Australian engineers revolutionise India’s ‘namkeen’ innovation

Brisbane food-equipment manufacturer Heat and Control is making significant strides in global markets, leveraging Australian engineering and advanced manufacturing capabilities in India.

Through Australia’s trade agreement with India, Brisbane-based Heat and Control company’s Indian subsidiary imports parts and design expertise from Australia, fabricates bespoke food-manufacturing equipment in Chennai, and exports it worldwide.

“Today, around 70% of everything we make here is exported,” says Manoj Paul, Heat and Control’s General Manager for India and South Asia. “We have customers around the world, from South America to Europe and Southeast Asia.”

Image: Brisbane-based Heat and Control (Austrade India – X)

India’s food manufacturing sector is on a rapid growth trajectory, with the Economic Times of India predicting it will be worth US$535 billion by 2025–26. To maintain self-sufficiency in food manufacturing, India must embrace the latest technology.

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Brisbane-based Heat and Control is a leading global manufacturer of food processing and packaging equipment. Whether a food manufacturer needs equipment to cook, bake, fry, season, or coat, Heat and Control has the solution.

Image: Brisbane-based Heat and Control (Austrade India – X)

Heat and Control first expanded into India in 2006, initially selling equipment to produce Western-style snacks. It wasn’t long before they began receiving requests for equipment to make ‘namkeen’ – traditional Indian savoury snacks.

“Australian engineers came to India, looked at how namkeen is made, then engineered a solution,” says Paul.

“We opened a factory in Chennai and began assembling machinery using parts imported from Australia. The machines could make namkeen at a rate of 500 kilograms per hour.”

These machines quickly gained popularity. The company soon developed machines with increased capacity, first producing one tonne per hour, then three tonnes per hour. This demand spurred investment, and by early 2024, the Chennai factory employed over 600 people across manufacturing, sales, and administration.

The removal of trade restrictions between Australia and India, following the implementation of the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA), has facilitated this growth.

“AI-ECTA helps us a lot,” says Paul. “We were part of the original study for the trade agreement. We worked with trade officials to explore how removing barriers would benefit both countries. We can use AI-ECTA because we can freely import parts from Australia to build the machines here in Chennai. And we can send machinery back to Australia without duties as well.”

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Image: Brisbane-based Heat and Control (Source: X)

The benefits extend to Indian businesses, particularly small, family-run operations.

“There has been a definite shift in automation in the last 10 years,” says Paul. “Food processing used to be very manual. Now, automation is not only the norm, it is essential. With our advanced state-of-the-art machinery, small, local food-makers in India can aspire to become big food manufacturers.”

Combining Australian design and Indian manufacturing has proved to be a winning strategy globally. Recently, Heat and Control secured an order to supply high-output machinery to South America, capable of producing French fries at a rate of 25 tonnes per hour, all assembled in India.

“It’s our mix of expertise that gives us an edge,” says Paul. “For the South American order, the lead engineering designer was based in Australia. We did the detailed design and assembly here in India, including the risk assessment work. Our machines are built to global food-safety standards, which helps with global compliance. Much of what we do is designed in Australia, made in India, and exported to the rest of the world.”

Image: Brisbane-based Heat and Control (Austrade India – X)

Austrade manufacturing specialists in India have provided invaluable on-the-ground support for over 20 years.

“Austrade officials have been very supportive,” says Paul. “They facilitated interactions with the Indian Government, which is very valuable for an Australian company working in India.”

Austrade also helped executives from Heat and Control participate in official investor events organised by the state government of Tamil Nadu, which ultimately led to the necessary approvals to start production in Chennai. Additionally, Austrade organised industry events where executives met potential customers in India.

“India will inevitably become one of the biggest and most advanced food-manufacturing economies in the world,” says Paul. “Australian engineering is helping to make that happen.”

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