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Domestic capabilities should be based on cutting edge technologies: Rajeev Kaul, Aequs Aerospace MD&CEO

Formerly known as Quest Global Manufacturing, Aequs Pvt Ltd is a precision engineering and manufacturing company that caters to the aerospace industry.

Rajeev Kaul, Aequs Aerospace MD&CEO

Formerly known as Quest Global Manufacturing, Aequs Pvt Ltd is a precision engineering and manufacturing company that caters to the aerospace industry. It has facilities in the US and France and counts global giants such as Airbus and Boeing among its customers. The group generates about $ 100 million in sales with over 3000 employees worldwide and has the distinction of being India’s fastest-growing aerospace company, with a CAGR of more than 50% year-on-year for 5 years.

Rajeev Kaul, MD & CEO, Aequs Aerospace talks about the Company’s programmes and investments and vision for the Aerospace sector with Huma Siddiqui. Following are excerpts:

What is the company’s vision for aerospace sector in India, especially under the Make in India initiative?

‘Make in India’ initiative should bring about the change in how the private sector is perceived. The private players and government organization have to work in a collaborative approach to make it work. These should be encouraged in addition to developing the capabilities of the industry to cater to exports. Domestic capabilities should also be built based on cutting-edge technology in terms of designing and developing state-of-the-art systems.

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At Aequs, our business model is not only to manufacture high volume machined parts and assemblies at competitive prices, but also to create the manufacturing ecosystem. This consists of several facilities supporting the entire manufacturing value stream right from raw material management to assembly and to maximize our in-country value add.

This unique ecosystem facilitates less production cycle time, saving on time and cost of transportation and helps to deliver best-in-class products to customers at competitive prices. We have earned several quality certifications and our special processing facility is approved by aerospace giants like Airbus and Boeing and HAL to name a few.

To further leverage the “Make in India” initiative, Aequs will continue to invest in bringing in new technologies to its global aerospace manufacturing ecosystem.

What are the investments made and what kind of skillsets are being given to the engineers?

In order to address the skill gap, Aequs has been proactively involved to impart specialized skills required in aerospace manufacturing – especially in critical operations like forging, turning and milling, special processing and quality inspection.

Aequs Aerospace has introduced a systematic training program to nurture its in-house talent pool. Our proprietary Aerospace Knowledge Center (AKC) provides a 30-month long programme for fresh engineering graduates and diploma holders. The primary objective of AKC is to build a bridge between the new entrants and the industry so that they understand the industry norms and applications to perform better. While Level 1 comprises the basic training, the qualified candidates receive their advanced training in Level 2. Once they clear both levels, they reach Level 3 which is function-based training. Such a systematic training program ensures suitable grooming for the industry and helps close the skill gaps for aerospace workplaces. We have also been partnering with colleges in our local community to improve their curriculum and include relevant topics on aerospace manufacturing.

Please share something about the Company’s achievements over the past decade.

Since 2009, our focus has been on expanding the core machining business around the global demand for detailed parts and becoming an industry leader in this market segment.

To meet the demand in our target market, our investments have focused heavily on new machines, equipment, and technology in India. Our dedicated facility for Airbus and our new Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) facility are testaments to our commitment to this strategy. Outside India, our plan has been to position ourselves near key customers and the same was fulfilled with two acquisitions, one in the United States and another in France. The U.S. acquisition brought access to North American customers such as Boeing, Spirit, and Triumph while strengthening our existing relationship with UTAS. The France acquisition brought new capabilities in landing gear and engine components while providing significant access to Safran. Indeed, our ecosystem approach has brought with its customer accolades; in October 2016 we were presented with the Airbus Innovation Award for our verticalized business approach.

While these investments have come at the expense of profitability in the short term, we believe they were both critical to establishing a global presence with key customers and supporting our long-term competitive advantage in India. One of the major milestones include securing our first major win with the A321 Plug Door, demonstrating customer confidence in delivering a complete assembly out of India. In the pipeline, Aerostructures Assembly, our Saab JV, has been awarded to manufacture the structural assembly for the Over Wing Doors (OWD) on the Airbus A320neo program.

Aequs, today, holds an important and unique position in the commercial aerospace industry globally.

What role is your company playing in the ecosystem for the aerospace sector?

As an organization that is agile to current trends and newer opportunities, we will continue to expand by bringing new technologies to our ecosystem, which will ensure the company’s business will at least triple form the current $ 100 million in the next 3 years. Today, we are one of India’s fastest-growing aerospace companies with a CAGR of 30 per cent over the past six years. We are also investing approximately $ 20-30 million per year to expand our capabilities and bring new technologies and development to the global aerospace manufacturing ecosystem.

What is Aequs Foundation about?

Aequs Foundation is committed to the sustainable and inclusive growth of the community in the close vicinity of Aequs SEZ. By improving infrastructure and academic facilities, we want to create awareness on issues of health, hygiene, and safety. Aequs Foundation has already touched the lives of over 90% of government school children residing around Aequs SEZ through various social undertakings with multi-dimensional impact.

With the belief that ‘quality education for all’ is fundamental for our digital future, we have sent up mobile science labs and a digital learning centre. We also want to foster a passion for science in young curious minds. With the help of our Science and Technology Centre in Hubbali, we are making this a reality by inducing students to STEM subjects to strengthen their science backgrounds and have a future in the STEM field.

Focused health check-up camps and education on hygienic practices, environmental education, computer programmes, digital learning centres, mobile computer labs, career orientation workshops, fire and road safety awareness, etc. are some of the projects currently undertaken by the foundation.

With these programs and initiatives, today we are impacting more than 11,000 students covering 83 government schools across 69 villages in and around our manufacturing facility in Belagavi, Karnataka. Aequs Foundation continues to focus on the identified areas and affirmative action on a sustainable basis.

What is Koppal Cluster?

Our 260+ acres aerospace SEZ in Belagavi with 27 fully functional units, also the country’s first privately held aerospace manufacturing ecosystem is buzzing with activity and inflow of global customers. Aequs is the driving force behind the upcoming launch of India’s first 400-acre toy manufacturing ecosystem in Koppal, Karnataka, in 2020 as part of Government of Karnataka’s Toy Cluster initiative. The cluster will house capabilities like design, molding, die-casting, and painting, PCBA, printing/packaging and poised to create 100,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2025.

The cluster spanning 400 acres will have benefits addressing both SEZ for exports and DTA area for the domestic market. This facility is poised to cater to all the infrastructure requirements of the toy – plastic and electronic – industry. It will offer features and benefits unmatched elsewhere in India with the capability to design and develop capacities as per customer requirements. The cluster aims to manufacture high-end electronic toys.

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