Mahindra has become one of the leading partners of Airbus as the European group seeks to increase its market share in India. Over the next ten years, through this and other partnerships, Mahindra aims to become a major player in aerostructures.
One area of cooperation with Airbus is helicopters. In July 2015, Airbus Helicopters and Mahindra Defence Systems announced the creation of a joint venture to build helicopters in India. In the spring of 2016, Airbus even proposed to transfer technology and move the Panther assembly line from France to India if the Indian government selected the Panther, recalls Pierre de Bausset, president of Airbus Group India.
The Indian armed forces are looking to renew their existing helicopter fleets and have formulated a number of specific requirements, such as the Naval Utility Helicopter, involving at least 100 light helicopters for the Indian Navy. The Franco-Indian JV is offering the AS565 MBe Panther to renew the current fleet of Alouette III/Chetaks.
Mahindra Aerospace is also producing fuselage parts for the AS565 MBe Panther in its Bangalore facility under a contract signed in July 2016
In addition to helicopters, the Indian group supplies parts for Airbus aircraft. At the 2015 Paris Air Show, Mahindra Aerospace announced a contract to deliver over one million metallic parts per year to Premium Aerospace, Airbus’ German subsidiary. Shriprakash Shukla, who heads up Mahindra Group’s aerospace and defence business, explains that Airbus certified the plant near Bangalore in fiscal year 2014-2015. Since then, he adds, the plant has produced more than one million parts, used on all Airbus aircraft.
The 25,000m2 Mahindra Aerospace aerostructures factory near Bangalore was inaugurated in October 2013. The company, part of the Mahindra conglomerate, is a newcomer on the local aerospace scene. It was created in 2008, then acquired Aerostaff Australia, an aircraft components manufacturer. The company diversified in 2009 when it bought another Australian firm, Gipps-Aero, which produces light utility aircraft. Today Mahindra Aerospace builds the Airvan 8 and Airvan 10, seating eight and ten passengers, respectively. The Airvan 8 has been certified in India, and the company is currently looking for customers among local carriers. Shukla believes that the aircraft could be used to connect medium-sized cities to the large metropolitan centres without the need for major investments in airport infrastructure.
The third prong of the company’s partnership with Airbus concerns Tech Mahindra, a specialist in digital transformation, consulting and business re-engineering. Tech Mahindra opened an R&D centre in Toulouse in March 2016 to reinforce its proximity to the European group. The centre provides engineering design around aerostructures, digital manufacturing solutions, aftermarket support, business IT services and consulting.
Mahindra first arrived in Toulouse in 2012 when IT services provider Mahindra Satyam opened a development centre with an investment of $1m and an initial workforce of around 30 people. The partnership with Airbus started in 2004, when it began to develop electrical systems for the A380, before becoming involved in the A350 programme. Mahindra Satyam merged with Tech Mahindra in 2012.
Mahindra’s partnerships in France are not confined to Airbus. On 14th February, Mahindra Aerospace announced a new agreement with Ségneré, based in Tarbes. Shukla says the two companies will cooperate in aerostructures production, boosting the Indian firm’s know-how in the production of titanium, steel and Inconel-type alloy parts.