Sandeep Agarwal (SA) is Founder and CMD of Exicom Technologies India LLP and Brij Systems Limited. Mr Agarwal received his school education from Don Bosco School in Patna, Bihar. Exicom Technologies India LLP is a Mumbai-based global company which deals in Static and Tactical Wired and Wireless Communications, Satcom, Security for defence forces among others.
Close to four years ago, the Exicom founder shifted his base from New Zealand to Mumbai in India following the announcement of various policies by the Government of India. In an interview to PK Ghosh of Raksha Anirveda, Mr Agarwal spoke about his company business. An excerpt:
RA: What prompted Exicom shift its base from New Zealand to India in 2016? Please explain?
SA: There were two reasons, first New Zealand government was not liberal towards non-New Zealanders owned businesses and borrowing from banks was becoming a challenge in spite of a good business records. Meanwhile in India newly elected government (in 2014) and appointed Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a call for ‘Make in India’ foreseeing the dream to propel India into next level as global manufacturing hub including in defence sector. Government announced multiple policies to support the call which was a big motivator to move our facilities to India.
The next step was to identify the core technology and the products that we wanted to indigenise. Our experience of over 25 years in providing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions to the Indian Armed Forces, Paramilitary Forces, DPSUs, Police and private industry was of great help in identifying the technology voids in ICT, primarily wireless (RF) infrastructure. We realised that substantial progress had been made by Indian industry in indigenising WiFi, LTE/ 4G and SDR (HF/ VHF up to 512 MHz). SDR Make in India programme has made considerable progress and SDR Mesh/Mobile Ad Hoc Network (MANET) with through puts of 1 to 2 (Mbps) Mega Bits Per Sec with 16 to 32 nodes was the stated objective of this initiative.
We wanted to take Mesh MANET into a different orbit altogether. We came up with the idea of full Mesh MANET with a through put of initially 32Mbps with 16 Nodes, a fully addon-to-addon network fully secure. Incidentally we are now targeting 80 Mbps and 64 Nodes. We realised the operational potential of such a wireless infrastructure for military and all security forces (Civil or government). Just imagine, having a true Infrastructure less wireless network with such high capacities. It would launch SDR into a different plane altogether. We entered into a Technology Partnership with Domo Tactical Communications (DTC), UK. To give clients instant exploitation of this technology we also went into the manufacture of COFDM based Tactical Video Systems and Data/ Control/ Telemetry links for UAVs, Robotics and any Variant of Unmanned Surface Vehicles. The objective is to offer solutions with no or very little infrastructure and zero recurring cost for land, air, sea and space applications.
RA: Exicom Technologies main role is manufacturing and its subsidiary Brij Systems provides customised solutions as a system integrator to the clients, who need reliable and dependable solutions for covert operations, surveillance and security etc. How does this help in context of product quality, operations and providing efficient service to the customer?
SA: You will appreciate that both video and audio are two important ingredients in any operations, covert operations are no different. Telemetry, Command Line Interface etc., which have negligible bandwidth requirements pose no technology challenge. Covert operations have one more dimension and that is miniaturisation. Once we achieve these basic characteristics the same in varying form factor (primarily Wattage and Range) could be deployed as communication infrastructure less (sic)-infrastructure for all kinds of surveillance / security scenarios like; drones, drone swarms, snipper-spotter. The list is endless.
Since only the core technology module is imported from our technology partners-DTC the customisation, installation, maintenance training and even joint operations in initial stages in even the remotest parts of India is supported by us. The apprehension of armed forces to quote a very senior General “Vendors Sell what they have and Not what we Want” is thus dispelled. Since, we can guarantee this quality control, reliability/ availability; which is inherent in our system/ process is automatically guaranteed. All repairs field level to base level and after sale service and modifications are done within India.
RA: Exicom entered in OEM technology tie-up with Domo Tactical Communications (DTC) UK, a leader in the world of COFDM based secure military tactical communications solutions. Exicom now builds end products based on DTC technology core. How much indigenous content is there in producing such solutions?
SA: Currently most products have 55 per cent plus Indian content however we foresee increasing this in coming time. We are fully aware of the focus of Government of India in indigenisation both for defence equipment and other central and state government departments’ requirements. The policies laid down in Defence Procurement Procedure (including DPP 2020) and the provisions of Preferential Market Access (PMA) are being adhered to. The Indigenous Content (IC) is far below the maximum laid down limits. As a ballpark figure, I can state that Foreign Content would be below 40 per cent of the overall project cost. Despite the provisions of 50 per cent IC in DPP 2020, our target is to have 100 per cent IC. But you will appreciate that this is all dependent upon the indigenisation of PCBs/ wafers and components.
RA: Exicom has the capability to produce solutions for Special Forces of military as well as civil including integrated surveillance solution. It is into producing solutions for land, sea and air. Categorise the solutions for Army, Navy and Air Force?
SA: We currently offer Tactical Mesh in various form factors and Video Streaming Solution in various form factors starting from a covert operation to a battlefield for land. We offer complete range of Mesh Manet IP Radios for both boarding application to the needs of Special Forces and we offer video downlink from choppers and fixed wing aircraft to the ship in deep sea. We also offer video downlink and Mesh Manet solution from air to air and air to ground applications as well as solutions for the missile applications, Robotics application to disaster management.
As mentioned above, our system is so versatile that the core SDR module with a wattage of 100 mWatts and 100 grams, yes 100 grams weight can be provisioned with wattage of 1 Watt, 2 W, 5W, 10 W. The Multiple Inputs Multiple Output (MIMO), versatile RF and Antennae solution and above all COFDM Wave form with NLOS (penetrated the two feet walls of Mint Nasik), addon-to-addon-Full Mesh MANET makes suitable for its employability in land, air, sea. We can provide insanely stable and reliable high capacity (80 Mbps) Mesh MANET for SWARM, Mechanised Forces, Ship Fleets, Infantry Digital Soldier. We in true sense provide an ideal flexible solution for Digital Battlefield and even USVs. All these concepts have been verified by many militaries using this system.
RA: Since its inception, the company is committed to the manufacturing of radio communication equipment. How is it complementary/ contributory to tactical communication in today’s defence and security scenario?
SA: In today’s time, most defence applications are moving towards light weight more capacity radios and that where we add value to our defence needs, we are moving towards light weight higher capacity technology.
This aspect has been adequately answered in previous questions. So, let me elucidate this by a self-explanatory diagram:
RA: How far your company has been able to contribute towards Make in India, indigenisation and self-reliance? What makes your product offering and solution stand out among competition?
SA: Most products in our competition are offered fully built imported items where service support is a big challenge. We are able to manufacture most of our products in India and are in position to provide quickest service to our demanding customers. Besides, most customers have their different needs, there is some kind of customisation requirement for most customers for their applications. At Exicom we have complete flexibility to offer even a single unit customised to customer need.
As stated earlier we have less than 40 per cent Foreign Content. We can further reduce this with collective support from the Indian component manufacturers. What makes our product special is its capability of High BW and the platforms moving at Sub-Sonic Speeds. Worldwide there are only three OEMs providing this niche capability. And above all our mutual trust with the armed forces and security forces of over two decades.
RA: Your company participated in DefExpo 2020. Kindly provide an account of your experience and the major take away from the event. Final comment, if any?
SA: The experience was exciting and furthered our resolve to proceed with our initiatives of indigenisation. The interest shown by various high-level delegations of almost all friendly foreign countries, that participated in DefExpo 2020, and our esteemed Indian end-users in our solutions was overwhelming. In a way it validated our approach towards providing state-of-the-art High BW Mesh MANET and tactical video systems solutions for K9 solutions, Anti-Terror Operations, UAVs, Robotics, USVs, SWARM etc. We thank Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Ministry of Defence (MoD) for giving us this opportunity. We thank Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways Gen V K Singh, dignitaries from many foreign countries and top officials of armed forces, homeland security, industry champions for their visit to our stalls. We are carrying the engagement forward.