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Science

Did India's 'frugal' engineering pitch sell at Hanover Fair?

It's been a colorful week at the Hanover industrial technology fair. India, as partner country, has had a broad success with its Make In India drive. But some Europeans would rather resist the lion king.

If the cheers of "Modi, Modi!" for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were any indication, they pointed to a week of cheers all round. Granted, India was this year's partner country at the Hanover industrial technology fair - and as such, the country was assured at least a modicum of success.

But the reception afforded the Indian leader was, according to some, "unparalleled" at Hanover.

Modi and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, presented a future of mutual benefit at their presentations and walkabouts, which kicked off the week-long affair on April 13.

What followed was an almost constant stream of memorandums of understanding - between Indian and German business - hot on the heels of the hype.

"We are challenging the world," says Nirmala Sitharaman, Indian minister of state for commerce and industry, in an interview for DW's science and technology radio weekly, Spectrum. "The perspective with which the world looks at India, particularly in technology-driven things, has now got to be completely changed. We're not just equals, we're probably better."

Nirmala Sitharaman, Indian minister of state for commerce and industry, speaking to DW

Nirmala Sitharaman, Indian minister of state for commerce and industry, speaking to DW

Better… and cheaper

"Mangalyaan, the Mars mission India conducted, cost us less than Hollywood science fiction [films]," says Sitharaman, referencing the project's $74 million price tag (68 billion euros. "So if we can produce such a frontier technology which is still sending us data, we can show that science and technology can be done at an affordable price."

Sitharaman's sentiments are echoed by Devendra Fadnavis, chief minister for the state of Maharashtra, who spoke to DW from a Hanover Fair draped in Indian lions.

"Everywhere I can see India," Fadnavis says. "We see the lion… it's the king of the forest, and we are trying to say: The king is awake, and we are ready to make the industrial output for the world."

Devendra Fadnavis, chief minister of Maharashtra, says the lion in India is awake

Devendra Fadnavis, chief minister of Maharashtra, says the lion in India is awake

For the Indian delegation, of which Fadnavis was a part, this has been a moment to push the country's own skills. And it's a key moment for his home state of Maharashtra, too. While in Hanover, Fadnavis met executives from Bosch India, who agreed to take over 25 industrial training institutes in the state.

"My state, Maharashtra, has always been the most industrialized state in India - we contribute 15 percent of GDP [Gross Domestic Product], 30 percent of exports, we're a major player. So when you talk of Make in India, it has to be Make in Maharashtra."

Modi, says Fadnavis, is walking the talk. And the Indian exhibitors at Hanover Fair, the producers of Indian engineering technology, are in perfect lock-step with their national leader.

There is also a (barely audible) subtext - that India is better than China.

"We're at a stage where Indian engineering and manufacturing have reached a level where quality is almost a given, as compared to some other countries where manufacturing is happening but quality is not really maintained," says Rajesh Nath of HMT Machine Tools Limited in Bangalore.

"[Ours] is not the cheapest, but it is frugal," Nath says. "Regionally, we are trying to place ourselves differently from them…"

"Who are they?" DW asks, and Nath laughs, dodging the question. "You know who they are!"

"It's not going to be the world's largest manufacturing nation," he continues. "But frugal engineering, innovation, R&D, and good manufacturing practices, you'll find more in India than in the neighborhood."

Deutschland Hannover Messe 2015 Industriemesse

Aseem Srivastav: India is at the threshold of a manufacturing revolution

Nearby, at a stand for Kirloskar Ebara Pumps Limited from Pune, managing director Aseem Srivastav says India, along with China, is spearheading a global shift towards developing countries.

"We're at a threshold of a manufacturing revolution in India. Whereas China is good at mass manufacturing - we are very good at specialized products. India is known for Triple-A technology: appropriate, adoptable, and affordable. We can give you a very high quality product at the right price."

Breaking un-even

It is odd that, even as the official partner country for the Hanover Fair 2015, India was forced to share its exhibition home, Hall 6, with a host of European competitors.

Deutschland Hannover Messe 2015 Industriemesse

Nikolai Tenev: Don't make in India, make in Europe!

Was India unable to fill the space? Or was this a conscious decision to get Europeans - mainly from the eastern and central regions - in the same room, talking to India?

At a group stand for Bulgarian manufacturers, the executive manager of Rosof Ltd, Nikolai Tenev, tells DW he would rather India made in Europe.

"Oh, you know, everybody says we are the best, but who to believe?" asks Tenev. "The Germans say they are not scared because we are developing high technology and so they're not our competitors, but is that true or not?"

The manager then added: "I would prefer it if they would come to Bulgaria and make in Bulgaria! Of course! Why not?!"

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