India targets ambitious goal

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air cargo India 2024 opened its doors in Mumbai, India for a three day conference and trade fair, offering visitors, industry experts and traders a space to engage in networking opportunities and hear industry insights.

Acknowledging the potential India has to offer the airfreight industry, the conference began with a panel discussion, asking whether the country is ready to achieve its “ambitious target” of “10 million tonnes by 2030.”

Moderating this panel discussion, Roland Weil VP – Sales, Cargo at Frankfurt Airport opened the floor with his experience with Indian aviation market, going back three decades back and its potential prospects going forward.

Weil outlined three main areas of focus that are key to achieve the set target: Growing prospects, airport infrastructure and readiness of airlines and to embrace this demand surge.

Responding to this key issues, Ramesh Mamidala, Head of Cargo at Air India stated that “the target for 2030 should be around 12 million tonnes of air cargo movement, but let’s stick to the reality of 10 million tonnes.”

While Mamidala accepted the growth plans are ambitious, he said there should be a touch of reality for the country’s dream to come true. Mamidala explained that Air India’s cargo operation is already is moving around 3.5 million tonnes, as of today, with further growth potential to be achieved under the plans that have been prepared by the carrier’s new owner Tata Group.

Mamidala further denoted that Air India is on its path to revitalise its fleet mix with fresh orders for wide and narrow body aircrafts on the books, including the Airbus A350, with deliveries starting early January 2024.

The Air India cargo boss added that Air India is planning to up its game with the pharmaceuticals and e-commerce industry that has grown the Indian economy in the post-Covid pandemic: “We are looking to triple the size of cargo movement over next five years with heavy reliance on these two verticals.”

Yashpal Sharma, Managing Director of Skyways Group & President at ACFI, added: “Since the Mumbai and Delhi airport privatisation in 2006, the cargo industry has grown multi-fold year-on-year with emphasis on increases in manufacturing capacity, logistics infrastructure level and a policy shift to boost the air cargo movement.”

Sharma further asserted that there is a lot to achieve for the 10 million mark in 2030, with current levels at 3.5 million tonnes as of 2024, despite strong growth over past 8 years in electronic manufacturing and agricultural produce.

By adding capacity to shippers with the help of new airports and upgrading existing airports, he was confident that the set target will be achievable.

Tom Owen, Cathay Cargo’s Director, highlighted that “there are opportunities that can be exploited by opportunities like capacity availability, liberal region with seamless cargo movement and area of productivity and digitalisation.”

However, Owen believes the lack in overall enthusiasm to exploit this opportunity will harm the efficiency of the supply chain industry this affecting the air cargo movement.

Owen further denoted the journey of Hong Kong International Airport to achieve its mark as a cargo hub took both effort and a general willingness to meet its goals, addressing challenges swiftly along the way.

Dennis Lister, SVP Product and Innovation at Emirates SkyCargo emphasised that “the world is changing” and it’s time the industry adapts to these changing trends. With over 160 flights ex-India, Emirates SkyCargo moves around 2600 metric tonnes of cargo every week, with 28% being perishable goods.

The growth appetite of the Indian air cargo industry is clearly extensive but the challenges that are hindering this growth needs to be met at the earliest opportunity to prevent any delays in achieving the 2030 mark.

Manoj Singh, Chief Cargo Officer at Adani Airport Holding Company, outlined that, over recent years, robust policy design, digital infrastructure and an abundant talent pool will certainly add value to the 2030 target.

The GDP of India is growing at 6.5% to 6.85% YoY with a target to export cargo over USD$2 trillion by 2030 via its 106 clusters, creating added growth in the airfreight market.

Singh further stated that, having taken over six airports across India by the Adani group, its focus is on development of Mumbai Airport capacity along with New Navi Mumbai Airport, set to bring over 4 million tonnes – 1/3 of the cargo movement in India.

The group hopes to target niche products to boost its strategy, with e-commerce industry expected to add 2.5 million tonnes, eventually surpassing the USD $400 billion mark by 2040.

Sanjeev Edward, CEO, Cargo & Logistics GMR Group declared that “this is a time for growth for India’s markets.” India is repositioning itself with rest of the world, becoming the second largest manufacturing hub and a target of being the biggest consumer market by 2030

“This is the time to gear up and grow India’s capacity with added investments in infrastructure and an emphasis on making primary airports like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru cargo hubs.

The panel further discussed the challenges in acquiring transhipment share by the Indian air cargo market and its reasons for the delays in the cargo cycle eco-system. the challenges like lack of digitalisation, heavy red tape protocols, lack in the regulatory system and overall infrastructure hinders the potential of the market. The key solution of developing a multi-modal transportation and cargo movement system is the key to overcome these challenges.

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Author: Ajinkya Gurav