Australia’s advanced manufacturing sharpens focus on India

28 November 2022

Engineering innovator, LaserBond is taking its high-tech laser cladding expertise to India.

The Australian-based company has developed techniques for extending the life of metal machinery. The company toughens surface components by recladding them with metal deposits.

With Austrade’s on-the-ground assistance, LaserBond is set for expansion in India’s gigantic mining industry, which has 1,500 mines in operation. In November 2022, LaserBond announced it will partner with Universal MEP Projects & Engineering Services – a TATA Group company – and RRL Steel. The aim is to research the Indian market for laser cladding repair.

‘The scale you encounter in India is beyond anything we can imagine here,’ says Founder and CEO, Wayne Hooper. ‘There are major opportunities in mining and machinery.

‘Much of what we do in Australia is transferable to India. India is becoming a global manufacturing hub and we wanted to give it a go.’

Australian innovator becomes global exporter

LaserBond is at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing in Australia. Founded in 1992, the company has developed techniques for laser-cladding machinery component surfaces. This helps capital-intensive machinery operate more efficiently for longer.

The company now has approximately 140 employees across 4 sites in Australia.

LaserBond exports surface-engineered components around the world. It also sells laser-cladding machines and consumables to licensee partners in North America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. This includes partners who service heavy industries – in particular in mining, mineral processing, transport, marine and machine tools.

Why India for advanced manufacturing

In May 2021, Hooper examined a new, potential market – India.

‘India is a very big market,’ he says. ‘It’s a country of 1.4 billion people with a very significant mining industry. That makes it an ideal market for us.’

LaserBond reached out to Austrade in mid-2021. Austrade advisers researched potential overseas markets. Then they ‘stress-tested’ LaserBond’s core proposition in Indian markets. The advisers concluded that LaserBond technology had definite potential in India.

Next, Austrade referred LaserBond executives to Austrade advisers in India. These advisers include locally based mining and industry specialists in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

‘Austrade advisers in India identified opportunities in India’s mining and steel industries,’ says Hooper. They researched the local market and identified potential partners.’

On-the ground assistance in India

The next step was to go there. Kolkata was due to host the International Mining Exhibition (IME) in March 2022. LaserBond wanted to exhibit.

‘Austrade’s India-based advisers secured a slot for us on the Austrade pavilion,’ says Mike Walker, General Manager - Sales & Marketing for LaserBond. ‘That pavilion was how we got going in India.’

Austrade advisers also helped executives prepare for the exhibition. ‘They met us when we landed in Mumbai,’ says Walker. ‘They helped us with facilities, marketing and bookings. They also helped us produce collateral for the exhibition.

‘They also arranged for us to meet potential customers in the week leading up to IME. These meetings took place in multiple cities – they helped us crystallise what the Indian market is looking for.

‘To land in such a huge city like Mumbai for the first time can be very daunting. But we had someone from Austrade to answer all the questions and ensure that the logistics flowed.’

Steady start in India

In November 2022, LaserBond announced its next step in India.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) will see LaserBond, Universal MEP Projects & Engineering Services Ltd (which is a TATA Group company) and RRL market LaserBond claddings through their customer networks.

This will help to establish demand in India and assess the potential for LaserBond services.

‘We are currently in a trial phase with potential partners,’ says Walker. ‘We think that if we can get our technology into the India market with a single partner then lots of opportunities will follow.’

Prospects are good. India’s mining industry is undergoing rapid expansion and modernisation. This includes privatisation of state-owned mines. This change has encouraged Australian mining companies to expand into India.

‘Australian technology is highly regarded in India,’ says Walker. ‘Customers are willing to listen and spend time understanding what we do. There are cultural links – and sometimes they help.’

‘Selling into India is a challenge,’ he adds. ‘But we firmly believe that the first deal is always the hardest. We see major market opportunities in India.’

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