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The first time I visited was in 2000 and I have been here many times since then. There has been a tremendous change in terms of size and scale of what we do in India. What we do in transportation has been multiplied by 10. Speed of implementation has improved.
But there are railway projects going on for 40 years. Has execution actually changed?
Delhi Metro started more than 15 years ago and it has grown. The momentum has changed from one city to a large number of cities. For Indian Railways, in two years, we have developed locomotives in Madhepura, set up a new factory and manufactured. The speed of implementation has been fantastic. We built it in joint venture with Indian Railways and they did everything from certification onwards.
What are the focus areas for you?
Our focus is to add new technologies, and engineering capabilities in India. In the last 10 years, we have reached a stage where everything that’s needed is done in India — we have a factory in Coimbatore, for metros in Chennai and now one for locomotives in Madhepura. We will add manufacturing capabilities. Engineering is growing 20-25% every year. Now, we have 1,500 engineers in Bangalore, which is more than 20% of all engineers in Alstom. Manufacturing capability for India and global operations is 50:50. On engineering, it is 80:20.
Any other areas that you are interested in?
Electrification, of course. It is the future — whether you talk about electrification using catenaries, or the introduction of hydrogen trains, which is a terrific product to get rid of diesel. It has been worked out in Germany and a lot of countries have tested it out, including Canada. The cost of this train is similar to a cost of a normal train. But then, there is a cost of infrastructure which is difficult to estimate. We need to have hydrogen tanks on the poles, etc. It is a very good combination with renewable energy. Because when you have excess power, you transform that into hydrogen.
Talking about high-speed trains. India went with Japan partly because of the funding. How do you compete with these kinds of models?
We are totally dedicated to the ‘Make in India’ policy. We want to leverage that, localise and probably get some local financing. Of course, if you have external financing tied to loans, then, they will not comply with a ‘Make in India policy’. That’s another way of doing business but we are not there.
How do you compete when technologies are pushed based on funding?
In the case of Japan, you have seen that in some situations an input from Japan can at the end of the day, cost more to the Indian authority than making locally with local financing. What is being bought through Japanese financing from Japan might at the end of the day be more expensive than products being made by Japan in India.