Mr Mahindra and his uncle Keshub Mahindra, who joined the group in 1947 and has been its chairman since 1963. Keshub Mahindra sits on the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade & Industry, while last month, Anand Mahindra was named Ernst & Young’s entrepreneur of the year and business channel NDTV’s business leader of the year.
The Mahindra group’s businesses include financial services, automotive products, trade, retail and logistics, information technology and infrastructure development. It is one of the world’s biggest tractor makers, with plants in India, China and the United States, and an assembly site in Brisbane, Australia. In Australia, it also sells the Mahindra Pik-Up, a light utility.
The Mahindra family and associates hold a stake of about 13 per cent in the main group company, Mahindra & Mahindra, which has a market capitalisation of $7bn.
Mr Mahindra, vice-chairman and managing director of the $7 billion conglomerate that bears his family’s name, aspired to turn the group’s aerospace arm into an Indian version of the Brazilian Embraer. The Mahindra brand is better known for its tractors and utility vehicles, and building a regional jet is a complex and time consuming business that usually starts with the production of much smaller turbo prop aircraft. To speed up the process Mahindra agreed to pay about $40 million for a controlling stake in two small Australian aviation companies, Gippsland Aeronautics and Melbourne-based component maker Aerostaff Australia.
Gippsland Aeronautics, based in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and maker of the popular 8-seat GA8 Skyvan utility plane, planed to beef up its range with an updated 18-seat version of the controversial Australian-made Nomad twin turbo-prop. It bought the rights to the Nomad’s type certification in 2008.
Aerostaff Australia makes high precision aircraft components and assemblies for makers such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Mahindra group’s experience in aviation extends to the co-design of a five-seater plane with the National Aeronautics Laboratory (NAL) of India – designated the NM5 and expected to fly later this year - and the production under licence of a light Australian plane, the Seabird Seeker, for the Middle East.
“The driving force behind our Australian acquisitions is to be the Embraer of India,” Mr Mahindra said. “We are not gunning for Embraer. It’s more a case that we see it as a role model.”
The NM5 programme is unique in the sense that NAL / National Aerospace Laboratories has started work for creation of an airplane, in equal partnership with a private production agency cum development partner, M/s Mahindra Plexion Technologies Private Ltd., a unit of the Mahindra & Mahindra industrial house. NAL signed an MoU with M/s Mahindra Plexion Pvt Ltd (MP) to jointly develop the 5 seater general aviation aircraft, NM5 and to undertake its production and marketing.