French defence and electronics major Thales is eyeing more joint ventures (JV) with Indian companies as it seeks to deepen its engagement with this country where it first established a footprint half a century ago.
"We want to create permanent joint ventures with Indian companies in the private and public sectors," Thales chairman and CEO Denis Ranque said.
"We will bring in the technology and our Indian partners will bring in the markets," Ranque, who rarely interacts with the media, told IANS. He was a member of the large business delegation that accompanied French President Nicolas Sarkozy on his maiden visit here from January 25-26.
"We already have a joint venture with Rolta and are looking at one with Samtel," Ranque added.
Rolta is a leading provider and developer of IT-based GeoSpatial Information Systems (GIS), engineering design automation solutions and eSecurity services worldwide.
"Through this tie-up, we will be able to leverage the broad spectrum of cutting-edge technologies, systems and solutions from Thales and Rolta's leadership in the Indian market," Ranque explained.
The JV will develop command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (C4ISTAR) systems for the Indian armed forces and for international markets.
"We are in an advanced stage of negotiations with Samtel," Ranque said, declining to give further details.
But, going by the speed with which the Rolta deal was stitched, it shouldn't be long before the other JV also comes through.
"The speed at which we did it was incredible. In just 18 months we conducted negotiations, worked out the details and signed the legal papers," Ranque pointed out.
Samtel is one of India's largest manufacturers of a range of electronic components like colour TV picture tubes, monochrome display and industrial tubes, glass parts, electron guns, heaters, cathodes and deflection yokes.
Given this, it would be logical to assume that the JV would tailor its products to the requirements of the armed forces.
Thales, which expects orders of 250-300 million euros from India during 2008, has a broad footprint in the country's defence and civil aviation sectors.
Earlier this month, it signed a deal believed to be worth $50 million to convert four to six Indian Navy minesweepers into state-of-the-art mine hunters
"There will be a complete change of the sonar suites and combat systems to give the vessels leading edge capabilities," a top Thales executive said, speaking on condition of anonymity since the project has not yet been officially announced.
Through DCNS, a company in which it has a 25 per cent stake, Thales is also engaged in the construction of six Scorpene submarines at Mumbai's Mazagon Docks, even as it is "completely open to collaboration" with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the fabrication and launch of satellites.
The French government holds a 75 per cent stake in DCNS.
Talks on the ISRO project began after Thales acquired French electronics giant Alcatel's satellite division last September.
Thales, which employs some 120 people in Delhi and Mumbai, will also ramp up its 150-strong IT operations at Chennai to 1,000 in the next few years.
"The Chennai centre looks after our global software operations with a small amount of work being done for our projects in India," the official said.
Globally, Thales employs 22,000 R&D engineers out of a total workforce of 68,000 employees in 50 countries with 2007 revenues forecast in excess of 12 billion euros.