Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has hired Vivek Lall, a former NASA scientist and a long-time Boeing employee, in what is seen as a move by India's richest company to enter the civil and defence aviation sectors.
Lall led Boeing's military and commercial division in India for several years before he quit last month after 14 years with the company. He is expected to head a new division in RIL focussed on aerospace.
The company has refused to comment officially on the matter, but reports say Lall could be leading the new RIL venture with cutting-edge homeland security solutions. The group could enter the aerospace arena at an appropriate time, one report said.
When Lall headed the Boeing commercial arm it won over $25 billion worth of commercial aircraft business in three years, and during the past four years when he headed defence, space and security the company gained almost $10 billion worth of business in India, according to The Economic Times.
RIL already owns a stake in the cargo airline started by India's low-cost airline pioneer G R Gopinath. Last year, RIL announced an investment in Gopinath's Deccan 360 as a strategic investor.
The hiring of Lall may indicate RIL has more ambitious plans in civil aerospace and defence industries, analysts said.
Lall studied mechanical engineering at Canada's Carleton University and has a master's in aeronautical engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. He worked with Raytheon Co and NASA Ames Research Center before he joined Boeing in 1996.
''India has virtually no world-class expertise in aerospace,'' said Ernest Arvai, president of the US-based aviation consulting firm Arvai Group Inc. ''On aerospace, if US is 10, Brazil is 8, Russia 6, China 4 and India 1,'' he added, according to a report in The Mint.