By Sangeeta Saxena

 Kuala Lumpur/New Delhi. 24 May 2024. “The cartridge brass (CuZn30) is used to manufacture cartridge cases and gilding metal (Cuzn10) is used to manufacture bullet jackets. We aim to be a World Class Indian supplier of Copper and Copper Alloys Strips (bare or plated), Foils and Forms. Our mission is to  exceed our Customer’s Expectations in Quality and Delivery through Continual Improvement and Innovative Techniques with the best of HR and Environmental Practices,” stated Subramanian C.V. President at Rashtriya Metal Industries Ltd. in an exclusive conversation with Editor Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU) at DSA 2024.

 ADU. Can you trace Rashtriya Metals journey for our audience?

Subramanian C.V. We are one of the largest manufacturers of brass cups for small arm ammunition. That has been our forte for the last more than 30 years in defence. We are one of the largest producers of Copper and copper alloys – copper and brass strips, for more than 70 years now. This company was incorporated in 1946, so it’s a pre-independence company. Somewhere  in the 90s our present Promoter Owner Shri Balkrishna Binani, a true visionary got into the business of making brass cups for small arms ammunition. We started with supplies to Ordnance Factories in India, and started supplying cups to Ammunitionn Factory Khadki ( AFK) for this small arms ammunition production. Mr. Binani strived hard to make this a promising business for our Company

Subsequently, the government started producing their own cups, and then we had to look outside. Since that time, we have been exporting our cups across the globe. You know, it was very small, about 15 years back, we were doing some 3 containers per month, to various countries in Sou East Asia, West Asia , Australia and USA.

Somewhere around 2014-15, we decided that we have to go big into this cup business. So with that intention, we started attending a lot of shows across the globe, as a part of our branding exercise. So the Rashtriya Metal brand has been enriched in the minds of all the customers.

ADU. Rashtriya Metals has a strong hold in export market? How do you strategize it?

Subramanian C.V. Whoever wants to look at brass cups for ammunition, the first name that comes to their mind is Rashtriya. Because we have delivered in time, quality-wise we are one of the best. It’s very clear that many defence Companies world over keep coming to us for cups.

We also supply to the Middle East and West Asia in a big way. So our whole marketing structure or branding was that we concentrate on the U.S. market by show casing our cups at the Shot Show in Las Vegas which is in January every year. Then to penetrate into Europe, we always participate in IWA, Outdoor in Germany, that’s somewhere in February every year.

To cater to the Middle East and the African market, what we  have a booth in IDEX, Abu Dhabi. So that takes care of the Middle East and the MENA region.

And for Southeast Asia, this is the second time that we are participating in DSA. So that covers the entire Southeast Asia. We are able to cover the entire world by participating in these Defence Exhibitions. Apart from this we also attend various exhibitions as visitors.

ADU.  How is Europe as a market for you?

Subramanian C.V. Europe has been a difficult market for us. It’s not that easy to get into Europe because you have some big competitors like Lapua, ND Prestech, who have been in the market for long. So people always in the beginning thought that the Europeans, the Germans are better than anybody in the world.

But we had started breaking into the German strong holds in Middle East  where we have replaced them in many places. Number One our Products are very good. Number two, we, our delivery commitments-  we stick to the delivery commitments. Quality is absolutely as per the requirement of the customer.

We don’t compromise on quality. And for your information, you know, our Prime Minister talks about women empowerment. Our entire quality team in the plant for checking the cups are done by ladies from the neighbouring villages. We have trained them up and they are doing a great job. You know, we don’t have a single rejection from any customer worldwide. That’s our record.

But, as I told you, Europe, we have made the breakthrough. We are supplying to one of the biggest manufacturers of ammunition, Czech company Sellior & Bellot. Where we have been able to supply them the 338 cups, which is one of the most difficult cups to make and  which is in high demand today. So, we have been able to live up to their quality standards. As you know, they are a subsidiary of CBC of Brazil.

ADU. And this training is conducted by you in your premises?

Subramanian C.V. In our premises, on the job, we have trained them. And the quality head, Mr. Rao, who is here in the show, he is being instrumental in training these ladies. And they are doing a great job.

That has been our record. That’s why Customers come back to us again and again because of Quality, Timely delivery and competitive prices.

ADU. Do you have rivals in India?

Subramanian C.V.  There are some new companies which are entering into cups business. You cannot avoid competition.  But we are way ahead in competition from new comers.

ADU. How do you maintain a steady supply chain?

 Subramanian C.V. The supply chain, normally, nobody wants to disturb unless and until they have quality issues. Our quality is one of the best and accepted by the market. As I told you, we have stringent quality control measures. At every stage of production –  right from the casting of the coils to manufacturing of the strips, to the punching of cups,  annealing, pickling, and  packing are all as per international standards. Our Planning Department under our Plant Head Mr. Vinaya Mohan is very strong and ensures quality cups and timely delivery.

ADU. Where are your facilities?

 Subramanian C.V. Our facilities are located in Sarigam, in Gujarat. Which is about 180 kilometers north of Mumbai. It’s just, after you cross the Maharashtra border.As soon as you enter Gujarat. On the right side, you have Silvassa. On the left side, you go to Sarigam.

It’s one of the very well-developed industrial estate of the GIDC. And, we have all the facilities there. Manufacturing facility it’s as per international standards. Our foreign customers who come,  They really appreciate the way the plant has been laid out.

The quality management. The way we handle the metal. Because everything is very important. You see, internationally, they have seen big factories very clean and neat. So, when they come, they start comparing with the International Defence Companies are surprised to find a top class International Standard Plant in India located in Sarigam.

Incidentally, I’ll tell you one recent visit by a UK company  representative who had come to audit our plant. During the course of audit, when we were taking him around the plant, we took them to the casting shop. Which is supposed to be the dirtiest place in the, any metal industry, where you melt the metal. But , our casting shop is the most spick and span place you can ever see. . It is the cleanest of the casting shops ever that can be seen by this person. So, he was taking the photograph of machines from a long distance. So, I asked him, what is the reason? You should take the machines from a closer  distance, so that you get to know the machines. He said, no, no, no. See, I want to ensure that the floor, the casting shed floor is shown to my people in UK. They should know that we are just auditing a company with such a neat and clean floor.  That’s a point. That was a great compliment. Coming from an international customer, you know, they are one of the fourth largest defence company in the world.

So, coming from a company like that, it gives a great boost, not only to me, but the entire plant which was  so happy. It’s motivating. Plus, we also had a recent visit by one of the quality head of, from Middle East, one of our customers. She was so amazed at the way our quality is organised, our production is organised. She wanted to put some quality systems in the place where she has joined recently. She said your quality systems are even better than the Brazlian Company where she had worked before.

So, they do an audit of everything. So, we have trained up our young boys in such a fashion that even if the old people retire, you know, we have very solid second line in quality, in production, in press. You know, everywhere, you know, it’s so solidly done.

You know, when such international comments come,  it really very satisfying that we have achieved something which is appreciated by international defence companies.

ADU. What is your foray into the Latin American market?

 Subramanian C.V. We have just broken into Latin America. See, in Brazil also, we have just sent the samples to which are under testing.. After testing, they give us their reports.. In case they require any changes to the cups, it is discussed and the revised samples are sent for final approval. Once the samples are tested and approved, We start bulk supply

The second thing is that we have got into Colombia for the first time. You know, we have been trying to get into Latin America, especially Colombia for last five years. Unsuccessful. Because Latin America is a different ball game. Yeah, absolutely. So, it is not an easy… You have to know Spanish, I don’t know Spanish. Yeah, that is a very big problem.

We have a representative there who does both, who can speak both. So, the first time about three containers of orders, we have just got it. We are in the process of executing it.

That will be one of the greatest breakthrough that has happened in the recent past. So, Latin America, we have just broken through. Very nice.

 ADU. And what about Africa, sir?

 Subramanian C.V. Africa, we are already supplying brass strips to Kenya and Egypt.

ADU. And what is the level of research and development which you focus onto when in such sort of a highly technical work?

 Subramanian C.V.  There is not much of R&D work. There is continuous improvement in our systems and processes. We always believe in continuous improvement processes. That can be done only through discussions with our customers and understanding their new requirements. Because our people also do a lot of studies. They try to implement it. Like in packing, we did a lot of improvements.

Because the bullet jacket cups, which are very lighter cups, it weighs about 1.4, 1.5 grams. So, the packing was a big issue. And since copper is 90% and zinc is 10%, the tarnishing was a big challenge to us. Now, we have stabilized that. We have done a lot of improvements. We keep on doing. And then, we added some new finishing lines, which gives real glow. You know, like some of the clients want real glowing cups. So, we have put some new finishing machines also. So, overall, these type of improvements we keep on doing over a period of time. We have been quite successful.

ADU. Do you have a market in India’s neighbourhood?

Subramanian C.V.  Not very big. See, in neighbouring countries, only Nepal is there. We have been supplying to Nepal for a number of years. Bangladesh, they have their own ordnance factory. They make their own. Sri Lanka, we had tried, but they say they have their own facilities. Like Vietnam also, we tried. Vietnam also, they say they have their own. Again, Myanmar is a country where they don’t have, but we don’t want to, you know, the situation is so bad. Because they have a military. So, our region, the potential is not that much.

 ADU. And what about the South East Asia region?

Subramanian C.V. We are there in Thailand. We just entered Thailand. We started supplying about three, four containers already gone. We are there in Indonesia in a big way. We have huge orders from Indonesia. We are in Malaysia. We used to supply to a company here, which closed down about four, five years back. But now, the government has revived that factory. We are in touch with them. When we met them, they were so thrilled to see us. Because, our association is more than  20 years. So, Malaysia has been a very big country for us.

ADU. And sir, what about the domestic market?

 Subramanian C.V.  We are supplying to Munitions India strips and cups in small quantities and Yantra Ltd. We have 300 tons of strips order from Yantra Ltd for manufacturing Gilding metal Cups.

ADU. Have you been able to become a part of the supply chain of the big small arms manufacturer?

 Subramanian C.V.  With Beretta, we have been discussing with some of their companies. Like Swiss Defence. Hexagon etc. In the US, we have been supplying for the last 20 years. One single company, we have been consistently buying. Every quarter, we have a container. It’s a company called Starline Brass. Okay. They make cartridges, cases. Now, we have entered into the strip market there. We have already started at least doing two containers of strips to some other customers in US. And now, we are looking at supply of 9mm cups.

ADU How do you see the business as of today?

Subramanian C.V. We are also expanding. See, our production capacity of strips was 18,000 tons per annum. That is 1,500 tons per month. And we increased the capacity of cups to 600 tons per month. But we are supplying  around 250-300 right now.So, in order to ensure that we are able to cater to cups, we are also expanding our strip capacity from 18,000 to 24,000. Hopefully, by June 24, the strip capacity should be at 24,000 tons per annum.

             Team Rashtriya Metals at DSA 2024

We were also thinking of getting into at least the cartridge cases. We have met some of the suppliers of machines. We are looking at it. Very interesting. Actually, five years back, we were the first people to apply for a license. Because, we had the advantage as we were the only cup manufacturers in India in the private sector. We know the cups very well. So, it’s very easy for us to get into cartridge cases.

Our Registered & Head office is still in Andheri. The plant was started in Andheri by Shri Bhavanidasji Binani in 1946. Just 10 minutes from the international airport. It was the only chimney which was burning till 2014. The entire area has been now converted into commercial complexes. Somewhere in 2007 our Present Promoter Owner Shri Balkrishna Binaniji decided to shift out of Mumbai. We wanted to expand. We had just 2.5 acres, not much land to expand in Mumbai. In Sarigam we have a 16 acres of land. We have got place to expand. In 2010 we started production there. In 2014 we closed down Andheri. So now complete facilities are there. In 2019 we sold the land. We didn’t want to develop it. We are a debt free company.

As told to Sangeeta Saxena