We started in India in 2008 with the Ground handling operations in Mumbai and went out to expand to other locations, including the Delhi cargo terminal. At the moment, Celebi is present at seven airports -Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cochin, Kannur and Ahmedabad. We also have a license going forward to operate at the new Goa airport when that commences. We have always kept our eyes and ears open for any meaningful opportunities in the Aviation sector in India and will continue to do so. Despite the pandemic, we have remained steady in terms of our vision to grow in India in areas related to ground handling, cargo handling or related services. We’ve taken part in various tenders for the last two years.
On the cargo front, we are looking at emerging opportunities at new airports while, in most cases, we would pursue them on our own, with a few others we would look at working with partners.
India is a significantly growing market and is going to be the third-largest aviation market in the next couple of years. We are on the path to becoming a $5 trillion-dollar economy. There are various initiatives to grow the aviation sector in spite of the challenges that we face during Covid. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has a vision of achieving almost 10 million tons. Though an ambitious target, we feel it’s achievable with the collective support of industry stakeholders.
Air Cargo wasn’t the most attractive field for many is a fact, but that was in the past. I have been part of this industry for almost 30 years now. I’ve seen a lot of changes and developments that have taken place over the years, and I would also want to add the pandemic came with a silver lining for the Air Cargo Industry. During the lockdown, Air Cargo came to the forefront and got to play a critical role. Earlier, that was not the case because we all know aviation was the domain of the passenger business, and cargo was a by-product of it. Pandemic changed that completely. Air Cargo was there to maintain critical supply chains such as the foods, medicines, PPE kits and other necessary items required to deal with the perilous times globally. If you can pick last year statics for air carriers, I guess they have by far the best years in their entire history.
One of the other things I would like to add besides the pandemic and role it played; it’s the prominence of the e-Commerce players. e-Commerce delivers goods to every corner of the country and worldwide, giving them a reach in terms of scale and attractiveness, thereby opening new opportunities for new talent.
Many supply chain players have re-casted their value proposition and encouraged changes. They have adopted technology like never before by incorporating innovation as a core element of change, which I am pretty sure would create employment opportunities. The playing field now available for the stakeholders is turning global. I believe outstanding talent is looking at the Aviation and Air Cargo Logistics supply chain as a lead sector to make career options in this growing industry.
Geographies do matter. People expect standardization across countries, but localization is equally important and we cannot ignore this factor. Air Cargo industry is subject to a lot of local factors, whether it is to do with the authorities, customs, security agencies, the local processing protocols or the relationship with the airport and other key stakeholders; that comes into play when a specific process is being developed, and there’s a bit of an influence on the local front while people recognize that, they deal with airline customers who are also international in nature and expect a single standardized product across the different stations of their network. I have worked in different continents of the world, and I have observed while we cannot change the critical elements of the business, there are local adaptations which need bringing in, as that’s how the combination works. International practices are primarily driven by defined Industry standards and have a particular expectation as far as the basic elements of the Air Cargo business are concerned – whether it’s to do with messaging, processing, whether it’s to do with the security requirements, or when it concerns special products handled, the local factors are also of equal importance. Good practices, combined with the local expectations of the industry and the stakeholders, are a fine blend.
I think today, “innovation” is the new buzzword. Irrespective of different continents, everybody is looking at means to integrate it into its processes, to do its standard operating processes and the way they work and perform. The only thing that could vary is the level of innovation. Acceptance towards waiting and trying to bring in new technologies and new digital platforms and try to create the business or the operations as automated and as innovative as possible is something that everybody’s looking forward. Tech-companies are also getting attracted towards Air Cargo and they’re bringing their technological skill sets into the Air Cargo industry to see how they can contribute and improve the digital processes.
Sustainability is the need of the hour. On most of the international platforms, this topic is getting widely discussed. Whether it’s the airports or the terminals or the businesses, many people are giving their focus and trust towards what they can do to work towards sustainable goals. Sustainability is one of the key principles of our business. Anything to do with environment-friendly initiatives, procedures and practices, we have always been initiators.
We are committed to complying with all relevant environmental rules and regulations to prevent, eliminate or reduce pollution through whatever best environmental practices are available for us to follow today. We recognize that there’s a lot of innovation, good initiatives carried out in this area; when there are new initiatives and new opportunities that come up, it’s something that we constantly monitor and try to work towards it. Regarding our environmental safety, Delhi Cargo already has a solar energy generation capability of 3.42 Megawatt. We look at waste as recyclable and collect, segregate and recycle it. We have also looked at areas of water treatment and how effectively we can reuse it. We are constantly looking for new technologies available to reduce CO2 emissions. We are also looking at green billing and working with the airline and our vendors towards cost effectiveness.
Our stakeholders are of prime importance, and we constantly work on issues close to their heart that we can incorporate and work towards it so that there’s a collaborative push with our customers and our vendors.
Technology is a prominent element of the change in the future that we have in our minds. We are also looking at upgrading our infrastructure to handle our growth, on both the ground handling and cargo side. We are investing in upgrading our centre for perishable cargo in Delhi, which has a capacity of over 65,000 tons. During pandemic, we also proceeded to go for global certifications because the key cargo movement during Covid was pharmaceutical and medical items. We ensured that our perishable centre, which handles Pharma and other perishable items, was certified through IATA certification for CEIV.
We had audits from IATA, a certified auditor who went through our procedures, processes and documentation, and we were one of the earliest airport to get CEIV certified. We also looked at partnerships and centres to seamlessly handle international volumes from different countries and connect to their final destinations. We plan to introduce additional handling equipment to meet future demand; we intend to invest in security initiatives like having the latest machines. We are looking at industry compliances from a security point of view. Whether it’s Indian, European, or American security, we are focused on upgrading our infrastructure processes to ensure zero theft.
Going forward, we need to enhance our warehouse management system to include new features to improve and add valuable elements to it. We would look at new techniques and building new technologies like IoT, automation, blockchain etc in various areas, like temperature monitoring and data integration with airport systems. It could be task automation which would help us leverage, and we could also look at adopting tools for digitalization of manual paper-based processes that would enhance the efficiency. Our IT infrastructure has proper security protocols attached to it so that whatever we do is in a secure environment. It’s essential to ensure protection of the data and the credibility of the built operation by the latest reliable technologies. This is an area where we constantly look towards improving our capabilities as we go along.