Five years ago, the possibility of small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) participating in the defence manufacturing sector seemed distant, but today, it is a tangible reality. The Defence Conclave 2023, held at KCT (Kumaraguru College of Technology), served as a pivotal platform bringing together students, defence personnel, and MSMEs. The conclave aimed to enlighten MSMEs about the vast opportunities and challenges present in the defence sector, fostering collaboration and indigenous production. 

The conclave featured stalls set up by the Navy and Air Force, displaying over 200 components that require indigenization. The Defence officials firmly believe in the potential of MSMEs to manufacture defence components, prompting this encouraging collaboration. The annual increase in the defence budget, driven by the high import costs of foreign equipment, has necessitated a shift towards indigenous production. By increasing trade with MSMEs, the Indian economy can flourish, resulting in mutual growth for all stakeholders. However, achieving indigenization is a demanding and time-consuming process. 

Distinguished dignitaries graced the conclave, providing valuable insights into their expectations from MSMEs and the support they can offer for enhancing product quality. Among the esteemed guests were AIR Marshal M Matheswaran AVSM VM, Mr. M Ramachandran, Dr. C Senthilkumar, Commodore Yogesh C Pandey, Air Commodore Vishnu Gaur, Commodore Sen Gupta, Colonel PVS Nageshwara Rao, Dr. S Aniyan, Dr. B Vinodh Kumar, Mr. G Thirumurugan, and Ms. S Baby. 

Events like the Defence Conclave and Defence Expo play a pivotal role in creating awareness and fostering collaborations between MSMEs and the defence sector. Encouraging students to take up projects related to defence products and technology innovations, in partnership with industries, instils the idea of indigenous production in young minds. If India successfully addresses aerospace challenges without foreign intervention, it can undoubtedly become a global leader in this domain. However, MSMEs need to invest time in researching defence intricacies before venturing into the manufacturing sector to ensure better outcomes. It is essential to avoid solely focusing on defence business initially, as other sectors can provide valuable experiences and insights. 

Various challenges confront MSMEs aiming to participate in defence manufacturing. These challenges include acquiring adequate financing, developing the necessary skillsets through training, and navigating the complex purchase process (Tender). To overcome these obstacles, the Defence Conclave emphasized the importance of the Aero Society of India, which acts as a crucial facilitator between R&D entities and industries involved in long-term projects. Participants also discussed the vast untapped potential in the market for equipment repair and maintenance, a segment yet to be fully explored. 

The conclave witnessed in-depth discussions on the industry’s lifecycle and the transformation from a buyer Navy to a builder Navy. The experts highlighted the diverse schemes available for MSMEs and startups to develop their defence products. From each sector, the Navy and Air Force, specific requirements, allocated budgets, and application procedures were presented, streamlining the process for interested MSMEs. Participants also gained insights into collaborating with Public Sector Units (PSUs) and DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization), which are already contributing to defence component manufacturing. 

Colonel PVS Nageshwara Rao stood out by offering mentorship and acting as a bridge between MSMEs and the Defence establishment, facilitating smoother interactions and collaborations. 

The Defence Conclave 2023 proved to be a significant milestone in the journey of MSMEs towards contributing to the defence manufacturing sector. By bringing together various stakeholders, it provided a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and challenges in this domain. The collaboration between MSMEs and the Defence sector promises a thriving ecosystem that fosters indigenous production, reduces import dependence, and strengthens the Indian economy. Events like the Defence Conclave and Defence Expo will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the future of India’s defence manufacturing capabilities and establishing the nation as a self-reliant force on the global stage. 

Mr. Kishore
Assistant Professor II
Department of Automobile Engineering

Vidhun CR
Final year – Mechanical Engineering and 
Dhaarini G
Third year – Computer Science Engineering