India can become a manufacturing powerhouse, says Oerlikon's global CEO

Armed with 'faith' in the India story, Oerlikon's global CEO Brice Koch shares the Swiss technology conglomerate's plan to expand its presence here

Published: Jun 3, 2015

Age: 50
Education: Graduate in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich; PhD in material science
Career: Spent close to two decades with ABB Group
Interests: Technology, sports

The $3.5-billion Oerlikon—a Swiss technology conglomerate head-quartered at Pfäffikon, Zurich—has been doing business in India since 1984. The company—a world leader in surface solutions, man-made fibres, transmission and drive systems and vacuum technology—is now expanding its presence in the country. In an email interview, Brice Koch, global CEO, Oerlikon, tells Forbes India about the firm’s future plans. Excerpts:

Q. How has the India experience been so far?
Our experience of doing business in India for over three decades may be described as one of our ‘fruitful partnerships’. We are market leaders, with two of our segments—surface solutions and man-made fibres—having over 50 percent market share here in their respective markets. Our longest operating segment in India, man-made fibres, has been the lynchpin of the Indian non-cotton textile space. Similarly, the surface solutions segment has been a key partner of automotive and auto component firms in India for two decades. Oerlikon’s Drive Systems segment, which began in 1999, caters to the domestic agricultural equipment and construction machinery sectors.

Q. Where do you see future growth coming from?
We see growth opportunities in many sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, urban mass transport, automotive and man-made fibres. The acquisition of Metco in 2014 has opened up further opportunities for us in India, particularly in the attractive aerospace sector. We are confident that with the new government identifying infrastructure and agriculture as areas that deserve an expansion thrust, our technologies will grow with the market. 

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Image: Getty Images

Q. Do you see merit in the ‘Make in India’ initiative?
‘Make in India’ is a remarkable initiative which can, in the medium term, make India a manufacturing powerhouse, similar to her established prowess in the services sector. As a company, we have implicit faith in this mission and that is the reason we chose to set up a third manufacturing plant here in 2012.

Q. What are the changes required for the initiative to succeed?  

A stable and predictable regulatory regime and transparency in dealing with government agencies is what companies need. We believe the Modi government will deliver on this, and our own experience with their approach in Gujarat leaves us with no doubt.

Q. What lessons does India offer you?
India is a challenging but fascinating market as our customers are continuously seeking value in what they buy. They are very demanding in terms of innovative, yet cost-effective, technologies. This is an important lesson for all companies coming to India—the opportunity is huge but we cannot take the customer for granted and have to deliver as per local requirements.

(The writer travelled to Zurich at the invitation of the company)

(This story appears in the 12 June, 2015 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Subrata Banerjee

    for a long time since childhood i was struck to understand that oerlinkin were only making welding rods but really interesting to know about their thurst areas and operation fields apart from that its thumbs up to the present govt regime to come up with a noble and realistic idea of make in INDIA . i will not hold any ones dream upfront because me too had dreamt of a made in india labels when used the sub standard products labelled as made in china as if we were offered anything free of cost, i accept we need economical products but not cheap ones thanks to brice koch to mention what economy means in term of value and money. keep posts like these in your regular reads.

    on Jul 1, 2015
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