘Punyabhushan’ award to celebrate his achievements. Despite awards and recognition across the world, to be feted and celebrated by your own city feels special, says Kalyani.

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