OneIndia Exclusive: Tejas has put India on a vibrant technology flightpath, says HAL Chairman Tyagi

By: Dr Anantha Krishnan M
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Bengaluru, Jan. 28: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) Chairman Dr R K Tyagi said that the Company is on a steady flight-path to break into the list of Top-20 world Aerospace and Defence firms in the next couple of years. [Sukhoi to fire 1st Brahmos missile in March: HAL]

In an exclusive and freewheeling interview granted to OneIndia, the soft-spoken taskmaster of HAL also predicted that Company has all the capabilities to attain the Maharatna status by 2019.

Scheduled to address his farewell press conference in Bengaluru today, Tyagi's three-year tenure can be marked as a period that witnessed minimum controversies, though his fierce critics within still opine that he could have ‘done more.'

First Series Production Tejas was handed to IAF during Tyagi 's tenure

"Yes, I do agree I could have done more, but I would appreciate if a man's worth is marked by what he did within the available time and constrains. I have taken criticisms head-on and never feared to justify my stand. I took over as HAL Chairman at a time when the Company was going through a series of uncertainties, which you might have reported extensively.

My main aim was not only to bring new-tech to HAL in the name of modernization, but also to upgrade the skills of my people, right from the shop-floor, through a series of HR reforms," Tyagi was candid with his take-off remarks.

HR reforms remained main focus

With HR being HAL's top concerns over the last one decade, Tyagi is credited with launching a series of HR measures in the last three years. While some of his decisions (job rotation) attracted staunch criticism from many, Tyagi refused to bow down to the pressures.

"Developing human capital has to be the prime focus of a leader in any Company. What are machines sans brainy men and women? I realized HAL should never get stuck in a leadership crisis in future and hence infused a transparent succession plan for senior positions, which is convincing and competent," Tyagi said.

During his tenure, HAL conducted an Employee Satisfaction Survey among 9555 executives to identify key areas of improvement in technical and non-technical streams. Insiders say that senior officers who attended interviews for promotion are now made to make power-point presentations on strategy, challenges and action plan.

When asked about one take-away from his HR measures, Tyagi said: "Not one, there are many and let my people talk about it. But, the post-retirement health scheme and pension scheme are initiatives that has touched many lives," Tyagi said.

Modernisation got more teeth

Tyagi said the modernisation investment proposal worth Rs 7200 core cleared by the HAL Board has set the pace for Company's growth head. "In a cut-throat competition scenario, you can only survive by ensuring timely delivery of quality products. Time-management comes through inspired and skilled workforce. New-age technologies can roll out quality products and we have not wasted any time in the last three years to invest in manufacturing technologies," he said.

HAL put in place a proper succession plan during his tenure

He said the lessons from the successful Hawk production lines have been replicated at the state-of-the-art Tejas series production facility. "The legacy of good practices in a Company needs to be spread across all over. Hawk production set new benchmarks in HAL. We have written to MoD that Tejas production can be doubled and more numbers need to be ordered as well," Tyagi said.

Bold steps for a better future

Tyagi's tenure will probably be remembered for the bold steps HAL management took while dealing with the Indian Air Force (IAF). Deviating from the traditional norm of ‘finally-falling-in-line-with-forces,' HAL took a firm stand on certain burning issues.

"Taking bold decisions cannot be seen as an arrogant step. While we are here to serve our armed forces with the IAF being our largest customer, I am obliged to the people of my Company to protect their interests. Everyone wants us to think-out-of-the-box and when we do that why are we facing opposition?" he asked.

More in-house funds allocated to the LCH project

Tyagi worked his way through the Board and convinced them on the need to continue with the in-house basic trainer HTT-40 programme, despite the IAF showing no interest in it. Similarly, HAL opposed the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) ‘private-sector only Avro replacement tender' -- still a sticky puzzle even Defence Minister Manohar Parriakr is finding it difficult to crack.

The decision to go for additional technology demonstrators for the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) with in-house funds is seen as attempt by HAL to tide over time overruns, which the Company is often accused of.

"If Dhruv and Rudra put HAL into the global market, the LCH will take us one step ahead. We created a record-of--sorts with the Hawk production and completed the deliveries ahead of the schedule. Sadly, there weren't many praising us. While a project getting delayed can be attributed to many factors, we are often projected as the lead agency causing the delay, which is unfair," Tyagi said.

More Tejas to justify Make in India dream

Terming Tejas as one of the finest flying machines of his times, Tyagi hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make in India dream will find more answers by HAL getting additional orders for Tejas.

"Tejas has inspired Indian aerospace and defence community. It has given confidence to our industry to partner with a national programme. Tejas has put India on a vibrant technology flightpath that will fetch glory for all other future projects as well. I am impressed by PM Modiji's push for the making military ware in India," Tyagi added.

Success model of Hawk production was replicated in other projects

Finally, when asked whether HAL is geared up to partner with more industry and aggressively market its capability to take up home-grown projects, Tyagi said: "Making food at home is definitely a better option than going for home delivery. We are here to propel the dreams of the nation. My children including Tejas, Dhruv, Rudra, LCH and many more to come will propel my Company's growth. We are ready for the challenges. Welcome to a bold HAL (smiles). We are here to stay."

As Tyagi takes a return flight to Delhi probably charting his next plans, HAL might have seen a Chairman who tried his bit to walk the talk. "I don't need any credit. Give it to my people who backed my decisions. Without them, I would have been just another R K Tyagi," he concluded.

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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