MKU a strong patron of Make in India

Optronics solutions are the most critical requirement for modern soldiers in combat situations and could make a huge difference in the final outcome of operations being carried out, says Prachi Gupta leads the company’s optronics division.


International Security and Defence Company MKU which is based in Kanpur has been providing security and defence solutions to governments/armed forces in more than 100 countries across the globe.

Prachi Gupta leads the company’s optronics division. Optronics solutions are the most critical requirement for modern soldiers in combat situations and could make a huge difference in the final outcome of operations being carried out.

The young CEO of Netro Optronics, Prachi Gupta holds a BE degree (Systems Engineering) from the University of Warwick, UK. In her seven years-long presence in the company, she introduced the optronics division and has opened up new horizons for defence technology around the world.

On the sidelines of the ongoing DefExpo 2022, Gandhinagar, Gupta shares her thoughts as a young CEO and challenges with Huma Siddiqui.

Following are the video excerpts

Are You the first woman CEO of a company dealing with defence solutions in India?

I think I could be; I’ve never checked! Although I do have a lot of peers in India and abroad who are at high-level leadership positions in the defence industry.

Not just them, CEO of BAE, (Linda Hudson); VP of Engineering & Technology for Rockwell Collins, (Nan Mattai); the Chairman and CEO of General Dynamics (Phebe Novakovic); and the Chairman, CEO and President of Northrop Grumman (Kathy Warden) are all women.

MKU has been a global player in the defence industry for the past many years. How did it all begin for you?

I joined MKU 7 years ago when I was 21. It was not a smooth sail initially since defence is one such industry where it requires thorough R&D, in-depth knowledge of technologies, a good grasp on the sales cycle, and of course, and great perseverance.

I was given the opportunity to join the Netro Optronics division of MKU after I strengthened my base of optics, electronics and product design under the mentorship of some great experts we have on board from the past several years. It did take me a bit of time to get a hang of how the industry works, but once I was able to understand the end user’s perspective, it gave me the confidence to take the Optronics division forward and make a mark in the industry.

What challenges do you face when you meet global players? 

I cannot comment on other companies in India, but I do feel MKU has built a strong reputation for itself in the global market in the last 37 years. We have had the Indian Government and Missions overseas support us at each step since we opened our business up for exports. Participating at various international trade shows and actually taking an honest interest in the future of defence technology not just for India but with a global outlook has had quite an impact on how we are seen.

My father, Manoj Gupta, Chairman of MKU has spearheaded our work in a way that we understand and simulate real-time challenges that heroes in the line of duty face, and work backwards. I would say that has made all the difference. We have got so many instances where soldiers and policemen from countries where we have supplied come to us, and we make it a point to understand how we’ve done and what can be improved. And that’s pretty much our outlook to innovation, the core being it makes it ‘meaningful’ for those in the line of duty.

Of course, I wouldn’t say that each country would rather prefer that players from their own economy get the chance to grow, but that has not been a major challenge for us so far.

What exactly is it that you are selling globally? 

MKU houses three brands for two kinds of forces: Netro, Kavro and Autro respectively for Defence and Homeland Security.

Netro Optronics (which I lead) comprises a wide spectrum of Advanced Optronic Solutions for Soldiers and Platforms with Night Vision, Thermal, Day Optic and Laser Optic Technologies, that are channelised to design and develop surveillance and situational awareness devices. We very recently launched an Aviation Night Vision Goggle for Aircraft Pilots, a high-tech Sighting System for Grenade Launchers and a Driver Night Sight for T-90 Tanks for which we were awarded the Transfer of Technology by DRDO itself.

Kavro Protection is also further divided into innovation solutions like Body Armours, Ballistic Helmets, Shields and Armour Inserts for Defence and Law Enforcement and the End-to-End Project Management from Design, Development, Manufacturing and Integration of Armouring solutions for Land, Naval and Air Vessels. In fact, from what I was saying before about ‘listening’ to the challenges of the end users, our most recent development at Kavro Soldier Protection, the ‘Veer Helmet’ gained quite a bit of popularity a few months ago! It was an emotional couple of weeks for us not just because we received so much appreciation, but because we knew our solution was a game changer in adding to the confidence and comfort of Sikh heroes in the line of duty.

As for Autro, we have recently ventured into Platform Intelligence for Law Enforcement Agencies and Military Forces wherein we have amalgamated solutions for Fleet Control and AI-Based Video Telematics. It’s at the descent stages and even then has a lot of traction coming its way from global markets.

Is this all Made in India?

Yes! MKU is a strong patron of the Make in India Initiative. We have an extensive infrastructure where we manufacture and test our solutions.

This is a sector which is male-dominated. How do you perceive the challenges?

Who says it’s a man’s world? It’s 2022! But it is evident that the defence industry is relatively male-dominated, so speak the stats! Even though the times have changed and the world has advanced, we are yet to make way for more female leaders in defence.

I believe that I have been given equal opportunity and respect in my line of work. In fact, my experience from around the world over has taught me that you need to make your own place in the world, man or woman does not matter after a point. You could say at some level that the entry barriers for men in business are lesser, however, I don’t think I’ve ever felt the need to validate myself in a room full of people for the fact that I’m a woman.

As far as presentations go, I trust my solutions and our brilliant team of engineers back home at MKU that do the talking for themselves. I am just a humble representative!

How do you set goals and what keeps you motivated? 

I think a large part of goal-setting comes with the understanding that not everything will happen as per plan. Nonetheless, my style of working is to align on a large vision and break it down to smaller goals. Then it’s really about starting more than anything, you know? That’s the biggest challenge one has to overcome.

We often don’t realise that we are capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for and that’s something I tell even my team almost every day. So as far as motivation goes, I am my own person. I have realised that I don’t flinch when I hit momentum and that’s something I have had to cultivate. At the end of the day: the people around you will love you and support you whether or not you achieve your goals. It’s about whether you will be able to love you and support you if you don’t. And that’s how I define what’s important to me.

Lastly, any message for the young girls out there who would like to pursue this line?

Oh, come to MKU! I am serious, we would love to have you here! I have actually even started an initiative at MKU called ‘Sheroes’ where we groom the women in the company to take challenging and leadership roles head-on.

But to sum up for any young girl watching this, defence industry or not: Own your goals, Watch the company you keep and make sure you celebrate the little wins.

News Article Source - financial express