The Air Cargo Forum India (ACFI) has taken on the task
to make air cargo popular – both as a profession and a service.
A tall order, no doubt – especially
when passenger growth continues at a scorching pace prompting aviation
stakeholders to look forward to the day in 2024 when if predictions hold,
India will become the world’s third largest aviation sector.
ACFI could turn out to be the right
vehicle for the task since it is the only association nationwide representing
the entire air cargo logistic/supply chain in India responsible for the
transportation of 30 per cent of the total national trade & commerce.
First The Challenges
The Indian cargo sector has been facing
key challenges that have been hindering its growth.
These challenges include the well
known lack of infrastructure and visionary policies. Coupled
with that are long drawn-out processes and hesitation to use of technology
To start with we take the constraints
and procedural delays that have been hurting the Indian air cargo sector.
This has resulted in low volumes.
The combined air cargo traffic handled
in FY 2017-18, for instance, put together at all the Indian airports (approx.
3.4 million MT) was still less than that handled by each of the top three
cargo handling airports in the world in 2016-17.
I Want To Be Wanted
In such circumstances, the only way
to boost volumes was to make air cargo “wanted”. Forum President
Tushar Jani – he is Chairman, Cargo Service Center (handling Cargo
Terminals at Delhi and Mumbai among other places) and founder Blue Dart
– gave an inkling of why the forum was keen to make air cargo popular.
Crying For Recognition
Fact is that air cargo has always
lagged behind passenger services.
Jani mentioned that air cargo had
been crying for its rightful place for quite a long time.
“We are going to cry more and
more,” he said during a recent meet, directing his words at the
Civil Aviation Secretary, the top bureaucrat in the Civil Aviation ministry.
One of the major reasons for popularizing
air cargo, Jani pointed out, was that there were only a few who wanted
to join the air cargo industry.
Air Cargo Gets No Respect
As head of the Cargo Service Center,
Jani said he faced an attrition rate of nearly 22 per cent every month.
Most of those who quit working did
not consider working in cargo “respectable”. The only way
out is to change the mindsets of potential workers.
If the people – especially those
around airports – were taught to think differently and accept air
cargo as easily as they do for the passenger side of the business, it
would go a long way to enthusing youngsters to join the air cargo sector.
To achieve popularity, the world has
to know that air cargo is a great business with plenty of opportunities.
If all goes according to plan, that
would be the message that will be displayed around Delhi airport –
to begin with – on TVs.
The finer details would be worked
out once the air cargo stakeholders agree along with the Ministry of Civil
The Infrastructure Challenge
Behind all this, there was a need
to bring about a serious approach toward improvement and creation of infrastructure
for air cargo.
Along with infrastructure, the single
window approach that has been created needed more support from participating
agencies to eliminate delays.
That is, as Jani said, “because
cargo does not scream or shout”.