Designation : Founder & Managing Director, Kineco Group
Author : Editorial Team
: February 13, 2023
Shekhar Sardessai’s story of building KINECO from ground-up is an inspiring and fascinating story. It is a story of hard work, self-belief and endurance. Within a short span of 25 years Kineco has grown into a formidable industry leader in India in the field of composites. In this interview we trace the journey of Kineco from a small enterprise to a growing venture which contributes invaluable materials to Indian defence and space sectors. An inspirational story towards making India Aatmanirbhar and Sashakt.
Defstrat: In India’s quest for Aatmanirbharta in Defence the role of entrepreneurs like you and your enterprise is most vital. Ultimately it is the home-grown industry that comes up from the grass root levels which is the real face of Indian industry. Please tell us briefly about your personal and the Kineco’s journey so far.
Shekhar: Kineco’s inception in 1995 stemmed from my aim to setup a technology oriented industry enterprise in the manufacturing sector in my home state of Goa. Composites as a new age advanced material was still in nascent stages of adoption in India but the material offered a potential for developing technologically superior solutions as compared to traditional materials such as metal, wood due to its lightweight, high tensile strength and non-corrosive properties.
From a modest beginning in 1995 as a small scale facility of 250 sqm. in Goa, manufacturing industrial FRP equipment, in over two and half decades, Kineco Group is today India’s leading innovator and composites product solutions provider and has consequently positioned itself as the most recognized brand in the composites industry. Today, Kineco offers a wide range of products and processing technologies to customers all over the world, across key industries such as Railways, Defence, Aerospace, Marine, Industrial and Automotive.
As on today, Kineco is the only composites company in India to have two Joint Ventures in India with global industry leaders, namely its first joint venture in the Aerospace and Defence field with Kaman Aerospace Group, Inc. (USA) under the name – Kineco Kaman Composites – India Private Limited (www.kinecokamanindia.com), operational since 2012 and recently its second joint venture in 2021 with Exel Composite Oyj (Finland), world’s leader in the pultruded composites Industry, under the name Kineco Exel Composites India Private Limited (www.kinecoexelindia.com) catering to the wind energy, transportation and telecom industries in India and overseas.
Over the years, Kineco has established many firsts in India, particularly in the defence sector. Our first tryst with Indian defence sector was in our early years when we were called upon to build Fiber Reinforce Plastics (FRP) igloo shelters for Indian Army troops in the Northern Himalayas during and post Kargil war. Soon thereafter, Kineco was awarded a prestigious project by LRDE (Electronics & Radar Development Establishment) for development of Composite 10mt DOU (Dorsal Unit) for AeWACS platform which has been showcased in most of our Republic Day Parades since 2010.
Our breakthrough defence project came in 2012 when Kineco was chosen as an Industry Partner of DRDO and was awarded on a competitive basis, the prestigious contract for the development of India’s first ‘Sonar Dome’- a critical component of a warship which houses the Sonar (Sonar Navigation and Ranging) Array- a large component which is considered as the eyes and ears of a Warship or Submarine, used for detection, navigation, and ranging.
The first prototype was built by Kineco and after 4 years of rigorous efforts, the first prototype was unveiled by the then Hon. Defence Minister Late. Shri. Manohar Parrikar at DEFEXPO India 2016 held in Goa. Kineco has till date supplied 13 Sonar Domes for Indian Navy warships such as P15 Alpha and P-15 Bravo (Vishakhapatnam Class).
Kineco has demonstrated immense success in Public- Private partnerships under the Make in India program for Defence, working alongside almost all the research labs of the DRDO and other defence PSUs. This was reflected not only through the remarkable success of the Sonar Domes Project but also in Kineco’s partnership with DRDO in developing India’s first full carbon fibre light weight rapid deployable, heliportable bridge for military and disaster management applications.
Through numerous successful projects undertaken as a first time development in the country, Kineco has cemented its position as a leading technology provider of Critical Composite Structures for some of India’s signature defence platforms across land based, aerial and marine.
On December 4, 2021 on the occasion of the Indian Navy Day in New Delhi, Kineco was honoured by Hon. Raksha Mantri, Shri Rajnath Singh along with Hon. Union Minister of State for Defence, Shri. Shripad Naik, for its significant contribution to the ‘MAKE IN INDIA’ in Defence.
Defstrat: Kineco Group manufactures advanced composite structural parts and assemblies for aerospace and defence applications using carbon and glass fibre materials and autoclave curing technology. Which are the platforms which are currently using the composite parts made by Kineco’s Aerospace & Defence business?
Shekhar: Kineco’s Aerospace JV, Kineco Kaman has supplied over 700 Mission Crew Workstations (MCWs) to BAE Systems which are installed onboard Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon aircraft, a multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft having one of the most advanced surveillance and reconnaissance, long range anti-submarine warfare capability and used for search and rescue operations. Kineco Kaman is a recipient of BAE Gold Supplier award for 100% performance on Quality & On-Time delivery for this product for last several years.
Kineco Kaman has also industrialized critical Parts & Sub-Assemblies for Airbus A320neo Engine Nacelles under Nacelles program.
Kineco is currently a preferred supplier of VSSC for Structural Components for ISRO’s Launch Vehicles & Satellites. In 2022, Kineco Kaman became India’s first private company to successfully supply the Composite Assembly to VSSC-ISRO for Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III marking India’s historic LVM3-M2/OneWeb India-1 Space launch.
Kineco Kaman has also received a contract for supply of 3 Orbiter Module Adaptor Assembly (OMA) assemblies to ISRO/VSSC for India’s first Human Space Flight Mission – Gaganyaan by December 2023.
Kineco has recently entered into a long term strategic agreement with an Israeli defence OEM for Boeing 737-800 Passenger 2 Freighter (P2F) program and for complete fuselage supply for their global UAV platforms.
Kineco Kaman is the single largest proven composites supplier to HAL having delivered over 35,000 parts for Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and LCA Mk1A platforms.
Defstrat: Since Kineco Group caters to multiple sectors like railways, defence & aerospace, shipbuilding etc, what in your opinion are the peculiarities of the defence and space sectors? Do you face any particular issues especially as you are based out of Goa, a state which is traditionally not home to military hardware related industry?
Shekhar: Each sector has its own nuances. The tendering systems prevalent in railways, defence, space and shipbuilding sector needs reforms wherein the private sector entities such as Kineco which collaborate with the R&D institutions for developing a new technology as production and development partners, find themselves losing out to predatory price bidding in the follow on bulk volume tenders. The low entry barriers and limited protection of IP in government defence contracts challenge the sustainability and economics of domestic defence businesses such as ours. In contrast, the entry barriers with global OEMs like Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce are steep. Any new supplier has to prove its capabilities with these OEMs after qualifying a rigorous quality audit, which entails a substantial cost. The Aerospace sector has its own uniqueness, wherein we are dependent on the western countries for import of almost all the advance raw materials and specialized equipment.
We do not face any particular issues being based in Goa. Our core competency is in our processes and skilled workforce. For our tooling and hardware requirements, we have established a robust vendor ecosystem within Goa and in our neighbouring states. In addition, Kineco Group has always received proactive support and encouragement from the Government of Goa to create new benchmarks in national and international industry landscape.
Defstrat: What are the challenges and opportunities that you foresee as being a part of the private sector defence, aerospace and space industry in India?
Shekhar: On the opportunity front, we see ample scope for private players in all these sectors in India. The Union Government has taken several path breaking policy initiatives and brought in reforms to encourage indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence equipment for promoting self-reliance in defence manufacturing & technology. With the focus on Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat, increasingly more items being included in the negative import list and launch of iDEX scheme for promoting Start-ups & MSMEs, we believe the private sector is going to play a major role in making India self-sufficient for its defense requirements.
ISRO has already set the ball rolling for reforms in the space sector by establishing the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) to allow private companies to use ISRO’s infrastructure. The successful launch of Skyroot Aerospace’s Vikram-S and success achieved by Agnikul Cosmos with their 3D printed rocket engines are shining examples of innovation by Indian space tech start-ups.
Kineco has worked with Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) to develop high pressure pyrogen ignitor cases for GSLV and PSLV satellites. With composites forming a critical element of structure of these launch vehicles, we see immense potential for MSMEs such as ours as key technology providers for the Indian space sector.
The recent award of a Rs 860-crore contract by ISRO to a space consortium of HAL and L&T for the next five Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs) and INR 22,000 crore contract to consortium of Airbus Defence and Space with Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) to procure 56 C295 transport aircraft are landmark events of scale in Indian defence and space sector.
Talking about challenges, self-reliance on key raw materials such as carbon fiber and pre-preg has been a long term hurdle that we have failed cross. This inhibits our ability to be competitive with companies from US/Europe and further such dependencies and long lead and IP rights vested with a handful foreign suppliers of these critical raw materials are major risks particularly in a volatile geo-political environment.
Defstrat: Kineco’s contribution to Vande Bharat trains is commendable as state-of-the-art Vande Bharat is an indigenous initiative and solution. Are there other similar projects in the pipeline?
Shekhar: In mid-2022, Kineco’s railways business bagged its largest ever order of INR 113 Crores for supply and installation of modular interiors for Vande Bharat semi-high speed trains (originally called Train 18), from its esteemed customer, Integral Coach Factory, Chennai.
Earlier that year, Kineco was also awarded with the largest order in the industry for 68 Train Fronts for the same Vande Bharat trains. These orders, together with its already strong order book and performance history on other new trains such as Tejas, Humsafar, etc. have catapulted Kineco to India’s largest rail interior supplier particularly for modern train coaches.
Kineco expects to build on this success and is in discussions with all global OEMs to support them as the dominant supplier of complete coach interiors for the 200 sets of Vande Bharat trains that will be awarded by the Indian Railways to the private rail car builders.
Kineco’s rail business intends to expand its horizons to the global rail market particular in Europe in coming years and hence, in Sept 2022, Kineco launched its proprietary New Gen Rail Product Portfolio for High Speed Trains under its newly conceived international brand “Kineco Global Rail” at the InnoTrans 2022 Expo, Berlin.
Some of the new proprietary products designed and developed by Kineco’s in-house Product Design & Development Centre, spearheaded by global experts of train technologies include PRM Type Toilet Module, Vacuum Pressure Toilet Waste Evacuation System and Automatic Sliding Door Assembly.
Defstrat: What are the future plans for Kineco? Please share your vision for Kineco as the founder of company. Where would you like to see the company a couple of decades from now?
Shekhar: I would like to see Kineco become India’s largest enterprise in the composites field and globally recognized as a brand that stands for best in class quality of its products and services. I would like Kineco to be known as an organization regarded for its people centric culture and good behaviour and be respected for its corporate business practices on ethics, governance, environment health & safety and above all for its compassion towards society.
Defstrat: Start-up India mission has taken off well in the country. India is now home to a number of vibrant MSMEs and Unicorns. What is your message to the young entrepreneurs and the youth of the country who aspire to follow in your footsteps and contribute towards nation building?
Shekhar: In a business story, there are bound to be ups and downs but no event can be seen as a success or a failure, these are only milestones. Entrepreneurs should understand that some milestones take longer to realize than as envisioned in the business plan and these are the moments that test your mettle, strategy and ability to lead the business. It is in such occasions that you have to persevere, focus and stay true to your ambition. Never get disillusioned by relative peer pressure and their opinion of categorizing your business as a success or failure because Success is not final and Failure is not Fatal….
My mantra to budding entrepreneurs is to be driven by accomplishments and focus on making your business a strong economic franchise rather than being swayed by valuations and quick returns by monetising the value of your business early in the entrepreneurial journey.