How This Aerospace Company Inspired by Kalam Flies High

Talking to Mr. Sundaram Ramaswamy Naidu, Founder & Managing Director of Aerospace Engineers Pvt Ltd, Salem.

By A.N Sri Ram

Aerospace is one of the world’s largest and most powerful industrial sectors, providing products and services to the military aircraft, missiles, space, commercial airliners, and general aviation markets. The aerospace industry’s product line is broad because its primary products, flight vehicles, require up to millions of individual parts. In addition, many support systems are needed to operate and maintain the vehicles. In terms of sales, military aircraft have the largest market share, followed by space systems, civil aircraft, and missiles.

The origin of the aerospace industry dates to 1903, when Wilbur and Orville Wright demonstrated an airplane capable of powered, sustained flight. The Wright brothers’ success was due to detailed research and an excellent engineering and development approach. This is one of the fastest-growing industries. Aerospace is the advancement of human technology that enables the travel and exploration of the earth’s atmosphere and the surrounding space. Because of the great emphasis on research and development, most of those who work in aerospace are engineers, scientists, and technicians. 

A conversation with Mr. Sundaram Ramaswamy Naidu, Founder & Managing Director of Aerospace Engineers Pvt Ltd, Salem – one can say he is the Right Brother of our Nation. Experts from his interview:

Q1. Can you tell me about yourself & Aerospace Engineers?

Ans. From an agricultural background from Karipatti village in Salem, I am the Son of a Retired Forest Officer in the State Government Service; I studied Rubber Technology at MIT Chennai and want to become a service person. On 1988 February 8th, I created my own company and worked for Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd (BHEL) Trichy. As they were importing many parts, officials in their Indigenous Development Cell advised me to design a tricky part, and on successful completion, I got a high-value order from them.

On June 18th 1991, I met Dr. Abdul Kalam at HAL Auditorium Seminar in Bangalore, where he spoke about the big vacuum available in aerospace. No Indian companies were making components for airplanes. Later, he introduced many authorities from HAL, and we got our first order from HAL for their “Kiran” Aircraft’s Cockpit Seal. HAL got the technology from BAS & manufactures in India under contract, designed & supported by BAS Systems UK. Those days there were around 400 aircraft. BAS systems were supported with spares all along. In 1991 BAS said they couldn’t support beyond 1995 & all the aircraft would be in AOG condition (Aircraft On Ground). We cannot fly the aircraft for want of One Cockpit seal & there was no company in India manufacturing it.

I approached Kalam & said we would develop the component  & he introduced us to the authorities. Generally, we cannot get approval for aviation products just like that. After submission, our product will have to undergo various quality checks and should be certified by the DRDO lab & should be tested at the ground level. It took 3.5 years to get the first approval. After approval, they allowed us to develop the part.

Q2. What are your Biggest Accomplishments?

Ans. Cockpit Seal was our first order in the aviation industry. This part is available for all the flights. We are proud to claim that the aircraft flying in the Indian skies have our cockpit seal immaterial of any aircraft like Jaguar, Mic 21, Mic 27, Mic 29, etc. Advanced Helicopters, Light Helicopters, Light Compact Helicopters, even now, for the past 28 years, we have been supplying. Every year we supply around 2,000 types of cockpit seals for different aircraft. This is our biggest accomplishment in one area.

We only manufactured rubber parts in the initial 10 – 12 years. 15-years back, we entered into the metallic segment in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd; they called & gave us an opportunity to develop a metallic lubrication oil pump. This pump is like a heart valve for a flight. At that time, they were importing from a French company, which had frequent issues. For this part also, they supported us. We approached IIT Madras & they discussed it with the Precision Engineering Department; then they gave the details about their requirement and also consultancy for us to develop the part, and we were able to successfully complete the lubrication oil pump in one and a half years. As of now, more than 300 + helicopters are flying with our lubricant oil pump. We developed at 40% of the cost of the imports. 60% were the savings for our Government.

Q3. Which are your Prestigious Projects?   

Ans. Even though we have been working for the past 9-years, in September 2021, we got a direct export order for 2,500 parts from Boeing. Very soon, we will be getting the approval for Airbus 295 for Tyre One status.

Q4. Awards, Recognitions & Certifications you got?

Ans. We have received around 14 National Awards & 8 Regional Awards like State Awards, and Southern India Awards, etc. In August 2014, we received a National Level Award for Defence Activities from our Hon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and subsequently, in 2016, we got an MSME Award for successfully completing the “Sukayak Cockpit Seal.”

Q5. What are your Commitments to business?

Ans. We have a manpower strength of 400 + people. We manufacture the products as per the requirements of defense & aerospace only. Our products should exceed the requirements of our customers, and there should not be any issues with any product. Our factory has a quality clinic with around four doctors taking care of in-house rejections. They will do the root cause analysis & will eradicate the failures at the factory level itself.

Q6. Can you share something about your Testing Lab?

Ans. We have ISO 17025 (International Standard) duly certified by MABL of India. 69 Tests are approved at our factory. Since last year, we have been doing in-house testing duly certified by Boeing, Airbus, HAL & DRDO, and they all have approved our lab. If any customers are coming for PDI (Pre Dispatching Inspection), they can witness the test & they will clear it on the site itself.

Q7. What are the Challenges in your business?

Ans. We love to face quality challenges for our customers – we always want to give zero-defect products. As first-generation entrepreneurs, we don’t have big funds and mostly depend on banks for money. When we go for sourcing of funds from investors, the investors show interest in taking over the company. Big fishes want to swallow the small fishes. In the Tamil Nadu corridor, the aerospace defense industry should come & we also want to create as many entrepreneurs as possible in this segment. We are not interested in selling our company. There are very big opportunities available for Indian SMEs in aerospace; we invite young blood to venture into this field and compete with foreigners. We can make an international quality product at Indian Cost itself.

Q8. What Support from the Government will still be more helpful?

Ans. Make in India “Aathmanirbar” is an excellent support from our Government. The State Government is also supporting us. Aerospace is a top field, and if they give some concessions, it will be helpful for survival. For example, if we develop a new product, the gestation period is too long & the fate of the developed product will be known only after 24 months. So, if they can support us on investment, survival won’t be an issue.

Q9. What are your Future plans?

Ans. Our ambition is to manufacture a small 10 or 20-seater aircraft in India, in Tamil Nadu. We can get the technology from outside and develop the product domestically per Indian requirements. In the future, we can plan for exports as well. We also have an export of air hostess materials for the Egyptian Government. We export the parts to Egypt, train them, and we plan to cater to the rest of other countries in the future.

Since the aviation and space industry is growing rapidly, there are bound to be numerous job opportunities in multiple spheres. Job opportunities are available in Airlines, Air Force, Defence Ministry, Helicopter Companies, Aviation Companies, NASA, and many other companies. It generates economic growth, creates jobs, and facilitates international trade and tourism. With go-getters like Sundaram Ramaswamy, there is space – Aerospace.