With the aim to promote defence technology, Tech Observer Magazine organised the second edition of the National DefTech Summit 2023 in New Delhi. The day-long event saw participation from over 300 delegates, 40 thought-leaders, as well as representatives from 10 large enterprises and more than 50 deftech startups. The core of the discussions focused on the importance of establishing a strong, flexible, and secure digital framework as the backbone of our defence forces.
The summit was kick-started with an introductory note by Dr. Nikhil Agarwal, CEO, IIT Kanpur FIRST & AIIDE, setting the stage for the subsequent thought-provoking dialogues. In his inaugural speech, Dr. Omkar Rai, Executive Chairman, Startup Odisha, highlighted the crucial role of startups in infusing the defence sector with innovative technologies. He also shed light on Odisha's endeavours to create a conducive ecosystem to support startups and small and medium enterprises, which form one of the country's largest employment sectors.
Robust, Resilient and Secure Digital Foundation for Defence Forces
Former Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria's keynote address emerged as a pinnacle moment of the summit, as his expansive experience and knowledge paved the way for a visionary viewpoint on incorporating next-gen technologies into defence services. Maj Gen Anukul Chandra (Retd) also imparted valuable insights about the importance of a resilient and secure digital infrastructure for the Indian Armed Forces.
Subsequently, Luis Carlos Molinero, Country Manager, Meltio, captivated the audience with his session titled “The Hidden Battle: Addressing Supply Chain Challenges in the Defence Industry and Harnessing the Power of Additive Manufacturing,” thus spurring innovation in defence technologies.
Transforming Defence Operations with Digital-First Strategies and Next-Gen Technologies: Leveraging Cloud, Data Center, AI/ML, and Data Analytics
Addressing the congregation, Rahul Priyadarshi, Chief General Manager, SIDBI, stressed the need to reinforce India's indigenous defence ecosystem and explained how SIDBI is facilitating this endeavour. This viewpoint was reiterated during the panel discussion on “Transforming Defence Operations with Digital-First Strategies and Next-Gen Technologies.” The panelists, which included top officials and industry experts such as Rear Admiral Gurinder Singh Jawanda, Former Director General, Weapons and Electronics Systems Engg Estb (WESEE), Indian Navy; Maj Gen CS Mann VSM, ADG ADB, Indian Army; Maj Gen Luv Bikram Chand (Retd), Indian Army; Commodore BK Munjal (Retd), Advisor (Defence Procurement), Government e-Market, Government of India; Colonel Surender Kumar Rohilla, Col (SDA), Ministry of Defence; Dr. Ankur Narang, Head – AI, Hike; and Jyoti Bhasin, Director, Public Sector, Government and Defence, EY India elucidated the potential of cloud computing, AI/ML, and data analytics in revolutionising defence operations.
Startups: Reimagining Drones in Aerospace, Defence and Security
A Fireside Chat featuring Smit Shah, President of the Drone Federation of India, and Col. Manik Anand, PO (AS), Ministry of Defence, delved into the intricacies of drone technology and its importance in contemporary warfare. This topic was further explored during the panel discussion on “Startups: Reimagining Drones in Aerospace, Defence and Security”, with industry pioneers including Maj Gen Anukul Chandra AVSM (Rtd), Advisor, AFVs and Member, Land Systems Group, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII); Dr R Shivaraman, Founder, Big Bang Boom Solutions; and R Krishna Kumar, CTO & Director, Dhaksha Unmanned Systems offering insights into the evolving landscape of drone technology.
Zero Trust Security Architecture for Defence IT Infra
The post-lunch session commenced with an in-depth discourse on “Zero Trust Security Architecture for Defence IT Infra.” Lt. Gen R K Anand, Maj Gen Dr. Rajan Kochhar, and Kanishk Gaur discussed the need for stringent security measures in modern defence infrastructure, with the panel moderated by Cdr. Aditya Varma, Director of Innovation & Transformation, Indian Navy.
Breaking Barriers: The Role of Women in Shaping the Future of Defence Technology
One of the most impactful sessions of the summit was “Breaking Barriers: The Role of Women in Shaping the Future of Defence Technology”. This panel, featuring accomplished women from the Indian Defence Forces, celebrated the significant role women play in defence technology and their growing representation in this sector. The discussion was moderated by Nisha Tijare, Head IS – India & SAARC, Veeam, who facilitated the exchange of a wide range of ideas and experiences that underscored the significant contributions of women in shaping defence technology. This panel witnessed the participation of Wing Commander Meenakshi Shrivastava, Indian Air Force; Wing Commander Kanupriya Karki, Indian Air Force; Sqn Ldr Sonam Choudhary, Indian Air Force; Squadron Leader Nupur Jain, Indian Air Force; Squadron Leader Deepti Goswami (Retd) Indian Air Force; and Lt Cdr Tavishi Singh, WBD, Indian Navy.
Technical Modernisation & Capacity Building for Defence Forces
The summit also had a discussion on “Technical Modernisation & Capacity Building for Defence Forces” cast a spotlight on the importance of technological advancement in boosting the capacity and efficiency of defence forces. Esteemed defence personnel including Air Marshal BR Krishna, Former Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC), Indian Air Force; Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, Former Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Government of India; Lt Gen AP Singh, Former Director General Army Air Defence, Government of India; Air Vice Marshal Rajiva Ranjan, VM, Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (ACIDS) (PP & FS), Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS), Ministry of Defence; Wg Cdr P Madhusoodhanan (Retd), VP (Aerospace and Defence), TIDCO, Government of Tamil Nadu; Lt Col Anthony Selva Kumar (Retd), Program Director, iDEX, Ministry of Defence participated in this crucial discussion.
The day's proceedings reached a conclusion with a valedictory address by Air Vice Marshal Rajiva Ranjan. His closing remarks succinctly summarised the key insights from the event, emphasising the importance of digital progression in strengthening India's defence capabilities.