“HAL is in competition only with HAL” says outgoing chief, RK Tyagi - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 3 February 2015

“HAL is in competition only with HAL” says outgoing chief, RK Tyagi

RK Tyagi, who retired as chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) on Jan 31, talks to Ajai Shukla

Q.        Many say HAL should transform from an agency that builds aircraft under licence, to a full-fledged platform developer?

Over the last two years, HAL has acted like a technology company, aggressively pursuing R&D (research and development). We are using company money for this; earlier, we would wait until the MoD sanctioned a project and money. In 2012 we had six patents filed. Today we own 1,072 patents.

Today one-tenth of HAL’s profit is being converted into an R&D corpus. This will fund development of specific technologies by private industry.

For example, we are developing two aero engines for our future helicopters. Our board approved Rs 400 crore, of which we have already spent Rs 100 crore.  Similarly, we decided to fund development of the HTT-40 basic trainer since MoD funding is delayed. To expedite the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) project, we funded the building of two prototypes to speed up flight-testing.

Since the aircraft industry badly needs skilled workers, we have partnered the National Skills Development Council (NSDC) in sponsoring a National Aerospace Skills Development Council. NSDC has contributed Rs 4.9 crore, we have put in Rs 25 lakhs.

Last month we registered a society for setting up an Aeronautical University. So we are going into R&D, technological collaboration and upgrading skills. We have converted a manufacturing company into an engineering company.

Q.        Many believe HAL needs to be leaner with better manpower?

There was a long-held belief that HAL needs to be self-sufficient, rather than dependent upon the private sector. I have replaced this with the analogy of a train. HAL is the engine, while the private sector is like the bogeys. The engine alone delivers nothing, while the bogeys alone get nowhere. Today we connect with 2,400 Indian private vendors, mostly MSMEs.

HAL’s strategy is to develop intellectual property and hold the IPR, but outsource to private industry wherever possible. Our high-volume helicopter projects --- the Light Utility Helicopter (LuH) and Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) --- will be built using this model.

Q.        How would you see the emergence of a private sector rival to HAL?

Aerospace is opening up and the government has adopted enabling policies. Private sector will inevitably enter and we are ready for competition. We are improving our systems, reducing costs and focusing on quality. Competition will make HAL leaner and better. But I can confidently say that, given our 75 years of experience, HAL is in competition only with HAL. If we can deliver on time, no one can touch us.

We have the ability to do this. For example, an order for 12 Dornier aircraft has been under process for over a year. Instead of waiting for the formal order, we decided to start manufacturing in anticipation. A week from now, when I get the order, I will deliver 6 Dorniers immediately.

Q.        Why is this pro-activeness not evident on the Tejas fighter production line, where capacity needs expansion, but awaits orders from the IAF.

The Tejas’ initial operational clearance (IOC) was received in December 2013. I cannot start building until I receive the IOC standards. Within 10 months we have produced the first Tejas; the second will be ready in March.

Meanwhile, the IAF needs to form the squadrons; train manpower; prepare manuals and systems. So far only test pilots have flown the Tejas; now regular line pilots would be flying it. While the IAF does this, we will gradually increase production from two Tejas this year to six, then eight.

Meanwhile, we have approached the MoD to augment production capacity to 16 aircraft annually. Departing from past funding models, we proposed that HAL would invest 50 per cent of the Rs 1,300 crore needed. The IAF and navy have agreed to split the remaining cost between them.

Q.        Is there a plan to productively utilize HAL’s enviable cash reserves?

We have cash reserves of about Rs 5,000 crore. The media has reported figures of up to Rs 20,000 crore, but that include advances from customers against orders placed. Our free reserves are just Rs 5,000 crore.

Over the last two years, our Board has approved investments of Rs 7,000 crore. This includes the investment for manufacturing the LUH and LCH. We want to augment production capacity for the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). We have earmarked land and other systems for building the Rafale fighter. I have mentioned the Tejas assembly line. In three years, we will start overhauling about thirty Sukhoi-30s each year, so I need to create that capacity too. In HAL Lucknow, the machines that we manufacture accessories on need to be replaced. We plan to spend our reserves on modernization.

Q.        When will HAL’s disinvestment offer be made?

Disinvestment is a call taken by the owner of the company, which is the MOD. HAL, as a company, is ready for it. However, being in the defence sector, there will be confidential information that is not shared with the market and the lead managers.

My customers (the military) would not want to keep classified details of the equipment we make, and its quantities. The draft prospectus is ready and has been sent to the services. Once we receive their comments, maybe we’ll take a further call on this.

Q.        Any indications on pricing?

HAL shares will be priced very suitably; and that means very high. Whoever is allotted HAL shares will own an outstanding investment. HAL is the only Indian defence company with a plan for the next 15 years, a future leadership pipeline, investment in modernization, and massive orders given India’s estimated requirement of 1,500 helicopters in the next five years. We have an order book of Rs 60,000 crore. We also have two A class airports: Nashik and Bengaluru.

Two days back, there was a meeting called to review the disinvestment process. Our company secretary had participated. We are awaiting clarification on certain issues, such as the number of independent directors on HAL’s board. Once those are sorted out, maybe the beginning of the next financial year could be the right time for disinvestment.


  1. HAL is waiting for the IAF to identify the manpower, manuals and squadrons and only then will they deliver Tejas? How considerate.
    That is an utter load of bull. Manuals and facilities are HAL responsibility as per the contract. Neither aircraft nor manuals nor technical support facilities are ready, so palm the blame onto the IAF. HAL is learning well from you, Mr Shukla.

  2. What a professional bullshit artist.

  3. A man who gave HAL the direction in which it needs to move...the amount of changes he brought in last two years has been phenomenal... and a man who had the heart to fight out any competition...

    We will miss him Truely...


  4. I am agreeing with Anonymous ( 4th Feb 18.15) I t like HAL. is teaching IAF. what to do ? Any way a ridiculous statement . How this man has achieved such a high ranking post is anybody's guess.
    If a head of the organisation's attitude is like this then why to blame other staffs ! They are following follow the leader.
    Thirdly they have a kitty of 15 K cores and out of that 10 K cores are advance from IAF. and Navy. What a monopoly ? Why HAL. will ask for competition then ? Have any one ever heard that Government is paying you in advance to deliver ?

  5. Well before you comment, you should know that not for Mr Tyagi the IOC would still have been some time away forget about the first aircraft delivery....

    The final SOP needs to be frozen for any mass production to begin. we cant have each aircraft diff from other,,,that kills the jigs, the tools, the testers and on and on....

    lets not malign the image of man who tried to make the difference and he did...

  6. I don't know if saying they are in competition with themselves is a complement or not. I automatically implies that they have blinkered vision and do not do periodic comparison with world leaders in the industry. Much smaller aviation in companies in terms of manpower and resources have equal turnover as HAL and firmly established in world markets. HAL has no apprentice entry at all that is why there is skill shortage for production. In all global companies there is an excellent apprentice entry where they are taught basic skills and the brightest go onto becoming Directors of the company also.Clearly HAL has to come out of its cocoon, behave as a true accountable corporate entity and be serious about producing the real need of the nation in a clearly profitable manner without poaching on defence budgets for their existence.

  7. ok like iaf has to fly against itself

  8. A leader who kept a laser focus on the job at hand on delivering the Tejas to the forces rather than getting caught up in controversies.

    I find it hilarious that the IAF has the gall to criticize HAL for not delivering the Tejas when they should be thankful that Tejas is finally getting delivered despite all the hurdles they created over the years. Instead of being an able partner, they have fought and even tried to derail the project at every step. I am sure all this will be paid back with interest when the new defence minister starts training his guns on the IAF in a short while. The brash bunch with their heads in the clouds will come crashing down to earth then.

  9. HAL is a bogus company and if it ever is taken public the only buyer would be LIC.

  10. News out today confirms that Medium Lift transport RFP has been cancelled by MoD in favor of accelerating the MRTA project between HAL & Russia's UAC
    Corporation. Great win for HAL and a clear sign that the new Defence Minister believes that HAL's capabilities can be leveraged in the future, albeit with stricter monitoring and oversight. "Danda Laga ke haisa" !

    Great news all around. Looking forward to the MRTA announcement at AERO India 2015.

  11. Col., you raised a lot of dust over the sudden termination of the extended contract for Dr. Chander. It appears that he may have been sacked after all for good reason.


  12. It now appears that Chander was sacked because of allegations of corruption, nepotism and possibly more !


  13. "HAL only in competition with HAL" - You can add that to the wikipedia page on "Monopolies".


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