Present in India for more than 65 years, Thales has joint ventures with Indian players, including HAL, BEL and L&T Technology Services

Expanding its presence in India, which is an "interesting melting pot" of ideas, Thales Group is discovering new opportunities in the Indian market as it is about competencies as well as business prospects, according to a senior official.

Thales Chief Technology Officer Marko Erman said India is scientifically a very mature country with big ambitions and the company is increasing the number of people working in the country to explore more innovative activities.

The sprawling French Group, with interests in aeronautics, defence, space, transport, digital identity and security segments, already has more than 1,500 employees, including at its joint ventures, besides two engineering centres in India.

"India is very important for us. It is not just about competencies but also about the business prospects there. I think the pluses override the minuses.

"... the software, data competencies are very relevant. This has already contributed to the business... We have been increasing a lot. We are learning how to connect local forces to Thales. On the agenda is how do we expand our engineering," Erman told PTI in an interview here.

Present in India for more than 65 years, Thales has joint ventures with Indian players, including Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and L&T Technology Services.

"There is still room for expansion on that one (open source hardware). That is on the short term. With greater presence in India, we are also discovering new opportunities... We will add initiatives but will discover what makes more sense for our partners and our interests," he said.

Describing India as an "interesting melting pot" of ideas, Erman said Thales is spending time at the highest level of the management to learn more about the country as it then would be much easier to do business.

When asked about projects related to India, especially in the digital innovation space, Erman said Thales is in a phase of increasing its footprint in engineering and development in India.

"Part of it is in digital. It is a recognition of talent and importance of the country for Thales globally... India has a few places where there are strong open source hardware initiatives. This is a field we are entering into today. We are cooperating with one of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)," Erman noted.

Thales has been present in India since 1953. Its two engineering centres in India is spread across three locations -- Noida and Gurgaon in the National Capital Region (NCR), and Bangalore. The centre in NCR is focused on digital identity and security, while the one in Bangalore, started in February 2019, is into defence, aerospace and transportation.

"We are increasing our engineering footprint, digital competencies... we are moving towards innovation-driven approach with India as well. We are increasing the number of Thales people working in India to explore more innovative activities," Erman said.

According to him, the engineering footprint is not just about using Indian talent but hopefully grabbing Indian ideas, Indian innovation as well. There are local innovations and would like to make these available for Thales as well as bring value to the country, he noted.

"This is a scientifically very mature country (India) with big ambitions," he said even as he added that the country is very different, the processes can be slow to its standards and "slow may be because we don't understand... that is on the difficult part".

"I think the perception of time in India is different from the perception of time in Europe. So, things might take time... Surely, it is a country different from the country we are born or working in," he emphasised.

On the positive side, India is open to many countries. Despite the gap in how different the countries are, India is open to Europe and is a kind of open market, he said.

The French group generated 19 billion euros in 2019 and had 80,000 employees across 80 countries.