23. Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology

The term indigenisation refers to replacing an imported good with manufactured good that is produced in the country. This doesn’t mean that the item is made within the nation is a copy of the item that is being imported. It might be the same functionally, but it could have more advanced, energy-efficient, lightweight and durable parts and sub-assemblies that could be manufactured or produced by the native population. For example, in India, very few electronic components are manufactured and therefore, all the ICs and other electronic components are imported from a foreign land.

Simply stated, indigenization is a concept used in different ways, depending on the perspective. It is the concept that something becomes more native, the transformation of service, the concept of adapting to local values, particularly through having more indigenous people in administration and jobs. Anthropologists mainly use indigenization to describe what occurs when natives take some things from outside and make it their own.

Importance of Indigenization of technology:

The government is proposing creating a Centre for targeted work on the new electronic devices, which can be indigenously manufactured, to improve its technical capability in the field of homeland security.

The government-funded centre is expected to be built in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Bombay and the industry. The move is also guided by security worries about the internal protection requirements of imported equipment.

There is a need for product development, especially for internal security issues.

Presently, a few types of equipment that cater to the requirements of various security agencies are either may not available in the country or very costly to deploy.

In Naxal – hit areas the force on the ground has no communication devices. The other usable device is the satellite phone, which is very costly and can’t be used on a large scale. The government or business will authorize this centre to develop equipment to suit their exact needs at a fair price.

In the few areas where the research could be performed include image processing, communication systems, video analytics, and sensors for explosive detection, autonomous vehicle, robotics, such as unmanned aerial vehicles.

The centre, which will cope up with the government to tackle internal security issues better; is a good idea and experts also feel that research to be done on equipment that could be “productionised” and at a cost which is inexpensive than what is already we have.

Indigenization of technology in Indian context:

After independence in 1947, India as an important part in evolving as a new nation-state had adopted policies and programs for the growth of indigenous capacity in science and technology. A five-year planning strategy for economic and industrial development has been adopted. The Indian history of improving the capacities of science and technology in the sense of industrialization as it progressed over the various phases of the plan from 1947 to 2001 was analysed. Consolidation of the capacities of research and technology is seen as a method of creating networks of innovation that interconnect science, innovation and industrial activities. Therefore, regional initiatives and programs for both technology and industry have been analyzed and the interrelationship between the two was scanned.

Nevertheless, an indigenously produced electronic equipment utilizing imported parts will also be attractive for several years of service, not just from the quality viewpoint, but also the possibility of low-cost repair and maintenance. With respect to security and military applications, in terms of the strategic reliability of getting ready and direct access to the local manufacturers and it’s support base, the indigenization value is compounded. In addition, an indigenous producer often has the ability to periodically increase the output, leveraging improved technologies that may also be built in-house.

It is well known that indigenization of technology goes beyond the pure manufacturing of the item based on sketches and materials supplied by a foreign manufacturer. Here the local producer is required to recognize the technologies underlying the product or plant, such that the object can be updated, adjusted, enhanced or re-designed the item as and when he likes. Most of the ‘technology transfer’ happening in the Indian security and aerospace industry applies primarily to the production of the item within the nation and this involves only the manufacturing equipment concerned. The international producers hardly have any insight into the technology for design or modifications of the part.

The Indian policies and programs are described as having developed through five stages of development. To strengthen Science and Technology capacities, the phases have been categorised as; 

Phase I: Infrastructure building
Phase II: Reorientation
Phase III: Promotion of indigenous technologies
Phase IV: Moving towards economic liberalisation
Phase V: Science and Technology in the liberalised economy

Policies and programs evolved with illustrative details at each of the stages were scrutinised. To show the steady growth of innovation networks, the development of science and technology capacities for indigenizing technology was evaluated. The trends in India over the last decade are visualized as the success of service sector and increasing outsourcing industries.

Indians have been listed as champions of IT-enabled services worldwide. Airlines education, cell phone, IT utilities etc. are included. India is among the top importers worldwide. It reflects India’s lack of meeting security forces demand. Our indigenous activities have produced success but there is a lot of cost inflation and time-limit violation one after the other. That is apparent from the facts:

1) Tejas aircraft had taken more than two decades. Even after its completion, armed forces were not ready to induct these aircraft but as a result of negotiation between forces, DRDO and government the aircraft is given 1st level clearance now. DRDO is not able to develop its indigenous Kaveri engine because of the limited access to advanced defence technology by countries such as the USA, JAPAN.

2) In 1970, Arjun Tank project was sanctioned but was pulled out for trial in just a few years back. Over these years, it is said to be too weighty to use in actual war operations. Now DRDO is working on using composites to decrease the weight.

3) The first indigenous nuclear submarine was developed in collaboration with BARC by DRDO. Though it has inadequate fuel inventor. As an outcome, it cannot go for long deployment, and further enhancements are needed.

4) India has BrahMos missile in collaboration with Russia. It is one of the best in its class and air, land and water variants and is under development.

5) AGNI V has given India the status of ICBM holder country in 2013 though the project on integrated guided missile development was started in 1983. This along with Dhanush, Nirbhaya, Prithvi, and Akash missiles has improved our deterrence.

6) India’s first indigenous Aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is under sea trials.

One of the key efforts towards indigenization has been the F-INSAS project that is intended to equip the Infantry with world-class equipment. F-INSAS means Futuristic Infantry Soldier as a System. The aim of this is converting an infantryman into a fully-networked all-terrain, all-weather, and weapons platform with improved lethality, survivability, sustainability, mobility and situational awareness for the digitised battlefield of the future. Most of the equipment is being developed by DRDO.

As per the news report, The Defence Procurement Procedure-2013 (DPP) announced by the government highlights two major points, robust the defence manufacturing base in the country and making the process of procurement more competent. The policy recorded that “categorisation”, the process by which the Defence Ministry selects between various options for say, buying equipment and supplies from abroad, buying from within the country, making them in the country or importing technology to make them within the country, should clearly support indigenisation.

The option of importing defence equipment should be exercised only after exhausting the option of sourcing it from within. These praiseworthy objectives may be driven by the bad experience with traders and corruption in the procurement of defence equipment from overseas suppliers. Although it would be immature to believe that this is a workable proposition given the state of indigenous defence equipment manufacturing base.

DRDO’s two highest-profile projects, the Main Battle Tank and the Light Combat Aircraft, have shown that indigenisation is not simple, especially given the reluctance of existing suppliers to share main technologies. Indeed, accessing technology will be the major challenge for the development of indigenous defence manufacturing.

It is a great shudder in India, that still large amount of nuts, bolts, screws for aerospace and defence sector are imported from overseas today. The procurement costs of India ‘s defense rise yearly. India can not allow its aerospace capability to rely on foreign nations. In order to beat competition, India must produce the required defense products at home. In its approach, it ought to be autonomous and genuine. The aerospace community has the capacity in the country and requires only to be promoted and supported in order to crack import restrictions.

Recently, India has launched a new initiative, Make in India, which encourages manufacturing by enforcing the responsive policy environment, which offers greater job opportunities. Reports indicate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of India, pledged to reinforce the military of the country that swipe the Research and Development Agency of the Defense Department. India has been trying to develop an indigenous defence industry.

To boost the effort, Mr. Modi’s cabinet recently tried to open the defence manufacturing industry in India to more foreign investment, approving increasing to 49% the amount of foreign direct investment allowed in military equipment manufacturers.

In Information technology sector, India got success in developing indigenous domestic computer industry capable of producing hardware for its huge market base and software for export. Such remarkable successes have been attained at considerable cost to other sectors of the economy, to subsectors of the IT industry, and to the long-term viability of the domestic IT industry.

The costs of such policies include the following:

  1. Other industries cannot obtain low-cost computing, since prices remain about two and a half times higher than world prices. This limits application of IT to improve efficiency of those industries.

  2. Policies to defend domestic hardware producers have hurt the software industry by limiting its access to needed hardware and to software development tools. Higher prices due to import protection have also limited the diffusion of computer hardware, limiting local demand for software.

  3. Policies to avert monopolization of the market have created a fragmented computer industry with over 200 producers of PCs, none of which achieve economies of scale necessary to match international prices.

  4. Hardware production comprises of mainly assembly of imported components, with little or no value added in India.

Such achievements and shortcomings have largely been related to India ‘s policies. Unbundling and interpretation of these policies are important in creating lessons for potential policy in India and elsewhere. Indian policy policies to facilitate the creation of an in-house computing industry are reasonable as India has a huge human capital pool which can be utilized to accomplish that objective. The essential part of IT technology is a strong telecommunications network. Without passable telecommunications, computer centres remain isolated units, and organizations that wish to connect units in different locations must invest in expensive dedicated communication links.

India has promoted IT Use: Numerous projects have been started to promote IT use in the private and public sectors and to mobilize a favourable bias towards IT use.

For example:

-Demonstration projects have been initiated in areas such as CAD/CAM and computer networking.

-Government has promoted the use of IT applications in priority sectors such as cement, steel, coal, petroleum, power, telecommunications and transport.

-Government has reinforced the creation of administrative databases in areas such as agriculture, irrigation, education, health, and public grievances.

-Pilot projects for new technologies or applications have been initiated in one organization in a given sector and after its successful implementation this technology is to be transferred to other organizations.

It is observed that great efforts were also made to increase public awareness of IT. Computers have been introduced in locations visible to the public. These include the computerized Railway Reservation System, airline reservation systems, electricity billing, and retirement benefit accounting.

Regardless of these considerable efforts to promote IT use, there has been visible lack of incentives, such as tax breaks or accelerated depreciation rules, to encourage private sector use. Most importantly, the high barriers to imports have acted as strong disincentives to the use of IT.

In developing new technologies, India also lead in research and development and technology transfer. India’s industrialization has depended on imported technology, much of which was acquired through technology licensing and technical collaboration agreements. Research and development by Indian companies has been basically oriented towards acclimatizing imported technologies to domestic requirements, and in some cases has helped Indian companies to develop their own technology.

Interestingly, joint ventures spend more on R & D than Indian-owned enterprises, and among Indian enterprises, those who license technology do more R & D than those who do not. This advocates that technology transfer inspires instead of replaces, domestic R & D, a finding which denies prevailing development theories. India’s R & D expenditures are well in advance as compared to other developing countries in the world.

Indian growth is commonly considered to be fast and has a strong reputation among Asian countries.  Currently, India has much easier access to COTS and MOTS system. The dependency of foreign suppliers has caused helplessness such as high maintenance and inventory cost, and the possibility of spare parts deficit later in the life cycle due to the closure of production line overseas.

Furthermore, optimizing the design of a platform with a high percentage of COTS and MOTS subsystem and systems be specifically designed and optimized for the platform. Only then will the platform’s efficacy surpass the number of its pieces. Military hardware Indigenization is a careful effort on the part of the defence establishment to develop products that meet Indian needs, circumstances and demands. It is a well-established fact that no nation can become hopeful in achieving great power status without being practically self – reliant in the production of defence.

Practice questions:

  1. What do you understand by indigenization of technology? How it if fruitful to countries like India?
  2. Critically explain the achievements of indigenous technology in India.