Saturday, November 20, 2021

With Boeing order in bag, sky’s the limit for this Salem entrepreneur

A first-generation engineer’s desire for innovation has put Salem, Tamil Nadu, on the global defence and aerospace industry map. Sundaram Ramaswamy Naidu’s Aerospace Engineers Pvt Ltd (AEPL) was in the news recently for signing a long-term contract with US-based aerospace giant Boeing to manufacture and supply 683 critical components, from the first quarter of 2022.

While Sundaram has for long supplied parts to Boeing, he was a Tier-2 dealer. Now he will supply directly to the company, making it a first for Tamil Nadu. Over the next two years, AEPL will invest ₹150 crore in expanding its Salem facility as well as in a new manufacturing facility in Hosur, devoted to civil aerospace production, which will employ around 1,000 people.

“Clamps and fittings for the aircraft engines will be our first delivery,” said Sundaram, whose company also supplies components to Airbus and Rolls-Royce.

The Salem-based company’s expansion plan aligns with the state government’s ‘Make in Tamil Nadu’ initiative as well the Union government’s proposal to develop a defence corridor in the state. It also reflects Sundaram’s perseverance, and ability to dream big, in his over 30-year entrepreneurial journey.

Sundaram, a polymer technologist from the Madras Institute of Technology, began his journey in 1988, at the age of 25, when he launched Elastomeric Engineers in Salem.

In the early years, he recognised the need to develop indigenous goods. The company went on to bag orders for aviation rubber products (gasket couplings) from BHEL. The PSU giant was quick to accept Sundaram’s design and product for two critical reasons — they were indigenous, and priced lesser than imported ones.

Having started with a ₹7-lakh loan from the National Small Industries Corporation in a 2,400sqft shed, Sundaram and his team moved from five orders to 500 units in four months. The first-year turnover was close to ₹45 lakh, Sundaram recalls.

Today, Sundaram’s AEPL, operating on 1,25,000sqft premises, makes a wide range of high-precision and high-quality parts and sub-assemblies for the aviation, defence and healthcare industries. It claims to have developed over 20,000 parts with stringent airworthiness quality.

Additionally, AEPL is setting up another 1,25,000sqft manufacturing facility, dedicated for civil aerospace production under the Make in India initiative, in Hosur. It is also expanding its existing Salem facility with an additional covered building space of 50,000sqft over the next two years at an investment of ₹150 crore.

20/11/21 N Vinoth Kumar/Federal

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