Photo: Nuno Seletti/Airways

Interview: Verma, Agarwal Forecast Indian Aviation

DALLAS — Indian aviation is one of the fastest-growing aviation markets in the world, with 136 million domestic passengers and 54.6 million international passengers for 2022-2023. The number is rising compared to previous financial years, showing great confidence in crossing the pre-COVID numbers.

With the rising demand in the Indian aviation sector, new airlines like Akasa Air, FlyBig, and FLY91 have recently commenced operations within the past three years. In addition to Air India's (AI) revamping, IndiGo (6E) and Akasa Air (QP) placed multi-billion dollar orders in previous years. 

In an interview with Airways, Vineet Verma, the Managing Director of WTC Bengaluru, Chennai, and Kochi and newly-appointed WTCA Board Member, and Devesh R. Agarwal, former President of the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC), shared their views on the current and future state of Indian aviation.

1.⁠ ⁠2023 was one of the best years for the Indian aviation sector in terms of revamping the national airline, Air India, multi-billion orders from various airlines, and new routes like Cochin—Ho Chi Min City, Hyderabad—Frankfurt, and so on. How do you forecast the growth of Indian aviation in terms of India being a hub?

Verma: It's a rule of thumb that aviation grows at roughly 2X GDP growth. India is on a high growth trajectory, and growth in the aviation market will continue.

Agarwal: The government wants to create hubs in India, especially around the National Capital Region, i.e., Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) and NOIDA airports. We look forward to progressive policies emerging in the year ahead that will facilitate and stimulate this goal.

2.  One of the driving factors for rapid growth is the UDAN scheme; as of now, 76 airports and 519 routes are operationalized, connecting tier-2 and tier-3 cities. How rapidly do you think this growth is helping/affecting tier-1 cities, and how are they coping with it?

Agarwal: We stopped tracking UDAN flights about a year ago due to the lack of operations data in the public domain, i.e., which carriers operate which routes, frequencies, etc.

Air India's first A350-900. Photo: Nuno Seletti/Airways
Air India's first A350-900. Photo: Nuno Seletti/Airways

3.  “Make in India” has been the motto for almost the past decade, and India has indeed seen growth in manufacturing (e.g., Airbus a220 door manufacturing in Bengaluru). How do you foresee growth in this direction regarding investment and new job opportunities?

Verma: The aviation manufacturing and services sector is poised for significant growth in the years ahead, and the Karnataka State government is focused on attracting investment in this sector.

Most recently, World Trade Center Bengaluru hosted the World Trade Centers Association’s annual Global Business Forum, expanding investment in Indian aviation for businesses worldwide. More than 300 World Trade Center locations had to opportunity to see this sector’s growth first-hand. 

Agarwal: Aviation-related manufacturing has existed in India for several decades. Hindustan Aeronautics, along with Dynamatic Technologies Ltd., has been an Airbus vendor since the early 1990s. Dynamatix, The Tatas, Mahindra, and Godrej invest heavily in this sector.

India, Bengaluru in particular,  employs a highly skilled workforce and delivers high-value products in precision engineering. Boeing and Airbus, as well as their various sub-system vendors, are now taking advantage of the talent in the services segment, such as design, testing, and research.

4.  As of today, Major airports in South India connect to Australia, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand etc. What new routes could be game changers with the current economic and aviation growth? (Written in the view of under-served East Asian routes)

Agarwal: IndiGo has taken the first steps by opening routes between India, Indonesia, and Central Asian republics. Korea and China are still highly underserved. Despite friction between the two countries, aviation connections between these two large and intertwined economies are needed.

Bengaluru is still significantly underserved by Indian carriers on international routes. The [Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce] BCIC hopes this will be addressed in the coming years.

Verma: Game-changing new routes from Bengaluru would include London Heathrow, Jakarta, Newark, Tokyo Haneda, Melbourne, Seattle, Dallas-Fort Worth, Bali, Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, Tehran, Dubai and Taipei.

5.  Digiyatra has received massive support from the passengers, and the system is quite hassle-free. What is your opinion on the feedback you have received/observed on travelers' experience, as Kempegowda International Airport Limited was one of the first airports to implement and test them?

Agarwal: Bengaluru is a technologically advanced city–Digiyatra is well-received and widely used! 

6. According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation reports, 66 airports currently run on 100% green energy. What do you think is critical to increasing this achievement?

Agarwal: Appearances aside, it is the ROI. Airports will implement various elements of green technology, including water harvesting, recycling, etc., when there is a viable commercial case.

In episode seven, season five of The Airways Podcast, join host Vinay Bhaskara and special guest, Indian aviation expert and former President of the Bangalore Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Devesh R. Agarwal, as they delve deep into India Aviation.

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