Copyright 2016, Forbesindia.com

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


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)