Boeing’s investment in India will go beyond money. The US aircraft manufacturer is also looking to invest in capabilities, infrastructure, and partnerships to enable aerospace to be an economic growth engine, Dennis A Muilenburg, president and CEO, Boeing, tells HT in an interview. Edited excerpts.
On the Make in India initiative
Boeing is engaged in a long-term commitment to build aerospace capacity here in India. The Make in India strategy is important to us and it is something that we have internalised. We are building capabilities of supply chain depth here for the long run. Our intent is to invest in a way that builds talent base, supply chain and capability, which will enable aerospace to be an economic growth engine here.
Are you looking at developing the fifth generation F-series aircraft in India?
Subject to all government-to-government agreements, that is an area of future investment we are interested in. On the specific question of Super Hornet as a potential Make in India example, with the context of our ability to invest in the Super Hornet here and build and industrial capability, we see it as a catalyst to the bigger strategy. We have offered ideas in this area. Conversations are ongoing. We think there is a great opportunity for us to bring Super Hornet to India that will fulfill an operational need, but even more importantly think about it as a capability investment and architect it as a broad industrial investment, build up a supply chain that has industrial capability, not only to design but also to manufacture for the full lifecycle of the products. We see Super Hornet as an opportunity to do that to tie directly with the Make in India strategy.
Has there been an official offer on developing Super Hornet in India?
I would not say there is an official offer. This is a conversation we are having with interested parties right now.
How rapidly can we expect the Super Hornet manufacturing project to take off?
It could happen quite rapidly. It requires government-to-government agreement. It requires a customer here who makes a decision on projects it wants to pursue. In terms of our ability to execute the project, ramp up supply chain and skills base, that is something we can move up on fairly quickly.
What is the kind of investment that Boeing is looking at in India?
Ultimately it will be measured in billions of dollars. But it is more than money. It is investment in skills. It is investment in capabilities, infrastructure, and partnerships. When I think about Boeing investment in the future, when we look around the globe, when we look at GDP growth, we look at supply chain development, growth of the middle class... All the ingredients are present here in India. So this is one of our targeted investment areas for the long run. That is the kind of perspective that we want to bring here. The work that Prime Minister Modi is doing in the area of ease of doing business is an enabler for that. Things like Make in India, start-ups in India, skills are big proponents of all of those initiatives and as enablers for long-term investment.
What are the key hurdles you foresee?
The key here is making this big step from a buyer of technology to (developing) indigenous manufacturing capability. That is why projects like Super Hornet have the mass and critical size that can accomplish that kind of objective. This requires big investment in skills and technology. Not many countries in the world have that capability to make that big step from supply chain capability to indigenous design and manufacturing capability. We think India has that capability and that’s why we want to invest here.
What are your views on the government’s moves to make doing business easier in India?
We are very encouraged by the progress on that front. We know that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it a focus area to be able to attract investment and make India a great place to do business. Things like modifications to offset policies, business ownership policies, things that allow us to invest and innovate, we are seeing a lot of progress there.