Key issues discussed at Air Cargo India 2016

Air Cargo India held in Mumbai recently brought the best of the air cargo professionals from around the world to discuss in detail the most pertinent issues impacting the industry. The event also saw a record number of Indian shippers attending the conference sessions at the three-day event. ITLN Bureau

The 6th edition of Air Cargo India took off after Dr Renu Singh Parmar, senior advisor to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, officially opened the event. Hundreds of air cargo professionals from around the world participated in the event.

Themed “Make in India – air cargo makes it happen” inspired by the Indian Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Make in India’, Air Cargo India 2016 attracted more delegates and visitors than its previous edition in 2014. There were 434 delegates and 3450 trade visitors. 70 leading air cargo companies – representing airports, airlines, technology and service providers, freight forwarder – exhibited their products and services at the three-day event held in Grand Hyatt in Mumbai from February 23 to 25.

Dr Parmar, who delivered the keynote address immediately after the inauguration, sounded optimistic despite slow global growth rate and continuous decline in India’s exports figures. Dr Parmar highlighted the Indian government’s ambitious plan to roll out the nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST) this year which is bound to speed up logistics processes significantly. “GST roll out will boost GDP growth by 2-2.5 percent and increase exports by 10-14 percent,” she said. Talking particularly about freight dwell times she said that the government is working on a way to reduce it. “It is at a dismal stage now. The government has done a study and will draw up a strategy this year. We hope to bring it down to 48 hours within a year,” she promised.

However, the logistics costs in India is very high compared to that of many developed countries. It is about 13-14 percent of GDP and has adversely affected India’s trade. For the developed countries it is between 7 to 8 percent.

While elaborating on the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Indian government to make India as a manufacturing hub for global companies, Dr Parmar made her pitch to the air cargo logistics industry to do its part by investing in India as the government has significantly improved the ease of doing business in India. “India imports a lot of things. We want you to come and make it here. For instance x-ray machines, cold storage and reefer trucks,” she said.

The session that followed soon after witnessed an objective and no holds barred discussion on how the air freight industry will play an integral role in making the ’Make in India’ initiative a success. Glyn Hughes, Global Head of Cargo, IATA, who moderated the session, kicked off the discussion addressing the question to the panellists if the air freight industry in India is ready to provide the right links to the global market.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ vision is only a part of the story. This vision needs to be complemented by logistics in India and improved infrastructure,” said Sanjiv Edward, Chairman of TIACA and head of Cargo Business, Delhi International Airport.
Nurturing skilled labour, creating an environment conducive to business by relaxing regulations, adopting technology for ease of doing business were some of the main issues discussed.

In the afternoon on the inaugural day of Air Cargo India, Brussels Airport hosted the Pharma Air Shippers’ Forum which saw huge turnout from India’s pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. This was the second Pharma Air Shippers’ Forum taking place under the auspices of the event, and the response was overwhelming to say the least. The objective was to give a platform for the shippers of pharma products to meet with other links in the supply chain and address the challenges faced by them.

The second days’ discussion concentrated on the potentials and pitfalls in India’s ambition to be global force in the air freight industry. Hemanth D P, Chief Operating Officer, Aero Commercial, Cargo and Asia Pacific Flying school, GMR Airports moderated the session. There was this opinion that freight forwarders would have to brace themselves up in the light of the flourishing e-Commerce. IT and logistics companies will play a key role in changing the face of the industry in the coming years was the thread of discussion in the session.
“We see great potential and growth in India over the last few years. This is a country, which has far more potential but to unlock this, the key is infrastructure, bureaucracy and digitisation,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, Member, Executive Board, Lufthansa Cargo, a panellist on the session.

Justin Bowman, the chief executive of Air Charter Service, demanded a quicker access in India for charter operations, pointing to slow regulatory environment. “The Indian authorities do not make it easy for charter operators. The issue is of ad-hoc airlines being able to operate quickly. There should be five or six hubs and the authorities should make it 24 hours making it easier for shippers with just-in-time shipments. We can assist shippers’ with exports, but we need to get it to the rest of the world and the only way is to make it easier and quicker for us,” elaborated Bowman.

The session titled ‘Freight forwarding – evolving paradigms and embracing global best practices’ was moderated by Des Vertannes, Retired Air Cargo Executive and Former Global Head of Cargo, IATA. It had representations from both domestic and international freight forwarding companies like Jeena & Compnay and DHL Global Forwarding. Eric Hartmann, Vice President, Cargo Alliance, SkyTeam Cargo, represented airlines in the debate.

An exclusive Air Shippers’ Forum hosted by Frankfurt Airport with the support of Federation of Indian Exports Organisation (FIEO) took place in the afternoon of the second day. Such was the response to the forum the organizers had to work extra hard to manage the entry of delegates and make special arrangements to accommodate everyone. The theme was ‘Forum for facilitating the Indian exporters and importers.

E-Commerce is the most talked about business in the world today. It has brought about a sea change in the purchasing habits of millions of people around the world. The first session on the concluding day of Air Cargo India featured a session titled ‘eCommerce – delivering the future’.

The end user experience and pricing are the two key issues that, according to panellists on the discussion, would shape the success of any eCommerce company. “These are interesting times for those in forwarding. We have previously focused on the satisfaction of a few thousand customers. It has turned around – it is no longer a few thousand, but millions of customers. It’s not so much about on-time delivery but the experience of customers. We now need to have a conversation with all of them,” asserted Percy Avari, Regional Manager, South Asia, Aramex.

The last panel discussion of the three-day event was on ‘Indo-Africa Trade Link – value waiting to be unlocked’. Africa is a virgin land of opportunities and the industry has been witnessing traders vying with each other to cash in on the opportunities in the continent. India is one of the countries having a thriving business relation with the continent and the panellists on the session reiterated the fact that Africa’s potential are still untapped and air cargo industry has huge opportunities there.

Hosted by Liege Airport, the session was moderated by Steven Verhasselt, Director, Liege Airport. “In the last few years we have actually seen a lot of shipments coming in from India and we’re very optimistic that the growth of trade between India and Africa is to increase, with the statistics clearly indicating the same. However, we still feel that there is room for growth,” said Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO of Astral Aviation, an all cargo airline in Kenya.

The highlight of the whole event was the glittering award night when STAT Times honoured those who had achieved excellence in the industry. There were about 18 different categories in which excellence was honoured. While Frankfurt Airport bagged the winner’s trophy in the International Cargo Airport of the Year category, Emirates SkyCargo won the International Cargo Airline of the Year award. Etihad Cargo was declared the Air Cargo Brand of the Year. The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Chris Chapman, one of the founders of Chapman Freeborn Air Chartering company, the world leaders in air chartering. It was a fitting tribute to the vision and entrepreneurship of the man, who had a humble upbringing, and went on to create the leading charter providing company in the world.