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The Thales Group, Europe’s largest defence and aviation electronics company, is looking to double its footprint in India as it sees high potential to tap into the technical talent pool and is treating the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative as an opportunity to expand business.

The French group, which has a variety of businesses in India ranging from data protection to ground transportation and defence electronics, is betting on a resurgence of the economy to open new opportunities and is seeking to expand its partnerships with domestic companies. 

In an interview with ET, Thales CEO Patrice Caine said the company is looking to double the number of employees in India over the next five years and would focus on high tech work including artificial intelligence that would be exported to the world. 

“The goal is to double the size of business in the next five years. We are looking at the potential of the Indian market as well as other markets that can be tackled from India. We want to include Indian partners and suppliers — they are extremely competitive and reliable — into the global supply chain,” Caine said. 

The top executive said that the company presently has 1,800 employees in India and plans to hire at least 300 more this year for high technology roles. Similarly, the company plans to double its procurement of goods and services from India, which was pegged at $500 million over the past five years. 

On the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative, Caine said that going local is a good opportunity for Thales to leverage its partnerships in India and the company is willing to share and co-develop new technologies and products. He added that companies with a legacy business of just exports to India will continue struggling for work. 

“I see it as an opportunity and not a challenge. It is a mistake to call it protectionism, it is no more than a nation’s ambition to be autonomous when it comes to technology. The companies that are really struggling are those who have not abandoned the export mode of the 80s and 90s and are not willing to share technology and business,” he said. 

Predicting that at the current momentum, India will be among the top three economies of the world, Caine said that Thales will continue investing in the country by infusing technology from Europe and leveraging the technical talent available here