We welcome Chris Jones, Vice President and Head of Aerospace and Defence EMEA at Infotech Enterprises, to our regular series of interviews with leading figures in the South West business community.
Hello Chris, tell us about Infotech Enterprises and your role.
Infotech is a global engineering firm with $345m turnover and 10,000 employees worldwide. Aerospace accounts for 2,500 staff and a third of turnover. Around 80% of our operations are based in India with the other 20% across the world, but mainly in the USA. Our focus is on practical engineering solutions rather than software. Any software we do write has practical use, such as instrument panels or pure electronics.
My role is to expand the European side of our aerospace interests, which currently accounts for only 10% of the total. We have 3 or 4 major aerospace customers in Europe and we want to expand more into all aspects of defence. My greatest desire is to create a design and manufacturing base in Europe. I’m not entirely sure where this would be or what it would look like, but one customer in particular has shown a great interest in us becoming a new high tech manufacturer within the UK.
What challenges are you facing over the next 12 months?
The real challenge over the next year will be finding the right acquisitions to fuel growth. There are a lot of big players in the Aerospace and Defence industries and we need to access those markets. We have both the speed and finances needed to buy into the market. For example the French aerospace market is particularly difficult to access and will necessitate us buying a French business.
How has the economic recession impacted your business?
In many ways the current economic climate has played to our favour. The existing aerospace companies are under heavy pressure, there is a global shift of business to the east and increasing tendency for offshoring, all of which is good for an Indian aerospace company.
Do you think that the government is doing enough to support your sector?
I think that the government has a serious commitment to supporting aerospace in the UK. In fact I am meeting with a UKTI representative to discuss this. Investment in technology such as the National Composite Centre is supporting the industry. The problem facing the UK is education and the lack of focus on science and engineering subjects at school and university. UK engineering businesses find it hard to locate native high quality engineering graduates, and with India producing around 50,000 engineering graduates a year competition is intense.
What’s your view on the South West’s business scene?
The South West has a vibrant business scene. It’s really seen as a ‘place to be’ nationally: more and more businesses are setting up here and the increase in house building and traffic on our roads show how it’s getting more popular! The South West is also attracting investment. Engineering firm GKN has spent £400m on development in the region.
Do you have any Non-Executive Directorships?
I don’t (yet!) have any non-executive directorships and my advisory roles are more informal than anything else. I have a good network with businesses and I am recognised as being experienced in the sector, so I’m always willing to give advice to others.
Do you have any advice that you’d pass on to a newly appointed company director?
Look, listen and learn. Get as much advice as you can. Recognise that there is nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know something.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I keep fit with running, cycling, swimming and spin classes. I also enjoy woodworking and model railways but don’t seem to get time for either these days!
Who is your hero / personal inspiration?
I don’t have a particular hero. I have been inspired by some people that I have worked with through the years and still keep in close contact with them to get their advice.
What is on your I Pod and what are you reading right now?
I am an avid reader, but don’t get as much time to read as I would like. My last book was Dan Brown’s inferno, which I was not particularly impressed with. I also have several business management books on the go. Much of my reading nowadays seems to come from articles on the internet. In terms of music, I’m listening to Radio 2 on the commute to and from work.
What has been your experience of working with our company?
Vanessa is enormously experienced and is always very open, helpful and approachable. I have sought her career advice a number of times over the years and found her very supportive. I respect how she has built Moon Consulting into a successful brand and business.