Interview with Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL)

Interview with Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL)

Interview with Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL)

“In the next 18 months, we expect cargo to reach pre-Covid levels”

Being the fastest recovering cargo airport in India, Bangalore Airport is quite positive towards the recovery. The airport has been able to gain 62 pc of last year’s overall tonnage during the same period, and has taken initiatives for infrastructural expansions and technology implementation. Satyaki Raghunath, Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), in an exclusive interview with Apace Digital Cargo, shares the revival plans and a positive outlook towards post-Covid situation, with a target to cross the one Million Metric Tonnes per year mark over the next decade. 

To begin with, how has been the cargo movement at the Bangalore airport?

Despite the pandemic, BLR Airport processed 99,154 MT of cargo in the current Financial Year (Apr – Aug-20), leading to 62 pc recovery of pre-Covid levels. As the fastest recovering cargo airport in India, BLR Airport’s cargo market share improved to 15.5 pc from 11 pc due to efficiency, state-of-the-art technology, processes and our solution-driven approach.

Which airlines operate from the airport and what are the primary sectors for which cargo handling is done? How many destinations have been served for the cargo movement?

BLR Airport has 36 passenger airlines and 14 freighter airlines. We have witnessed 4,081 Cargo Air Traffic Movements (ATMs), almost 92 pc growth in cargo ATMs over the previous year. Doha, Hong Kong, Frankfurt and Shanghai are our top cargo destinations. We are connected to 24 direct international destinations.

Is perishables the primary commodity handled majorly by the airport? What about pharma as compared to other airports who have hubs for pharma?

Our perishable tonnage in the current Financial Year through August was 10,754MT (source APEDA & DGCIS). As a result, BLR Airport has catered to the highest volume of perishable exports amongst airports in India, through this period. The perishables were delivered to 31 countries. Pharma accounts for 6 pc of our total throughput.

What initiatives have been taken or planned to boost infrastructure and technology at the airport in terms of cargo operations?

AISATS CoolPort, India’s first integrated on-Airport Perishable Handling Centre (PHC) –This 11,000 sq. metre facility has a handling capacity of 40,000 MT per annum and temperature zones ranging from -25 to +25 degrees Centigrade under the same roof. These facilities cater to Dedicated Storage location for cut flowers, Dedicated Plant Quarantine Testing and Certification Center, Special equipment to handle Flowers (Cool Trolley).

Express Cargo Terminal – In order to provide a dedicated handling facility for express courier shipments, the Country’s first dedicated Express Courier Terminal is under construction at BLR Airport, and is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2020. This Terminal will house some of world’s best-known courier players such as DHL Express, UPS, EICI and FedEx at a dedicated facility, thereby offering additional benefits to the city and our customers.

Public Bonded Warehouse within the Cargo facility – This is a first-of-its-kind ’on-Airport Public Bonded Warehouse’ in India, which is operational 24×7. This facility is expected to support re-export of goods, long term storage of bonded cargo, assist partial clearances, allow value-added services by the supply chain, etc. from the BLR Airport campus.

To streamline air cargo logistics, BIAL is set to introduce the Air Cargo Community System (ACS). This digital platform will enable seamless collaboration between all stakeholders in the supply chain to deliver superior and efficient cargo operations at BLR Airport.

To facilitate the needs of the trucking community at BLR Airport, BIAL is developing India’s first on-airport, dedicated truck management facility. This facility will provide various features like fuelling, restaurant, medical, rest areas, etc. 

In terms of digitalization, what initiatives have been in place related to online processing or paperless work, etc?

We were the first airport in India to be IATA e-freight compliant. We are in the process to implement Air Cargo Community System (ACS) that will enable collaboration between all stakeholders in the supply chain to deliver superior and efficient cargo operations at BLR Airport and reduce paperwork.  

So far lockdown has impacted the airport? What challenges have been faced? What are the revival plans?

During the nation-wide lockdown, BLR Airport continued to operate round-the-clock to ensure that people across the country were able to receive essential commodities like medicines, medical equipment and kits, and perishables, among others. After a brief lull in cargo operations due to the lockdown, positive signs of demand emerged in May 2020.

During this time, BIAL also facilitated a meeting between perishable cargo agents and various government agencies to promote perishable cargo. Working with Government, the movement of perishable cargo was tracked daily to ensure smooth flow of shipments, making us the number one airport in India to facilitate perishable exports.

Revival plans: As India emerged from the lockdown in stages, cargo volumes showed a steady growth. BLR airport has been able to gain approximately 62 pc of last year’s overall tonnage during the same period, including 72 pc recovery in international volumes, and 48 pc recovery in domestic volumes. Apart from our infrastructure expansion and technology implementation, we are working with our trade partners to augment our existing initiatives to improve throughput.

As per BIAL, what is the outlook for the air cargo sector considering the current prevailing situation of pandemic? 

Even during the pandemic environment, air cargo has been a stable source of revenue generation for air cargo supply chain partners. We feel the pandemic has resulted in a short-term impact. In the next 18 months, we expect cargo to reach pre-Covid levels, post which, we expect steady growth. In the longer-term, we expect to BLR airport to cross the 1 Million Metric Tonnes per year mark over the next decade.

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