MKU sets sights on advanced optronics for future growth

Manufacturing in various regions overcomes protectionism

Defence & Aerospace

July 4, 2024

/ By / Paris

MKU sets sights on advanced optronics for future growth

Karan Gupta, Vice President, MKU tells Media India Group the company is increasing its physical presence across the world (Photo: MIG)

Leading defence and homeland security company MKU has significantly expanded its capabilities in the optronics sector over the past five years, showcasing 10 industrialised solutions and driving exponential revenue growth. It is also increasing its physical presence across the world with manufacturing operations not just in India, but also the UAE, Germany and soon Brazil, Karan Gupta, Vice President, tells Media India Group. Gupta adds that MKU is also significantly increasing its R&D budgets to stay at the forefront of technology.

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What is your objective of participation Eurosatory 2024? 

MKU is a global defence and homeland security company. We cater to two product solution verticals, optronics and armour. Our approach for both the verticals has always been very user centric. So all the products that we have displayed here, we have tried as much as possible to get user feedback throughout the product development cycle and then use that actual feedback that we get into the product and that is what differentiates us from other companies that we are really trying to listen to the customers’ problem and trying to solve that problem. So we are not selling products, we are selling solutions because there are solutions to problems, there are no products to problems.

How important is optronics for MKU?

Today MKU have on display about 10 fully industrialised optronics solutions

So in the last five year span the biggest thing I think that has happened is that we have entered the optronics space. We had a very small, humble beginning in 2019 where we started with this two devices. There was a night vision monocular and night vision binocular. Today we have on display about 10 fully industrialised optronics solutions. The revenue from this new division is exponentially growing. A lot of hard work has gone in the last five years in the development of the Optronics line and we believe that the growth in the next five years would be coming from this vertical.

How has your international expansion grown over the years?

We started international business in 2003 when we sold hard armour plates to the Spanish Army and from that very time our aspiration was to become a global defence and homeland security company. By 2016, we had already sold our products in more than 100 countries and had  a very strong network of channel partners. Today, we have about 50 exclusive channel partners in various countries of the world. And we realise that with this we have sort of created like a supermarket where we have access to the market, which a lot of companies do not have and what more can we provide to the same customer who is a soldier or a law enforcement officer? 

After doing a lot of research, we realised that optronics is one space which has a big market potential globally as well as in India. So that is why we chose optronics to be the next vertical.

Have you developed your products entirely inhouse?

All the products and solutions we have are fully developed by MKU, we have a very strong R&D team, with over 60 engineers working just on armour, these include composite engineers, textile engineers, design engineers. And in optronics, too, we have a fully indigenous technology and all the intellectual property rights are owned by MKU and every stage of product development and manufacturing is done in-house.

How does your product compare with European or American products?

MKU says it produces one of the best night vision equipment in the world (Photo: MIG)

I think it is equally at par, in fact one of the devices that we have showcased here is called MN3200 that is probably the lightest night vision monocular displayed in the entire show. It weighs less than 280 grams, while the average weight in the market is above 310 grams. So it is about 30-40 grams lower, which may not sound a lot, but when you are a soldier operating in a critical environment, every gram counts. So we have products which are superior to what the European companies have to offer. That is on the optronics side. 

Even on the armour side, we have a product called the Kavro Doma 360. That is the first rifle-rated ballistic helmet in the world that provides protection across all five zones, namely front, back, left, right and the crown and is extremely lightweight, keeping in mind the level of protection it provides against rifle rounds and with a trauma of less than 20 mm. I am going a little technical, but it is important to establish that our products are not only competing with the European and the American products, but we are even doing better in terms of the solutions we are developing there.

How do you strategically leverage your operations across the world to stay competitive?

I can answer that in a slightly different way. Rather than putting a number on a percentage, I think the majority of our product development is happening in India and with a global footprint, we have access to a more cost effective supply chain and thus we can be very competitive.

Why would customers choose MKU over competitors?

So I think that they would pick us because of the quality. They would pick us because of the user experience. They would pick us because of the comfort that we provide, the kind of human machine interface that we provide, say in optronics and the thought process that has gone into it. So they would pick us up for these reasons and not just because of the cost.

Have you been impacted by increasing sanctions being placed by the West over rivals and localisations demanded by governments?

As we have distributed operations in different regions of the world, we are very positively placed in this global scenario where there are a lot of sanctions, the world is moving from globalisation to localisation as everyone wants to create jobs and keep their money in their country. In this context, we are very positively placed and in the last two years, we have seen many government procurement projects in the EU region come with a requirement with EU manufacturing or certain content being only done in the EU and we are very well placed for fulfilling that. So I see that as an advantage rather than a deterrent for us.

Which are your key products here?

Karvo Doma 360 armour

We are showcasing extremely light weight optronics and Karvo Doma 360 armour, but we are also one of the sponsors for the event. The idea of heavily investing  here is that Europe is an extremely important market for us, but also because, we as a company are extremely users centric. Europe is a mature market where the users have a big say in the procurement process and it is not a market that operates on just fulfilling the minimum requirements with the lowest price. 

And we want to be present in a market where we can really do good for the end user and even our motto is empowering heroes. So whether it is a law enforcement officers, armed forces officers, paramilitary, ambulance services or firefighters, we really want to do good for them. 

What’s next after optronics? 

Currently no new verticals, but within optronics we are moving into multi-sensory devices. There is one on display here we are doubling down on multi-sensory devices where multiple technologies can be integrated, offering a more sophisticated, intelligent system to our end users. So that is the area we will focus on. 

In terms of revenues, what percentage is domestic and how much is overseas? 

About 80 pc of our revenue comes from overseas and as our factory in India is a 100 pc export oriented unit, we get a lot of incentives from the Indian government to export and in a report of the Ministry of Defence on top 10 defence exporters, we figured at eighth rank this year.

Are you looking at the US market?

As of today, the US market is not something that we are focusing on. Yes, we do have conversations on and off with some potential partners there but nothing major yet. Hopefully next year when we speak again, there will be some development after which I can share more concrete information.

What is your footprint in Asia?

We supply to Japan and South Korea for armour plating their helicopters, while the Philippines is a regular customer of ours. We work very close actively with the Philippines Army and the national police as well as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.



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