Skyward Sojourn: ACFI’s South India Summit Soars to New Heights

The Air Cargo Forum of India’s (ACFI) flagship Southern Region event – the South India Summit – was held on February 2, 2024, at the Taj, Bengaluru Airport. This resounding success showcased the collaborative efforts of industry leaders, experts, and stakeholders in propelling the growth and advancement of the air cargo and aviation sectors in South India. The summit carried the theme ‘South India: Connecting Horizons’.

Organized by the collective efforts of ACFI Chapters in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Kerala, the unique event highlighted the region’s potential for a well-balanced air cargo ecosystem. With 12 international and 21 domestic airports, the Southern states of India are poised for significant growth.

Esteemed dignitaries graced the occasion, including Dr. Shalini Rajneesh (IAS, Additional Chief Secretary cum Development Commissioner, Government of Karnataka) as the Chief Guest. Ms. Kajal Singh (IRS, Principal Commissioner Customs ACC & Airport, Bengaluru); Mr. Bhaskar Anand Rao (CFO – BIAL); and Mr. Pradeep Panicker (CEO – GHIAL) were the Guests of Honour. Over 150 industry delegates from the air cargo and airline sectors, along with leading media professionals, participated in the Summit. This exceptional platform facilitated knowledge sharing and collaboration, paving the way for the growth of the air cargo sector in Southern India.

The welcome address was delivered by Mr. Fletcher Samuel, Chairman of ACFI’s Bengaluru Chapter, followed by ACFI President Mr. Yashpal Sharma‘s insightful remarks. The keynote speaker, Mr. Dhruv Lal (Partner at BCG) presented a compelling analysis of India’s trajectory towards becoming the third-largest economy globally by 2030. He highlighted various factors driving India’s phenomenal economic growth, emphasizing the role of domestic consumption, accelerated FDI, and the PLI scheme in sectors like auto, pharma, and solar equipment, which are highly air cargo-friendly.

Dr. Rajneesh eloquently spoke about the immense potential that the Southern states hold for global air cargo transport. She specifically mentioned the opportunities for marketing perishable and cut flowers from Karnataka to international customers. She also stressed the importance of connecting producers from the hinterland to airports. Dr. Rajneesh emphasized the critical role of air cargo in transporting perishables and the need for collaboration between air cargo stakeholders, producers, and logisticians to ensure timely movement and delivery.

Expertly curated strategic business sessions, led by industry veterans like Mr. Manish Agnihothri (CEO of WFS); Ms. Reshma Zaheer (Chief Operating Officer of TT Logistics & Cargo Pvt Ltd.); and Mr. Satish Lakkaraju (Global Head Air Freight and Pharma at WIZ Freight), delved into key themes. These sessions explored connecting supply chain horizons, identifying trends, challenges, and opportunities, and generating value within the air cargo ecosystem.

One of the highlights of the summit was the engaging fireside session moderated by ACFI President Mr. Yashpal Sharma and Vice President Mr. Sanjiv Edward. The discussion highlighted South India’s pivotal role in driving the growth of the Indian air cargo industry and enhancing global connectivity. It also focused on ACFI’s transformation from a facilitator to a ‘Business Developer’ for air cargo.

The Summit’s significance was further amplified by the substantial representation of ACFI’s Governing Board Members and regional leaders. Their presence demonstrated their commitment to addressing regional challenges and opportunities within the air cargo sector.

Overall, the South India Summit successfully fostered collaboration, discussion, and knowledge exchange. It aimed to collectively address regulatory, technological, and environmental challenges while driving sustainable growth and innovation in the air cargo and aviation segments within the Southern region of India.

In addition to the esteemed dignitaries mentioned earlier, other ACFI Governing Board members who attended the summit included Mr. Kamesh Peri, Mr. Keku Gazdar, and Mr. Prasad Gengusetti. Key ACFI leaders also present were Mr. Fletcher Samuel, Chairman of the Bengaluru Chapter; Mr. V Chandra Kumar, Vice Chairman of the Bengaluru Chapter; Ms. Parul Kulshreshtha, Chairperson of the Hyderabad Chapter; Mr. Kamal Jain, Vice Chairman of the Hyderabad Chapter; and Mr. Manoj P Joseph, Chairman of the Kerala Chapter, among others.

The South India Summit served as a valuable platform for industry stakeholders to come together, share insights, and collectively work towards propelling the air cargo and aviation sectors in South India to new heights.

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