With India set to become a global aerospace hub, how important is Rolls-Royce's partnership with the Indian aerospace industry in the context of Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat?
Rolls-Royce’s nine-decade-long partnership with India is built on successful collaborations with the Indian aerospace and defence industries. Rolls-Royce engines powered the first civil aircraft of Tata Aviation in 1932 and the first military aircraft of Indian Air Force Squadron Number One in 1933. Ours is the original Make in India story, which started over 70 years ago with Rolls-Royce partnering with Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) for whole engine technology transfer, whereby Rolls-Royce engines have been manufactured in India. We continue to build on this relationship to deliver service excellence and supply chain capabilities. We have a dedicated service delivery centre in Bengaluru that supports all the engines in service with the forces. We are also working with HAL to set up an authorised maintenance centre for our Adour engines and to Make In India Adour Mk871 parts to serve our international military customers. These partnerships are strengthening the company’s regional service footprint and helping India emerge as a global hub for defence sourcing, assembly, and MRO services.
We are also particularly proud of the success of our joint venture with HAL called International Aerospace Manufacturing (IAMPL). In just 10 years, IAMPL has grown to become a top-tier supplier in the the company global supply chain, manufacturing more than 160 high-precision components for the Trent family of civil engines. Our other joint venture with Force Motors, called Force MTU Power Systems, manufactures the MTU brand of series 1600 engines and generator sets for both Indian and global markets. We believe the future will be all about ‘Creating in India’ in collaboration with willing global players, with India co-owning the Intellectual Property (IP) in areas of strategic importance. Rolls-Royce is well positioned as a natural partner in India’s growth and Aatmanirbhar Bharat journey.
Going forward, what is your company’s commitment to the Indian market?
Rolls-Royce has been investing in creating capabilities in-country and forging partnerships with the domestic industry to help further the goal of self-reliance. As India’s indigenisation journey gains momentum, Rolls-Royce remains committed to partnering with India’s progress through co-development, co-creation, and co-manufacturing opportunities.
How do you think the Indian industry can bridge the existing defence capability gap? What kind of technological & manufacturing capacities are required for this?
The Indian defence industry has a key role to play in realising the Prime Minister’s vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Through various initiatives, the Government of India has showcased its intent to bolster the defence ecosystem in the country, and the industry has responded with significant investments and expansion plans. This growing ecosystem capacity will be well-utilised when defence technologies will be created and owned in India to be manufactured locally. The defence ecosystem will undoubtedly rise to meet the supply chain and manufacturing opportunities, and this will further create capabilities across the value chain.
With capability and capacity creation across design and development, supply chain, manufacturing, and aftermarket services, such a programme will increase India’s competitiveness in the global arena. When technology is developed in India and the know-why rests within the country with IP owned by India, there is a great opportunity to leapfrog the country’s status as a technology supplier to the global market.
Industry 4.0 also has the potential to transform the aerospace and defence sectors. To gain momentum and raise its competitiveness in manufacturing, the adoption of new technologies will prove to be an enabler for the Indian industry. In addition, we must focus on upskilling our talent to meet the challenges of the future.
Rolls-Royce has a history of working across domains in India. How important has the Indian market been for your business?
We have a strong presence in India across all businesses — defence, civil aerospace, and power systems, and have been committed to expanding our footprint in the region. Over the years, we have built a strong ecosystem of Indian partners, talent, supply chain, digital, service delivery, and manufacturing capabilities.
We have a rich legacy of partnering with the Indian Armed Forces; today, more than 750 Rolls-Royce engines of 10 types are powering Indian military aircraft. Our MTU engines power several Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy vessels, with a service team present at several locations along the coastline. Our dedicated Defence Service Delivery Centre in Bengaluru provides end-to-end solutions for all Rolls-Royce aero engines in service with the Indian Armed Forces.
Over the past few decades, we have also built a robust supply chain and a strong pool of engineering talent in India to support the global fleet of Rolls-Royce aero-engines. A dedicated engineering centre in Pune also supports global research and development programmes for our power systems business. A team of digital engineers at R2 Data Labs in Bengaluru collaborates with global teams to generate data-led insights and solutions.
We believe India holds great promise and offers multiple opportunities for all our businesses, and we believe that we are well-positioned to meet the demands of and create opportunities, in this market.
In the context of growing environment awareness, what measures has Rolls-Royce taken to ensure cleaner and safer engines, both in the aero and marine sectors?
At Rolls-Royce, we are committed to the UN net zero goal of making all our products and operations net zero by 2050. All our new products and facilities will be compatible with net zero operations by 2030. Over 50% of our R&D budgets are currently allocated towards low and net zero technologies, and we plan to increase this spending to 75% by 2025.
Electrification has the potential to transform the future, and as a world-class provider of electrical power and propulsion systems, we are championing electrification in both the aerospace and marine sectors. Our all-electric plane, ‘Spirit of Innovation’ has achieved the world speed record to become the fastest all-electric plane, and this was supported by data analytics provided by our digital team at R2 Data Labs in India. Indeed, digital technologies will also play a critical role in shaping the future by solving complex challenges. Rolls-Royce data experts analyse data from millions of flights every year. Our analysis helps save our customers 100,000 tonnes of fuel per year — that’s enough fuel for a 747 to fly to the moon and back, 13 times. We believe that pioneering innovative solutions like this not only mark a new and exciting era in electric aviation, but also heralds the future of flying sustainably.
Our experience supporting the electrification of the Royal Navy’s warships over many years makes us well-placed to support the Indian Navy for its ‘fleet of the future’. In addition to its technologically superior offerings and full-electric propulsion solutions, Rolls-Royce is the only provider of marine gas turbines for integrated full-electric propulsion (IFEP)-powered destroyers and aircraft carriers.
Alternative fuels are the future and can help make today’s technology compatible with net zero. At Rolls-Royce, we are already testing our engines with Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), and we are committed to ensuring that all our aerospace engines are compatible with 100% SAF by 2023. We are also working on hydrogen fuels, and have launched trials of liquid hydrogen combustion at power plants. While the majority of our products can run on synthetically derived low-carbon fuels, the industry is facing demand shortages due to the high costs associated with manufacturing such fuels. Rolls-Royce has been working with industry partners to advocate for and accelerate the availability of alternative fuels. There is no single technology to reach zero emissions. Our focus is on what it will take to make carbon-intensive parts of our economy, such as aviation and power generation, compatible with net zero and commercially viable, while also pursuing some exciting new breakthrough possibilities.
In the midst of such a dynamic Indian market landscape, what would be the top three leadership suggestions that you would recommend to the next generation of Indian leaders today?
Change is the new normal for all leaders today and tomorrow. I believe there are three factors that will be key to success for all leaders - technology, adaptability, and people. The future of businesses will be defined by enhanced data and connectivity, manufacturing innovations, digital disruptions, and more. Therefore, it is crucial for leaders to invest in technology, irrespective of the sector in which they operate, especially in manufacturing.
As we have seen in these last few years, change is the only constant, so adaptability is critical to building business resilience. Adaptability will help leaders assess and tap signals of change quickly, implement short-term and long-term operational changes, and access opportunities faster. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change. People are the indispensable backbone of any business. While being tech-enabled is essential and adaptability is the need of the hour, it is people who will drive change and help lead an organisation to success. As leaders, we must create a future workforce that feels empowered with technology and is bold and agile in the face of change.