French defence and electronics major Thales will give more scholarships to high-performing Indian students as it seeks to attract the "world's best talent" to France's top-notch graduate schools.
The company is offering 35 scholarships this year to students from India, Brazil, China and Russia under its Thales Academia Initiative that was launched in 2006.
"The initiative is designed to attract the world's best talent to continue and complete their education within France's higher education establishments," Thales chairman and CEO Denis Ranque said.
Each scholar will receive a Thales Academia grant of 13,000 euros, in addition to a French foreign ministry package that includes a visa, and social security and housing support.
"They will be personally mentored by a Thales manager and offered an internship with the group, Ranque, who rarely interacts with the media, told IANS during a visit in New Delhi.
"This is part of our global corporate social responsibility effort. We asked ourselves what we could do for others. The answer lay in helping the youth of countries like India learn the latest technologies and sharpen their skills," Ranque explained.
A number of establishments have already signed up for the Thales Academia Initiative. They include some of Europe's most prestigious graduate schools, such as members of the ParisTech network, as also the premier HEC and ESSEC business school.
If needed, the scholars will receive free intensive French-language training from their local Alliance Française in India before they leave for France.
"They will then be invited to follow an advanced specialised course in engineering, science or business management at a renowned French university or graduate school of their choice," Ranque said.
Says Thales country corporate director for India François Dupont, "We hope to see this programme develop from strength to strength each year, with even more possibilities opening up to talented Indian students.
"It is important to create such links between France and India and also between higher education and industry. Students have the opportunity to spend work placement time with us, which along with giving them a very useful experience of industry also allows them to create a network of contacts with the company," Dupont added.
Thales Academia's first year saw 21 scholars pursuing courses as varied as a Masters of Computer Science to a Masters of International Risk Management. Indian students represented 20 percent of the 2006 intake. Eight Indians availed themselves of the scholarship in 2007.
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.
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 hopes for a repeat order later this year for another six submarines.
The French government holds a 75 per cent stake in DCNS.
Thales, which views India as a major R&D base, plans to 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," Dupont said.
Thales has also floated two joint ventures with two Indian companies - Rolta and Samtel - to develop a range of IT-based solutions for the defence and civil aviation sectors.
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.