Lohia Group targets to be go-to Indian firm for aerospace composites

Lohia Aerospace Systems Chief Executive Officer Anurag Lohia, in this written interview with Defence.Capital editor N. C. Bipindra, says that the company is focused on organic scaling up of composites manufacturing, and has no further acquisition plans anytime soon.

Photo Caption: Lohia Aerospace Systems greenfield facility in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Ques. What prompted the Lohia Group to venture into the aerospace and defence sector manufacturing and what has the group achieved in this sector till date? What business potential was seen for this pivoting to the A&D sector?

Ans. The Lohia Group is a technology extensive manufacturing group with a strong understanding of polymers, processing them and treating them; from our machinery assembly line production for the woven sack industry to injection-molded automotive components and technical textiles.

Establishing a carbon and glass composite component production facility was an organic step in the inorganic field of polymers. There is a gap in the Indian industry to cater to global aerospace and defence (A&D) industry standards for composite production. The need was to acquire world-class composite technologies that we could use to produce products for the global market.

We became India’s first aerospace composite multinational when we acquired Israel-based Light & Strong Limited and established a greenfield aerospace plant for manufacturing composites in Kanpur. Today, we have aerospace customers in three geographies – Israel, Germany, and the United States.

We are today in the process of creating the business pipeline. The potential for such a labour-intensive product is immense and we hope to be partners of choice for global aerospace companies for all things composites

Lohia Aerospace Systems CEO Anurag Lohia

Ques. What are the challenges that the Group faced while entering this sector and how were those challenges overcome? What critical lessons were learnt in this process that help the group to better itself?

Ans. Any new venture has its own set of challenges, acquiring and managing an international subsidiary, designing, and building an aerospace standard greenfield plant in Kanpur, the technology transfer and people training were all challenging aspects.

This was all planned for and the group’s rich legacy with indigenising industrial technologies due to our over five-decade exposure to international joint ventures (JVs) made it all possible in the aggressive time targets that we kept for ourselves.

Every project is a learning; learning from a good crisis is even more enriching. Having a black swan event like COVID-19 hit us, right as we were in the middle of commissioning our plant, kept us thinking on our feet.

Today, looking back at all that we have achieved in the short span of five years — going from having an ambition of entering the aerospace market to having not one, but two manufacturing plants and in the process becoming India’s first aerospace multinational manufacturing entity is something that keeps us going to achieve more.

Ques. What is the end-state that Lohia Group envisions to achieve for itself in the A&D sector? What does it want to achieve for the Indian A&D sector?

Ans. Lohia Aerospace Systems Private Limited is a vehicle for creating an excellence in manufacturing and integration for the A&D sector. We are today focused on aerospace composites and are catering to global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for complex composite assemblies and components.

We are a nascent start-up and there is a long way to go for us. Our intent is to go up the value chain with market leading products and components.

Ques. What has been the capability acquisition strategy of the Lohia Group in the A&D sector? What capabilities did it bring to the table?

Ans. To create a world-class industrial establishment, one must bring on-board cutting-edge technologies — people, processes, production; from our point of view all are skills that needed to be acquired, developed, and established. We went about doing this through our acquisition of Light & Strong Limited, Israel’s leading aerospace composites company and a major participant in the A&D market.

Today, we are producing composite parts; produced by Indians, who have spent six months being production-trained in Israel for global A&D companies at a facility designed by a specialised A&D process design firm.

Photo Caption: Lohia Aerospace Systems’ state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Kanpur.

Ques. How did the L&S Limited acquisition in Israel pan out for Lohia Group? What business growth did it bring to the group?

Ans. Light & Strong is today Israel’s largest privately owned A&D composites component company and has had a very strong pedigree in composite production. Its people and the wide array of production processes have been a value differentiator for us.

Through the acquisition, we also got access to multiple Israeli OEMs. The relationships and the unique offering of having a local plant in Israel and a production centre in India is one of our key success factors in the market. We provide Israeli technology and processes at Indian pricing and volumes.

Ques. What are Lohia Group’s contribution in skilling Indians in the A&D sector? How do you recruit and retain the talent?

Ans. Skilling is a key factor not only for us at Lohia Aerospace Systems but for us as a manufacturing group. The great state of Uttar Pradesh has an abundance of manpower, skilling them to our international technical standards is also something that we do from a social point of view.

Uttar Pradesh has been our Karmbhoomi (place of dedicated work). We have created our own 11-acre Technical Training and Research Centre, which provides full-time residential courses on electro-mechanical and composite production with annual batches of 150 people.

These are for our internal bench strength, as all our manufacturing verticals required highly skilled production floor resources. We conduct annual recruitment drives across eastern Uttar Pradesh and pick up kids straight after high school.

All those who are selected to undergo training at our institute is paid a stipend and all their boarding expenses are covered by us. This way, we are able to nurture talent from a young age and develop international standards of proficiency from the very beginning.

Lohia Aerospace is of a few, if not the only private sector A&D company in Uttar Pradesh. Anyone looking at working in a demanding industry to build India’s leadership position on a global platform, thrive in challenging situations and pride themselves as global and aware citizens, Lohia Aerospace Systems is the place to be for them. Since our inception three years ago, we have not had anyone leave our company.

Ques. Are there possibilities of expansion of Lohia group’s A&D businesses now, with investments or capability acquisitions, or new product additions to your portfolio of offerings?

Ans. I can speak for Lohia Aerospace. Today, we are focused on delivering world-class composite products to our customers globally. We will continue to develop the value chain of the products that we offer. These will be composite-led products for now. Any expansion of our business or capabilities is planned to be done organically through investments in people, processes, and facilities. No further acquisitions are on the horizon.

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