'Aerospace engineering is not like making cars'

In aerospace engineering, each client would have different specifications. Moreover, the engineering has to be precise and flawless to meet stringent safety standards. So the assembly-line approach cannot be used in this sector, explains QuEST Global founder Arvind Melligeri tells Radhakrishna Rao

When you launched your enterprise back in 1997 on a modest scale, the Indian aerospace sector was in the grip of state-owned enterprises, with very little scope for private players. What made you take the plunge, with considerable success?
When we started the venture in the USA in 1997, the focus was purely on engineering services. In fact, our venture took off with a project on the gas turbine being developed by American power and engineering major General Electric (GE). And for nearly five years, projects from GE were a major source of our revenue.

In 1998, we opened a facility in Bangalore. But it was only in 2006 that we moved into precision manufacturing with a special thrust on the aerospace sector. QuEST Global Manufacturing, a wholly owned subsidiary of QuEST Global, works with aerospace primes and their tier-1s to provide services such as precision machining, sheet metal fabrication, aerospace special processing, design and development of tooling, fixtures and gauges.

Because we were initially into engineering services and working closely with world-class enterprises including Toshiba, GE Aviation, EADS, Honeywell, GKN Aerospace and Rolls Royce, we did not face any regulatory problems. Moreover, being in an export-oriented business, the going was rather smooth.

How far did the global recession, particularly in the aerospace sector, affect your order book? Now with the recession on its way out, do you foresee a bright period ahead?
We were not much affected. For at the time of the downturn, we were just foraying into the aerospace precision manufacturing and ramping up our operations to come up with the high quality products that the global aerospace players were planning to source from QuEST Global.

Yes, there is a very bright future ahead not only for QuEST Global but also for the Indian aerospace entities in general. Clearly, the Indian aerospace industry can benefit from exploiting the emerging opportunities in the global aerospace market - both civil and defence. (See: QuEST SEZ raises India's potential as aerospace hub)

But unfortunately, the Indian aerospace industry is yet to properly well quantify the opportunities held out by the global aerospace sector, whose civil side alone is worth about $120 billion a year. And equally alluring are the opportunities offered by the defence sector.