Bhupesh Joshi, CEO & Director
Club One Air- Business Aviation at the Cusp of Greater Glory
The aviation sector is growing under the tutelage of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Airports Authority of India and the commercialisation of air travel too is reaching newer highs. CEO & Director Bhupesh Joshi gives an insight on the growth of the Indian aviation industry and on Club One Air.
You have been associated with business aviation for so long. How do you see the growth story of the sector?
As we all know, the growth story is only in this part of the world, especially in aviation industry. The American and European markets are saturated. Far East and especially, India are still emerging. The growth in air traveller numbers in India is more than 20 pc over the last two years. The trend is expected to continue over the next couple of years. So, I think the growth of the Indian aviation industry has been monumental. We’ll see addition of more aircrafts – Airbus and Boeing, single-aisles and double-aisles, wide-body and narrow-body aircrafts. We’ll also see more airports coming up. And, for the first time in the last 50-60 years of our aviation independence, we are seeing seriousness from the government. We have some very good teams under the leadership of the new aviation minister and the prime minister, who are really taking keen interest in the aviation industry. They are doing whatever they need to do. I think, they have come out with a policy; they are taking all the right decisions, and they have opened themselves up to the industry. And, this is a welcome change. We are looking forward to better days for the industry, because otherwise we always had one or two airlines and a dearth of airports. So, we are really happy with the development.
In terms of the charter industry, again we haven’t seen as much growth as scheduled airlines have seen, but we are definitely on the right track. There has of course been a worldwide growth in this industry. India hasn’t seen a growth rate at par with the global growth though. The number of private jet charters or non-commercial jet charters has increased over a period of 15 years from 7,300 to almost 20,000, as per Forbes. So, there has been a tremendous increase in the total number of aircrafts that are flying in the world. In 2016 itself, we have seen deliveries of almost 700 aircrafts (private jet charters or non-commercial jet aircrafts). The value of these deliveries has almost gone up to USD 18-20 billion.
Unfortunately, for India, we haven’t really cashed in on the growth, mainly because of the present eco-system. But, we are now happy to see some movement from the government’s end. Once we move forward, we’ll see more coming in this direction.
As you mentioned, government is taking many steps towards the Indian aviation industry. What are your expectations from the government? Are you satisfied with what they are doing for the sector?
Our expectations are more or less the same as the industry. We just need a proper eco-system, a level playing field with the world, so that we are also able to offer the facilities and services that are not available in India yet. The aviation sector of a country is actually responsible for the overall economic growth of the country. I don’t need to go into the details, but having more of these aircrafts for the industry’s use and going to the airports that are not being served by the scheduled carrier will only add to the economy. The more the industry grows, the more number of towns will come up. Club One Air is already operating at more than 100 airports, and at the moment, there are only 40 airports in India which are serviceable. Majority of our customers are the corporates and industries who want to do more business out of these areas. As a result, we carry them to where their business happens. They put out their factories, their industries and that’s how the growth of the sector happens. In Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, we see a lot of small towns and small airports frequented by these corporates on their own convenience. I think, the government’s mindset is also changing and I hope that everybody takes note of the fact that this is no longer a luxury requirement. Although our tag says that we are a luxury jet liner, our jetliners also cater to the utility of the various industries.
How do you see the infrastructure growth and is it really complementary to the business aviation sector?
To be frank with you, we really haven’t seen a major infrastructural push in this direction, except in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. These centres got a facelift through private ventures and they have done a marvellous job. Both GMR and GVK have done a fabulous job of turning the airports around. Apart from the user’s charges perspective which we all feel are on a higher side, I am sure these airports can also contribute if they understand that infrastructure projects are long-term goals, which can run up to 30 years. Hence, they shouldn’t be loading all the cost on the operators from day one. Irrespective of that, I think they have done a good job of actually making good airports available to public at large and have also witnessed the turnaround story of the Airports Authority of India, in terms of the revenue they are now generating for the government. Goa’s new airport is being developed by GMR and hopefully, it opens soon.
Goa was also saturated. So, apart from these big airports we haven’t really seen more push in other airports. There were attempts by Reliance in some of the new Maharashtra airports and in Durgapur, we saw some private company putting up an airport. But, on the whole, there is a lot more to be done from the government’s end.
I think, it is the overall eco-system that needs to be addressed. Only then will we see more infrastructure push coming forth. What is required to be done presently is coming up with some out-of-the-box thinking and we feel that some low cost airports – there have been announcements but we don’t know if there has been progress – are the needs of the hour. Small terminals with basic facilities are another area to be seen. Green initiatives are being taken, so the cost will go down. The facilities are there, and further implementations will see more movement in these smaller airports, which will add to the industry’s growth.
Among all these developments, how do you see the growth of Club One Air?
We have been fortunate to have seen growth, and of course the fortune doesn’t come on a platter. Over the last three years, we have structured ourselves further. We are now one of the largest operators in India with a fleet of eight operational aircrafts and two more will be added soon. We have seen growth in double digits in these three years and we look to continue the streak. We feel that the moment this ecosystem is made available to us, we will definitely have more aircrafts to offer. Also, we are presently supporting the government in all their initiatives. We are also taking care of all the government regulatory requirements. We are partnering with security agencies in their medical evacuation processes; we have an aircraft which is now almost dedicated to CRPF and CISF evacuations from the terrorism affected areas and from the border areas. We are providing those services to them. We are doing whatever we can in our bid to serve the industry and to serve the nation. This way, we are also contributing to the economic growth overall. We are happy to say that we want to grow and we want to grow with the industry. We are here to stay.
How are you creating value for the customers?
The customer is the king for all of us. I am happy to state that they are getting smarter and are also gaining in number. They are expecting more and more value for money, more and more services. And, we are here to provide just that. We provide endless and seamless services that they want. Of course, it all come at a cost, and if they are willing to pay for that we are happy to provide those services, right from providing them pick and drop, or from the time of they think of travelling we take care of everything they need. It eases doing business and the travelling it entails. You never lose a flight if you charter with us, because the aircraft is always waiting for you. With scheduled airline, you miss a flight if you don’t reach on time. Second, you can cover more than one city in a day. We usually cover three to four cities within a day for business people when they go for meetings. We are able to offer all those services to them. And, of course you get the needed privacy and comfort of a home when flying with us.
How do you see the business flourish over the next two years for your company and the sector in large?
We do see the growth curve continue rising and the challenge is to meet the demand and to be there to harness this growth and not miss this opportunity. So, if this infrastructure and the required areas are addressed and the government supports us in providing us the required facilities that we are looking at, we can add to our fleet of aircrafts and the services on offer. We are willing to meet the anticipated growth. We see double digit growth continuing at least for the next five to seven years, and if that happens, all of us in the industry will have to work together to meet the demands and optimise our outputs.