The next decade of space industry is poised to touch multi trillion dollars and thus is an opportunity for India to capture a lion’s share

by Wing Commander (V) S. Sudhakaran

Self-reliance in Indian space program as a thought was sown by stalwarts like Vikram Sarabhai and Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam way back in the 1960s. The vision of the founding fathers of the Indian space program was clear: If India were to play a meaningful role in the community of nations, then it must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to their real-life problems.

With these foundational tenets India has grown from strength to strength both in terms of satellite delivery vehicles and satellites. Despite being an early bird in the space industry, our global market share is just over 2%. Despite the low share, by 2025, the satellite services and applications segment would be the largest with a turnover US$4.6 bn, followed by the ground segment at US $4 bn, satellite manufacturing at US$3.2 bn and launch services US $1 bn. This effectively means that the Indian space industry shall be growing by 30% to 40% from $9.6 bn in 2020 to $12.8 bn in 2025.

This growth prospect is based on the demand arising out of the existing technology and production bandwidth. India’s real power lies in its ability to invent and innovate. The Indian space sector or for that matter the technology sector in general has not seen any pathbreaking inventions from India that have defined technology apart from the Mangalyaan mission. The youthful demography and its brute cognitive capacity need to be awakened in scale for real indigenisation to accelerate.

Education System Overhaul

To reap the demographic dividends in the technology domain, the Indian system of education needs to be rooted in real science. The system of producing clones for industrial revolution era factories needs to be overhauled. The youthful minds need to be set on a course of exploration and seeking, rather than on an evangelist culture of believing westernised theories. It is only with such a habit of continuous quest for knowledge that new technology frontiers can be conquered. The lack of originality of thought, sown by the present system of education, is a big hindrance in our quest for indigenisation. Education has to decolonise the mind and set it free to explore without any inhibition to any language or text that is native.

Quantum & Artificial Intelligence In Space Tech

Quantum mechanics shall dominate the next generation of technology discourse globally. The western powers along with China are locked in a race for breaching intelligence singularity threshold. The next generation of space technology shall be more digital intelligence-driven and due to the very definition of intelligence, it is impossible to use foreign frameworks of AI. India, therefore, has no option but to be a serious participant in this race.

Next-Gen space technologies could very likely be born out of the womb of digital super intelligence frameworks. India, therefore, needs not only to invest in the R&D of domain specific technologies of space (like rockets, satellites and sensors), but also needs to understand the importance of building native R&D systems that can simulate and build most of these next generation systems.

Protection of Deep-Tech Firms

While the present government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to enable the business environment, so as to catalyse and accelerate our indigenisation efforts, there is a lot that needs to be done in terms of policies and investment for start-ups to thrive and take on the space behemoths in the international market. Government policy should clearly segregate the deep-tech and stealth-tech start-ups from the generic ones in such critical technology domains. Such deep-tech and stealth-tech start-ups should be insulated from the clutches of private investors and multinational venture capitalists. Any tech developed within these companies could be surreptitiously transported to foreign countries, if such start-ups are not protected right from inception.

Securing The Information Infrastructure

India also needs to look into provisioning of a secure information exchange infrastructure for these hi-tech entities. Corporations like Google have a demonstrated history of technology espionage, and usage of their platforms for professional communication can compromise the IP of such promising startups at the very inception itself.

Start-Up Funding

The government funding process should be based on an all-inclusive model, unlike what is in-vogue. Also, the obsessions to concentrate on niche demography’s and premier institutes should be reviewed. An ecosystem, where any individual with a powerful idea should be honestly assessed, should be put in place if space tech needs to be grown at scale. The early days of ISRO clearly substantiates the argument for such an approach.

Securing The Thought Leadership Space

The Indian tech consulting space is a hostage to foreign MNCs. As a consequence, most of the niche planning design, development and technology used is dictated by the firms. This cedes the thought leadership space in the country. The country needs to indigenise the strategic consulting and thought leadership space in critical domains like space. Military professionals and scientists, who retire from active service, need to be utilised gainfully by employing them in consultancy roles, around nationalised ecosystems and programs. Today most of such talent is engaged by the foreign consulting firms akin to how East India Company sourced human resources from within the country to fight against it.


These steps would ensure a level playing field and create the requisite environment to invent and innovate. The impact of indigenisation can be realised only if invention and innovation are delivered at scale. The scale of engagements should be across disciplines with cross domain applications and throughout the length and breadth of the country, covering all geographies, gender and age groups. If India can engage its youth in greater numbers, not only shall we reap the desired demographic dividends, but can bridge the gap and acquire a greater share of the global market.

The space industry, as on date, is pegged at around US$400 bn. India’s share is a mere $10 bn. The next decade of space industry is poised to touch multi trillion dollars and thus is one of the opportunities for India to capture a lion’s share of this emerging market. This shall catapult the economy of the country and accelerate its march towards the double digit trillion club.

Wing Commander (V) S. Sudhakaran is CEO, QuGates Technologies