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By safely bringing the air cargo community together in the midst of the unfortunate coronavirus outbreak, Air Cargo India 2020 successfully set a platform for the industry to gauge the prevailing crises and discuss on resilient programs and services that could alleviate the impacts of current situation and other challenges being faced by the air cargo industry.

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Vandana Aggarwal, economic adviser to the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation, opened the gates to the exhibition hall and inaugurated the 8th edition of the Air Cargo India event, which took place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Mumbai, India from 25 to 27 February. Gerhard Gerritzen, deputy managing director of Messe Muenchen, underscored his optimism in the welcome note by declaring that the “Air cargo in India has a lot of potential.” R K Patra, group editor-in-chief of STAT Media Group, lauded the spirit of the cargo community which had gathered for the 3-day event despite the circumstances encircling the coronavirus epidemic. 

Aggarwal, in her keynote address, informed the air cargo community about India’s current position with respect to exports and imports tonnage, and pointed out the existing discrepancies between Indian and global supply chain. 

aci-2020-on-building-resilience(L-R) R K Patra, Gerhard Gerritzen, Vandana Aggarwal, and Bhupinder Singh commencing the event by lighting the lamp

Aggarwal stressed on the government’s interest to encourage the development of digital infrastructure around trades and highlighted a special case of digital corridor between Mumbai airport, India and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol by urging the parties involved to put the corridor in operation during the current fiscal year. She also invited airports from Singapore and Germany by announcing that “We are ready to partner to create digital airport corridor.” 

While highlighting the needed digital infrastructural initiatives to increase the Indian air cargo capacity, Aggarwal pointed out the drag of nascent Indian maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry on the air cargo capacity. She complained that “India’s air cargo has not taken off because inventory required to carry out the expensive MRO is being done out of India.” India is one of the youngest countries and has one of the largest pools of engineers. Aggarwal, entrusting the new business, assured that “MRO can be 30 percent cheaper in India compared to other countries.”

aci-2020-on-building-resilience(L-R) Glyn Hughes of IATA, Dorothea von Boxberg of Lufthansa Cargo AG, Dennis Lister of Emirates SkyCargo, Huned Gandhi of Dachser India, Manoj Singh of Mumbai International Airport, Keku Gazder of AAICLAS, Halit Tuncer of Turkish Airlines and Ashok Rajan of IBS Software

India is clearly a growing market and stands second when it comes to exports of fruits, vegetables, dairy products. Focusing her attention on agri logistics through air, Aggarwal talked about government policies that are focused on agri logistics through air, like ‘Krishi Udan Yojana’, a scheme which aims to facilitate transportation of agricultural goods through air, and said that the “Demand is there and supply is there but somewhere the logistics is failing.” She added, “Logistics needs to catch up.”       

Air Cargo India 2020 saw participation of more than 65 panel members for its conference sessions, contributing insights on various topics across various panel discussions. Each panel discussion had a blend of dynamic panel members that not only discussed their company trends but also provided insights on services that could be made better across the supply chain. 

aci-2020-on-building-resilience(L-R) Jalpa H Vithalani of Jupiter Express Services, R Ravindra of APEDA, Arun Chandra of Bangalore International Airport, Sanjiv Edward of GMR Delhi International Airport

Digitalisation making the chain transparent
Panel discussion on the subject of the ‘State of digitalistion in the air cargo industry’ underscored the importance of transparency through digitalising operations across value chain. Stories on how the implementations of key performance indicators (KPIs), electronic data interchange (EDI) and paperless exchange of information between all the stockholders in the chain are endowing customers with the desired transparency, making the processes more sustainable and bringing more trust into the business. With investments accelerating the development of sophisticated digital infrastructure, services are getting standardised, allowing the industry to process huge amounts of data for inspection and making the process more economic. 

Perishable goods need more attention
On the subject of ‘setting standards and building capacity for transport and logistics of perishable goods’, the panel put forth key challenges faced during the transportation of perishable goods—from harvesting and sorting of goods to packaging and handling of shipments. The panel raised concerns of India perishable goods not keeping with the global standards and highlighted concerns pertaining to specialised requirements of the product for packaging and sorting. Taking points from keynote presented by Aggarwal, the panel members shared their practical insights on the trade modifications being implemented due to the new Krishi Udan Yojana. The exports of Indian perishable goods are thriving to grow and, for now, this expected growth is certainly pushing the industry to focus more on sophisticated utilisation of existing resources.

aci-2020-on-building-resilience-air-cargo(L-R) Emir Pineda of Miami-Dade Aviation Department, Dharmender Khanna of SSIPL Retail, Abhishek Middha of The Boho Street, Shayak Mazumder of Eunimart, Dibyendu Ganguly of EximScouts, Sujit Subramanian of Go Air, Vijay Sharma of Delhi International Airport Limited, Pratik Mehta of Bangalore International Airport and Aniket Nathvani of Shadowfax

Co-creating pharma supply chain
Air freight industry has come together like never before to uplift the exports of pharmaceutical products. India is one of the key exporters of temperature sensitive products and the pharma market’s momentum is forcing the industry to rapidly accommodate its esoteric shipment requirements. The panel discussion, which involved members from airlines, airports, pharmaceutical corporations, cargo handling companies and equipment and instrument manufacturers, emphasised on the collaborative efforts needed for the cold chain to remain intact throughout the supply chain. The role of data in obtaining full transparency of the shipment was discussed and technologies like blockchain, AI were seen as the tool to achieve the much needed transparency.

aci-2020-on-building-resilience-air-cargo(L-R) Roland Weil and Max Conrady of Frankfurt Airport, Pramod Sant of Siemens, Sujan Roy of Tata Motors, Fitsum Abadi of Ethiopian Cargo and Phani Krishna of DSV Air & Sea.

Air cargo for ecommerce logistics— enabling and delivering global trade
Air cargo volume for ecommerce has consistently seen double-digit growth and considering the current market, it aspires to sustain the current growth trajectory. Without boxing the ecommerce sector to operations of giants like Amazon, Shopify etc., the panel members acknowledged the broadly categorised sector and spoke about regulatory and warehousing requirements, cross border shipment challenges, digital regulation and cutting edge technologies that are coming to fore. Digital regulation stirred the panel into discussing the regulations surrounding single window clearance. With China having already implemented single window clearance, also called as free trade zone, at around 15 areas within the country, it may serve Indian regulatory bodies as a good case to study and equip them with new ways to nudge the ecommerce sector to a pace that is truly global. The panel members made a point that such free trade zones in India will dramatically reduce regulatory footprint off of many products that sellers are reluctant on dealing with. Cross border challenge concerning imports was one of the important highlights of the discussion along with issues pertaining to licensing and clearances. The members concluded the panel by effectively pointing out the needed reforms at the airports and customs agencies.   

aci-2020-on-building-resilience-air-cargo

Discussions on subjects like trade tension drag on air cargo and building resilience; India as promising air cargo export region; airports of the future for special cargo commodities; and transportation support for the digital comprehensively voiced the impacts of coronavirus on trade and ensuing exports and imports modulations being made due to trade regulations adjustments. Making note of the grim situation, panel members, fashioning new ideas and collaborations, discussed the current circumstances with a spirit of optimism across the supply chain.   

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The Air Cargo India 2020 show housed 74 exhibitors and attracted more than 2000 visitors, making the exhibition hall a hotspot for networking. The arrays of booths put up at the exhibition area were both creative in their architecture and unique in offerings. Some booths had traditional delights from their respective countries; others had devices, instruments, containers etc. installed in booths for demonstrations. The exhibition area, as a tradition at the Air Cargo India event, served exhibitors as a platform for meeting partners, collaborators and future clients.

aci-2020-on-building-resilience-air-cargo

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This feature was originally published in March 2020 issue of STAT Trade Times.

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