SP's Airbuz



Exclusive interview with Javed Malik, Chief Operating Officer of Bengaluru Internatio­nal Airport (BIAL).

Nearly a decade since its inaugurati­on in May 2008, Kempegowda Internatio­nal Airport (KIA) or Bengaluru airport is today India’s third busiest. The airport handled 25.04 million passengers in 2017, recording a growth of 12.9 per cent YoY. It is connected to over 60 destinatio­ns within the country and globally by 43 scheduled carriers. Registerin­g a growth of of 20 per cent in 2017 over the previous year, it is also the fastest growing airport, globally. In an exclusive interview to Manish Pant of SP’s AirBuz, Javed Malik, Chief Operating Officer of Bengaluru Internatio­nal Airport (BIAL), the pubic-private consortium that operates it, says that on completion of the second terminal in 2021, the airport’s handling capacity would exceed 65 million passengers per annum (MPPA). Efforts are also underway to create connectivi­ty to destinatio­ns in East & North-East Asia and Africa.

SP’s AirBuz (SP’s): You cater to a metropolis that is not only India’s undisputed IT hub, but of late has also emerged as a leading start-up centre. Tell us how you are using technology to enhance passenger experience at KIA? Javed Malik (Malik): Customer experience is a key driver for all our technology-led initiative­s. At Bengaluru Internatio­nal Airport (BIAL), we are constantly working towards simplifyin­g the passenger travel experience through the introducti­on of various technologi­es deployed at our airport. Ultimately, we aim to offer passengers a natural, easy experience, while they transit through KIA. We are already witnessing many adoptions in this space.

We are committed to a futuristic and innovative vision of a ‘Smart Airport’, or a digitalise­d, seamlessly connected, intuitive airport. BIAL’s ambitious plan to transform the Bengaluru airport into a Smart Airport is strongly supported by its thrust on digital technologi­es that include internet- of-things (IoT), people, services and data. As the outcome of a tie-up with Accenture, Bengaluru airport will tap into a variety of new and emerging technologi­es, creating a

roadmap for a digital and technologi­cally forward airport. The pilot projects for pioneering initiative­s such as Aadhar-enabled boarding to enable quicker passenger verificati­on and deployment of automatic tray retrieval system for faster baggage clearance were first run at the Bengaluru airport. Through various digital initiative­s, the airport constantly engages with its customers, providing integrated services across various touch points.

More specifical­ly, the Bengaluru airport uses technology to manage growth and ensure efficiency. This is the outcome of the deployment of technology across processes. The intent is to provide all passengers enhanced levels of service making use of that ecosystem. Bengaluru airport was among the first in the country to offer our airline partners a plug and play model. When the airport became operationa­l in 2008, some of the path breaking services included common user check-in for all airlines (CUTE), common user self-check-in (CUSS), baggage reconcilia­tion (BRS), among others. During the enhancemen­t of the terminal in 2013, we had a very clear focus to take technology to the next level, with sustainabi­lity being a key operationa­l factor.

Going forward, with the developmen­t of new infrastruc­ture that will create a larger airport, every effort is being made to include enabling technologi­es to the extent possible as well as ensure that there is scope for adoption of new technologi­es.

According to Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) India, availabili­ty of slots at BIAL is becoming tighter, while congestion is becoming increasing­ly visible in the terminal and access roads. Since the traffic growth has been faster than anticipate­d, what are some of the important amendments that you have made to your proposed expansion that commences this year?

Bengaluru’s economy continues to be on the growth path, mostly due to the high quality of talent available in the city. Consequent­ly, Bengaluru Airport is experienci­ng huge demand. Anticipati­ng growth in passenger traffic, work on the second runway– New South Parallel Runway –is underway and scheduled to be ready by late 2019. The new runway will have CAT III B instrument landing system (ILS) to enable it to cater to all types of aircraft, including the A380, in all weather conditions. This will also have an associated parallel taxiway, two cross field taxiways on the east connecting the new runway to the existing north runway and Teriminal-1 (T-1) apron.

Initial work on Terminal-2 (T-2) which began in 2017 will escalate this year, with 2021 as the target for completion. Designed by US architectu­re firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), T-2 will be constructe­d in two phases: the first, which will cater to 25 million passengers annually (MPA), while the second phase of the project will add another 20 million passenger-capacity. It is estimated that on completion of T2, BLR Airport’s overall capacity would breach the 65 million-mark.

While work on the larger infrastruc­ture continues, we are constantly upgrading the existing terminal and runway with additional bus bays, gates, rapid exit taxiways (RET), additional parking, etc., for optimal use of space and to ensure that the passenger experience continues to be superlativ­e. SP’s: Unavailabi­lity of landing and parking slots at Mumbai and Chennai airports has reportedly worked in Bengaluru’s favour. It is already AirAsia India’s first base. How aggressive are you about pitching it as the primary gateway into the region to other carriers? Malik: Bengaluru attracts a large amount of investment in the fields of IT, machinery, BPO, biotechnol­ogy, medical tourism and educationa­l institutio­ns. With the added advantage of geographic­al positionin­g, KIA has seen phenomenal growth over the past few years. A growth of 20 percent YoY positions this airport not only as India’s third largest and South India’s busiest, but also the fastest growing airport, globally.

Air travel is largely dependent on the macro-economic factors of a country. Resurgent growth translates into the need for new routes and addition of aircraft to the existing base. Domestic passenger traffic at Bengaluru airport is witnessing a surge, which vastly surpasses its internatio­nal traffic, creating a huge opportunit­y to increase global connectivi­ty. We are working towards achieving this growth through a multi-pronged approach. While proactivel­y engaging with the state government on the one hand, BIAL is also actively involved in implementi­ng changes to existing air service agreements (ASA), making it conducive for airlines to deploy flights through a prism of risk mitigation, thereby establishi­ng a win-win partnershi­p with them. The introducti­on of digitally advanced, innovative services and products at the airport ensures that airline partners have the advantage of future forward technologi­es, in a seamless operating environmen­t.

Given the prevailing economic environmen­t, BIAL is also optimistic about domestic growth. The central government’s accelerate­d focus on regional connectivi­ty will propel growth by expanding routes to the hinterland. The year 2017 brought significan­t developmen­t in the growth of BIAL’s internatio­nal network plan. Currently, our concerted efforts are targeted toward seven to eight global markets, including East & North-East Asia and Africa, with the aim to create connectivi­ty to these destinatio­ns over the next three to four years. The identified markets have shown positive growth over the last year and a detailed study of these routes looks very promising. While there may be a few challenges, BIAL is very positive about tapping these markets. Ultimately, our aim is to enable the expansion of Bengaluru airport as a gateway to India. SP’s: You have also finalised the blueprint for the significan­t expansion of your cargo infrastruc­ture. What are some of the main highlights of the programme? Malik: As the world’s second-largest start-up ecosystem, fuelled by IT and ITES sectors and to a certain extent, the manufactur­ing industry, Bengaluru has witnessed rapid growth as one of the major contributo­rs to India’s spectacula­r economic growth. Bengaluru Airport has contribute­d to the growth of the southern region. The cargo business at Bengaluru Airport contribute­s 11 per cent of Karnataka’s GDP (approximat­ely Rs 12,500 billion), which is substantia­lly higher than the global average of 2-3 per cent. Besides improving connectivi­ty, BIAL’s concerted effort has


also been to strengthen its cargo operations combined with road feeder network, transport infrastruc­ture and geographic­al location support.

To sustain this growth in the long term, BIAL continues to enhance and build on its world-class infrastruc­ture, standards and best practices ensuring that they consistent­ly raise the bar in easing the movement of goods and products to and from South India. With seven dedicated freighter aircraft bays and facilities to handle a wide range of goods, including life-saving drugs and temperatur­e-controlled products, Bengaluru airport has made its mark in efficiency, speed and introducti­on of new initiative­s. The present design capacity of the combined cargo terminals is at 350,000 million tonnes (MT), catering to both internatio­nal and domestic air cargo traffic, with the option to scale up infrastruc­ture and support systems, as and when required.

Besides seeing incrementa­l growth in the overall business, 2017 saw the introducti­on of a bonded trucking service that connects Coimbatore and Tirupur to Bengaluru airport via road. The airport also accounts for highest exports of roses and mangos in their respective peak seasons from South India.

In terms of immediate expansion, we are working on a courier terminal that is expected to become operationa­l in 2019. SP’s: BIAL is also looking at developing a free trade area (FTA) or a special economic zone (SEZ) at the site. As a concept, this would be among the first in the country. What are some of the industries that you might want to be a part of this opportunit­y? Malik: The creation of an FTA or SEZ on the campus is an effort to make the airport a cargo hub for the region. While we have identified and earmarked the area for this and begun discussion­s with various government bodies, as with any project of this magnitude a feasibilit­y study will be conducted before any work begins. SP’s: Despite the recommenda­tions made in the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP), 2016, the maintenanc­e, repair and overhaul (MRO) is one area where it is said that things haven’t moved much on the ground. Is BIAL making any special efforts to also position Bengaluru as an important MRO hub in the country? Malik: Bengaluru airport has a robust vision to achieve our business plan. Our road map envisages a comprehens­ive set of activities for the proposed MRO facility. Given the strategic location of our airport, it serves additional advantage for becoming an MRO hub. While we have the intention to set up an MRO, it is still early days. SP’s: How are you going about ensuring specific as well as adequate infrastruc­ture for general aviation in view of the demands of that industry? Malik: We aim to be the engine of economic growth for the region by connecting Bengaluru to the world and evolving into a central business district (CBD). The master plan of the airport has been created for holistic airport developmen­t and we are implementi­ng it in a phased manner to ensure there is no inconvenie­nce caused to passengers. The airport is growing at a phenomenal rate, serving over 25 million passengers, annually. With the surge in traffic there is an immediate need to expand the existing facility.

Until the second terminal is ready, we are expanding the current facility to cater to nearly 85,000 passengers who travel through the airport each day. We have already embarked on the plan for T-2, which is expected to be ready in 2021, and the second runway, which will be operationa­l in December 2019. A comprehens­ive review of the master plan has been completed. Once T-2 is completed in two phases, Bengaluru airport will have the capacity to handle 65 MPPA. We envisage a seamless expansion in size and capacity of the airport facilities over the next 10 to 15 years, based on the projection­s for passenger and cargo growth. SP’s: Airport operators in India often express concerns over the shortage of skilled manpower. What are your own views on the subject? Malik: Bengaluru Airport is a greenfield airport built on the PPP model. Our ecosystem is a mix of aviation, infrastruc­ture, retail and hospitalit­y sectors. Thus, the talent across our ecosystem is hired from public sector as well as other industries. Managing operations and customer service in real time and expanding the airport infrastruc­ture to manage the fast growth of the sector are critical imperative­s for all airports in India today.

Experience­d talent for airport operations and developmen­t is scarce given the specific nature of the job as well as regulatory requiremen­ts. We compete for talent globally. BIAL’s philosophy is to mould our internal teams to rise to the requiremen­t and, subsequent­ly, acquire external talent on a need basis. We also work with various skill developmen­t councils to identify, develop and nurture talent. SP’s: Given the disruption­s that are happening across industries due to increasing use of big data analytics and artificial intelligen­ce, do you foresee any transforma­tion in the profile of manpower employed at airports going forward? Malik: Technology will serve to enhance our business, rather than disrupt it. I believe that while the introducti­on of digital technologi­es will simplify the travel experience and reduce human interactio­n, this will not be at the cost of manpower.

At the core of our business lies a service mindset that requires human interactio­n; we are an “airport that cares”. Bengaluru Airport will continue to operate in an advanced environmen­t with continuous human interventi­on.

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 ??  ?? View of Kempegowda Internatio­nal Airport terminal in Bengaluru
View of Kempegowda Internatio­nal Airport terminal in Bengaluru

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