Smiths Interconnect has expanded its presence in India, as Giuseppe Lancella explains to Neil Tyler.

India is projected to be among the world’s fastest-growing economies for the remainder of this decade and Smiths Interconnect has been trading with India and establishing relationships with key players over the last 10 year.

The Indian electronics market has been growing rapidly, whether consumer electronics or industrial electronics, computers or communications and broadcasting equipment, offering companies significant opportunities and as a result, encouraged increased levels of investment.

The Indian government has also initiated a number of projects, from Smart City to Digital India, which have created increased demand along with encouraging skills development schemes and innovation within the domestic electronics industry.

As part of the company’s India growth strategy, in July 2019 Smiths Interconnect established its first legal entity in Bangalore with Giuseppe Lancella, Smiths Interconnect’s General Manager India, leading a small, experienced team to focus on opportunities in the fast developing Indian economy.

“The company’s investment in India has the objective to further develop the space, defence, aerospace and rail transportation market segments in the country,” explains Lancella.

Smiths Group has an already established position within India through its divisions, John Crane, Smiths Detection and Flex-Tek and now with Smiths Interconnect entering the market, has an opportunity to accelerate growth and strengthen its overall brand position.

“The new team are a dedicated local sales team combined with office staff (customer service and finance) and supported by a network of indirect representatives as well as distributors,” says Lancella.

Key markets

There is a significant market for Smiths Interconnect’s connectivity solutions in India, Lancella explains.

“Today, we are capturing only a limited portion of our focus market segments, so there is considerable potential growth available, particularly in satellite communications, broadband and space applications. With an ambitious yet feasible target of growth, the company now has its broadest and most innovative range of products for all these applications.”

In looking to penetrate the Indian communications market, Smiths Interconnect is offering a complete line of network flexible Ku-band and Ka-band SATCOM antenna systems enabled by industry-leading TECOM technology.

“Our SATCOM antenna systems are able to provide non-stop gate-to-gate in-flight connectivity for commercial air transport, business jet and various military applications. While our KaStream 5000 MK II tail-mount antenna systems are fully integrated network agnostic SATCOM terminals featuring commercial and military band coverage and dual switchable circular polarization. This second generation of network-agnostic, high performance broadband antenna system consists of 3 LRUs (Line Replaceable Units), a Satellite Tracking Antenna Assembly (STAA), an Antenna Control Unit (ACU) and a commercially available customer-selected modem,” Lancella explains.

He makes the point that Smiths Interconnect is well placed to play a leading role in bringing state-of-the-art broadband applications to the vast Indian market, as well, helping achieve reliability and efficiency.

“Our time and frequency systems, as well as our board level devices offer accuracy, stability, and remote manageability that are critical for the success of 5G applications.

“Our high reliability connectors have developed a reputation for durability in harsh environments like space. For example, Smiths Interconnect was recently awarded a key contract by Boeing to design, manufacture and supply bespoke connectors for use aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Lunar Gateway.

“Smiths Interconnect’s docking umbilical connectors will be used to transfer vital power, signal and communications to different modules on the space station.”

In the rail business, Smiths Interconnect has established a global presence.

“Several of our sites are IRIS (International Railway Industry Standard) certified, which complements the internationally recognised ISO 9001 quality standard adhering to rail specific requirements,” Lancella says.

The recent acquisition of Reflex Photonics has also added another product line to the company’s portfolio.

“Reflex transceivers complement Smiths Interconnect’s product offering with the addition of a core fibre optic capability that will help address the needs arising from high speed data transmission in market segments requiring high reliability.”

Government support and infrastructure

The Indian market is dynamic and the country’s economy is expected to soon become the world’s fifth largest.

“India already has a very large defence and space budget and is the fourth largest in terms of capital expenditure when it comes to their rail network,” points out Lancella. He continues, “There is a pool of talented engineers and graduates that make the country extremely attractive for our company outside of the India context.

“Bangalore offers great technicians in the electronics sector, so we found a particularly favourable environment when we started hiring.”

The government is pushing a “Make in India” policy and encouraging investment from foreign companies by offering incentives and favourable taxation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the journey towards economic “self-reliance”, with the objective of strengthening manufacturing capacity, expanding domestic production and boosting the MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) sector via economic stimulus packages and reforms,” according to Lancella. “This has the potential to translate in to increased production of electronic equipment in the country, as well, ranging from transport to defence.”

Looking at sectors like defence, space and electronics the Indian government has enacted new reforms in order to attract investment and strengthen local manufacturing.

“These reforms coupled with the shift of companies outside China, due to the on-going US-China diplomatic tensions, have the potential to favour India with a shift in production by global companies to this country in terms of a safety-net approach, giving a significant boost to local manufacturing capacity within the sub-continent, as a consequence,” Lancella believes.

This may also produce an increased demand for local testing, with a potential growth of demand for the company’s cable harnesses for test applications which is another of Smiths Interconnects areas of expertise. “Our high-performance microwave cable assemblies and coaxial components support critical operations, with application-specific premium interconnects for high durability.

“Our cables are also available with customised option packages and are especially well-suited for precision testing applications and harsh environments in aircraft, marine, space and ground applications.”

COVID-19 pandemic

“As our products and services are instrumental to the continued operation of essential industries such as medical/healthcare, aerospace, defence, rail, communications and digital infrastructure, our sites have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic whilst taking appropriate precautions to protect the health of our workers,” explains Lancella. “Our primary concern will always be the safety of our people, and of all those we work with, so each of our sites support employees by incorporating safety strategies and protocols taking appropriate precautions to protect the health of our workforce.”

Lancella makes the point that due to the on-going impact of the pandemic the company has monitored the potential effect that this ‘unprecedented situation’ could have on its supply chain and taken the appropriate measures to minimise any effect on product manufacture and delivery to customers.

“This has resulted in minimal disruption of our operations and consequently it has had very limited impact on our customer base. “Working across nationalities, time zones and cultures is at the forefront of our operating model and at the heart of how we support our customers in times of crisis.”

With India fast becoming one of the largest growing electronics markets in the world with increased levels of investment, growing demand, greater government support and an increasing number of opportunities across a variety of sectors, it’s likely that we will see many more companies following Smiths’ example and establishing a presence there.