Leveraging partner network for growth

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Etihad Cargo, the freight division of United Arab Emirates carrier Etihad Airways, posted over $1 billion in revenue for the first time in 2014 as freight traffic grew four times faster than the global market to reach an all-time high. The Gulf carrier, which has a fleet of 10 freighters, increased cargo revenue by 19.2 percent to $1.1 billion from $928 million in 2013 as volume soared 16.8 percent to 569,000 metric tonnes from 487,000 metric tonnes. David Kerr, President, Cargo, Etihad Airways, tells Reji John about performance, niche products and leveraging on partner networks.

How do you manage to post good performance quarter after quarter and year after year? What do you do differently from your peers in other regions? We combine our freighter capability on our networks and our partners uniquely. Plus, take advantage of our extensive passenger networks. Our location is blessed with fantastic geographic advantage. We have facilities and infrastructure and we develop products and solutions to bring our customers fantastic opportunities to do business. That is one of the many reasons for the good performance we deliver consistently.

How do you leverage your partnership with other airlines like Jet Airways in India? From our perspective, India is important in our network and combined with Jet Airways, there is an incredible choice of depth and breadth for our customers both into and out of the market in India. Jet Airways has the big opportunity to build on the ‘Make in India’ campaign. So domestic market for them is a big opportunity. If you look at the connectivity it offers, there is a tremendous proposition that the partnership can bring to our customers and offer them fantastic solutions.

Are there specific sectors that you are looking at to launch unique products and services for? Pharmaceutical is certainly a sector for which we are creating new products. TempCheck is our new product. It is a comprehensive solution following all GDP protocols. This cargo solution is created to ensure the integrity of all temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical and healthcare products as they are transported around the world. We have been working closely with our pharmaceutical customers in developing this specialised solution, which has been designed to ensure that their temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products are protected at every stage of the journey. TempCheck incorporates the latest equipment, processes and operating procedures that keep all pharmaceutical products within a temperature controlled environment from the cool room facility to the ramp, and from the aircraft to the customer.

What specific infrastructure developments are put in place to ensure that your niche products and services achieve the desired results? To make our product GDP compliant we have dedicated rooms and facilities for temperature sensitive pharmaceutical products. We have upgraded our current facilities to meet global standards. Our plan is to build new capabilities and grow in terms of solutions and build sophistication in terms of the products that we want to grow. We are also working very closely with our partners to offer similar kind of products and solutions to a wider network. So the next phase for us is to bring those same protocol and operating procedures that our customers want to see across two or more networks.

Apart from pharmaceuticals, are there any other commodities that you have a keen interest and build solutions for? Perishables, certainly, is a very important part of our business. But to give another example of our commitment to launch unique industry specific products, take for instance SafeGuard, a product in which we invested and innovated for the valuables sector. It was launched at the same time as we invested in a joint venture in the valuables management. In this product we not only bring specialist capabilities but also provide on-ground transport and storage, offering a very robust product for our customers. We are evaluating the possibility of this service being introduced to other markets particularly with Jet Airways in India where we see a huge opportunity in the valuables market.

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