India to manufacture carbon fibres; start-ups see growth, activists raise concerns

As India plans to set up manufacturing units for carbon fibres, start-ups anticipate sustainable growth amidst an evolving high-tech landscape while activists worry about the environment.

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Prior to the European Union's proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which will impose a tax on India for importing carbon-intensive goods from abroad starting in 2026, India has been planning to establish manufacturing units for carbon fibers as an alternative to metals, according to a report released by Mint in early April. While this is a response to the proposed EU Carbon tax, it is likely to significantly impact the aerospace, civil engineering, and defense sectors, which are important applications of the material.

Carbon fiber is considered a critical material in technical textiles, known for its properties such as high strength and lightweight, making it essential for various applications including fighter planes' noses, drone frames, civilian airplanes, car chassis, and fire-resistant building materials. Sonam Motwani, the founder and CEO of Mumbai-based, which offers manufacturing services for aerospace, drones, and more, says, "The advantages of carbon fiber, such as its high strength-to-weight ratio, excellent stiffness, corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity options, superior thermal properties, potential long-term cost savings, and design flexibility, closely align with the requirements of modern drone technology."


Sonam Motwani, the founder and CEO of

As of now, India does not produce carbon fibres and depends solely on imports from countries like the US, France, Japan, and Germany. With manufacturing units in India, startups like find the move valuable for the business. "As companies increasingly embrace carbon fibre technology in their UAVs, our capacity to deliver both small batch and volume production solutions, coupled with our adeptness in product localization, stands to become valuable," says Ms. Motwani, adding that the widespread adoption of carbon fibre is anticipated to propel progress in materials science and engineering, resulting in the creation of even lighter, stronger, and more adaptable materials. "This transition promises not only to overhaul conventional product design and manufacturing processes but also to spark innovation and technological advancements," she further adds.

Hyderabad-based Marut Dronetech sees the move as a helping hand in streamlining their supply chain with close collaboration with local carbon fibre suppliers, stating that it can "facilitate the development of customized composites tailored specifically for agricultural drone applications." "With reduced lead times for acquiring materials, we can respond more swiftly to market demands, while potential cost competitiveness stemming from localized production could bolster our market position," says Prem Kumar Vislawath, the founder and CEO of the company. He also mentioned that with access to carbon fibre materials, they would be able to develop drones with "enhanced performance, durability, and efficiency." "This technological advancement will not only strengthen the company's position in the market but also contribute to sustainability efforts by reducing fuel consumption and emissions in agricultural operations," Mr. Vislawath adds.



Prem Kumar Vislawath, founder and CEO of Marut Dronetech

According to the report released by Mint, concerned officials were quoted saying that the plan includes conducting research in premier technical institutes such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to ensure that these manufacturing units meet international standards. Speaking with Local Samosa, Mr. Vislawath also says that carbon fibre manufacturing units may foster technological advancements through collaboration with research institutions, driving innovation in drone design and manufacturing processes. "Collaboration across industries, academia, and government agencies will also flourish as a result of the establishment of carbon fibre manufacturing units," he says, adding that growth in the carbon fibre industry in India will create job opportunities and stimulate economic growth.


Agnishwar Jayaprakash, Founder and CEO, Garuda Aerospace

The project is part of the National Technical Textiles Mission, which was started in 2020 to oversee technical textiles activities. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is the industry partner of the textiles ministry for this project. Agnishwar Jayaprakash, founder and CEO of Garuda Aerospace, sees the move as "India taking claim to become a Global Drone Hub by 2030." "The major part of our 110 crore revenue came from Drone Sales and services, both of which require carbon fibres," Mr. Jayaprakash of the Chennai-based company says, adding that the move will aid the brand in exporting drones to 50 countries across the world.


Vipul Singh, the co-founder, and CEO, Aereo

Another B2B drone technology start-up from Bengaluru, Aereo, observes that the shift to domestic manufacturing of carbon fibre will help companies like them become "self-sufficient and improve cost efficiency while skyrocketing the quality of aerospace components." "The indigenous production of carbon fibre would provide us with uninterrupted access to a crucial resource at very competitive prices. The downstream impact of this is increased lifecycles of our drones, better performance, and greater productivity across all our verticals. This goes to show that small but key changes in supply chain management can make a huge difference for startups across the nation," says Vipul Singh, the co-founder, and CEO of the start-up.

'Manufacturers flout the safety norms'

The step might prove to be a breakthrough for the above-mentioned sectors, similar to how the discovery of lithium reserves in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) last year was for the automotive industry. While businesses welcome such developments, they may not appeal to other sections of society, including activists vocal about environmental protection. "While a few types of carbon fibres are claimed to be eco-friendly, the production of carbon fibres involves petrochemicals, which emit greenhouse gases into our environment," says Dr. Sarita Subramaniam, the founder of the Chembur-based Earth Brigade Foundation.

Regarding such development plans that come at the cost of the environment, Dr. Subramaniam says, "On paper, there may be many mitigation measures, but we all know how easily manufacturers flout safety norms and how poorly penalties are applied to rich corporations in India." She further adds, 'The main concern is how India will meet its COP21 Paris agreement to minimize dependence on fossil fuels if we pursue carbon fibre manufacturing in India?"

Dr. Subramaniam (right) is seen at Bishanpura, Mukki, Kanha Tiger Reserve, where her NGO installed solar panels.
Raising concerns, Dr. Subramaniam, who has been working for the betterment of forests and wildlife by setting up solar panels across the country, opines, 'We need to assess the ecological damage we are inflicting on nature when we pursue "development as promoted by the same developed nations that have given rise to the conflict between the environment and industrialization." "We claim that we want to absorb billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide by increasing our forest cover, but we are losing hectares and hectares of natural primary forests every day in the name of development," Dr. Subramaniam laments.
Carbon fibres Drone start-ups