A small British company, with just six employees, has struck a £3.5 million (about Rs 31.5 crore) trade deal to sell musical instruments to the Indian Army.
The London-based British Band Instrument Company is sending 1,500 instruments to military bands in India via sea freight through Mumbai. There are two contracts: one to send bagpipes to 26 Indian military bands and one to send drums, cornets, trombones, tubas, flutes, clarinets, French Horns and euphoniums to 47 regimental centres.
“It’s one of the biggest contracts we’ve had,” said Alun Hughes who founded the company 10 years ago. “They want to use the same instruments they’ve historically been supplied. We provide the same quality and specification as Boosey & Hawkes. These instruments are not manufactured in India to my knowledge.”
He said Indian military bands are “almost the same as British military bands”. “It’s a Raj legacy but though people think bagpipes are Scottish, they actually emanate from Middle East and Indian subcontinent,” he said. Hughes has been manufacturing and repairing instruments for decades. He recalls how in the 1950s a colleague at Boosey & Hawkes, where he then worked, supplied military band instruments to maharajas. “He’d be paid in gold bullion, take it to Dubai, convert it into tolas and turn that into currency to send back to the UK.”
Hughes now manufactures under licence with the Boosey & Hawkes brand name and supplies 70 countries, many of them Commonwealth nations.
A Department for International Trade spokesman said: “The UK currently exports £7.9 billion of goods and services to India each year… deals like this show clear demand for our … products.”