Power of I 2019

Ceramic Warrior

This little-known firm, which started by making egg trays, has bagged the biggest bulletproof jacket order from the ministry of defence. What made it successful?

Photographs by Vishal Koul

How often do people get to make products that are worshipped, literally? Ashish Kansal is therefore rightfully excited narrating the story of a happy customer. “At the Defence Expo 2018, I was approached by a commando who had been shot with two bullets in 2011, one on the chest and another on the hand. While the hand was ruptured, there was not a scratch on the chest, which had been protected by our bulletproof vest. He has kept a photo of this vest in his pooja room at home,” says the 39-year-old executive director of the Delhi-based SMPP. 

The small firm found itself under the spotlight in 2018 when it bagged an order of 186,000 lightweight bulletproof jackets (BPJs) from the Ministry of Defence. The total order amounts to Rs.6.39 billion. This defence products’ manufacturing firm was founded by Ashish’s father SC Kansal in 1985, and has a production facility in Palwal (Haryana) near Delhi, staffing over 400. The firm also manufactures other defence products such as combustible casing ammunition and green packaging, which is cellulose-based packaging that does not use plastic or polythene.

Ashish Kansal Executive director, SMPPBut what differentiates SMPP in the defence space is its capability to manufacture a type of ceramic called boron carbide. It is the third-strongest and one of the lightest materials known to mankind, and the primary material used in modern BPJs.

The history of BPJs has been largely about finding the most effective and lightweight material. Since the 1500s, armies have experimented with reinforced metal, interwoven silk and layered hard cotton. In 1971, they settled on Kevlar, discovered by DuPont’s Stephanie Kwolek and made of synthetic fibre and layered enough to have 5x the tensile strength of steel. In the early 2000s, ceramics such as boron carbide came to be preferred for being stronger and lighter. Gl


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