TIACA Regional Event (India) concludes leaving behind an enriching experience for air cargo stakeholders


The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) was in New Delhi to host its regional event at the ITC Maurya between 27th to 29th March. It was organised with an aim to bring together local members and the air cargo community in India, to identify and discuss specific issues that affect the industry at the regional level. The event was attended by many prominent air cargo and supply chain leaders, who had many power packed and enriching discussions revolving around India’s air cargo industry – the growth trajectory, the opportunities, the challenges and the possible solutions. The participants were given an official welcome by noted leaders of the air cargo industry – Sunil Arora (Regional Head- Air Freight India Sub continent Asia Shipping International Transport Pvt Ltd), Jasraj Singh Chug (Co-Founder & Director of Cargo Flash Infotech Pvt. Ltd.), Sanjeev Gadhia (Founder & CEO of Astral Aviation Ltd.), Steven Polmans (VP Business Development at Abu Dhabi Airport Company), Yashpal Sharma (Managing Director of Skyways Group), and Kenneth Gibson (Head of Business Development & Membership at TIACA).

Let’s take a look at the major panel discussions of the event.

Global Market Outlook – a starter session with Glyn Hughes (Director General of The International Air Cargo Association)

Among the many data points that Glyn shared as he presented the global market outlook, there was also a mention on how e-commerce is going to continue to drive the air cargo industry. India’s role for the global economy. There is a huge paranoia about anything that comes out of China. The winner of this is going to be India. It is going to be significantly well positioned to come in and say we’re friends with everyone, we have a significant consumer and production base. India is one of the few economies which grew significantly in terms of EXIM activity with the US. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Program came into force last year. 

Leaders Roundtable 

Speakers – 

  • Glyn Hughes (Moderator) (Director General of TIACA)
  • Jasraj Singh Chugh (Co-Founder & Director of CARGO FLASH INFOTECH PVT. LTD.)
  • Sanjeev Gadhia (Founder & CEO of Astral Aviation Ltd.)
  • Tushar Jani (Group Chairman at Cargo Service Center, India)
  • Cyrus Katgara (Partner at Jeena & Company)
  • Yashpal Sharma (Managing Director of Skyways Group)

During the first session of the day – the Leaders Roundtable – the panelists discussed opportunities available for India’s air cargo industry to grow exponentially. The speakers agreed that government support plays a very important role in increasing the prosperity of the industry, and that the government of India is evidently taking a lot of initiatives to accomplish that. India’s robust multi-tier economy and creation of world-class air cargo infrastructure took the center stage at the roundtable. The speakers also discussed how important the role of manpower skilling and reskilling is, in order to fully reap the benefits that technology and innovations bring along with them.  

“The next 25 years are for Indian logistics. It is a sunrise industry. But there’s definitely a lot to be done, but that is where the fun lies. Distance is going to get shorter and manufacturing is going to increase. And Logistics, especially multi-modal logistics, is going to be at the center of it all.”

Tushar Jani (Group Chairman at Cargo Service Center, India)

Freighter Capacity: The key for growth

Speakers – 

  • Vipul Bhalla (Moderator) (Chief Business Officer at Pradhaan Air Express)
  • Brian Hermesmeyer (Senior Director, Product Marketing Freighter Customer Leader of Boeing Commercial Airplanes)
  • Steven Polmans (VP Business Development at Abu Dhabi Airport Company)
  • Burak Ömeroğlu (Vice President for the Middle East and South Asia at Turkish Airlines Inc., Turkish Cargo)

During the second session of the event, the experienced speakers representing airplane manufacturer Boeing, Abu Dhabi Airport, Pradhaan Airlines and Turkish Airlines, discussed various aspects related to freighters in India’s air cargo industry. A stark point that was highlighted during Turkish Cargo’s presentation was how there are only a handful of freighters being operated in the Indian air cargo landscape. Speakers deliberated about what could be the reason for the same, along with how and when it may be fixed. The discussion also included the aspect of capacity demand and supply in the present times. The conversation between this panel’s speakers treaded a positive outlook for the near future of the air cargo industry. 

“The ratio of freighters is a bit different in India. There are no main deck large wide-body freighters operating in India. Only 15 narrow-body freighters operate under various AOCs in India. When we think about the GDP growth targets of India, for a trillion dollars of GDP right now, we have only 5 freighters in India. There is a lot of opportunity for growth there.”

Brian Hermesmeyer (Senior Director, Product Marketing Freighter Customer Leader of Boeing Commercial Airplanes)

Workforce Challenges

Speakers – 

  • Glyn Hughes (Moderator) (Director General of TIACA)
  • Sakshi Gupta (Country Manager at Air Logistics Group)
  • Samir Shah (Partner at JBS Group of Companies)

A successful industry must attract, retain and develop successive generations of workforce, ensuring an inclusive and diverse workforce, reflecting the society which it serves. Taking this as the backdrop, this panel discussed the situation of India’s supply chain industry’s workforce, and how it can be made better. During the discussion, the role of the government in helping towards attracting, retaining, skilling and reskilling/upskilling of the workforce, was recognised to be of utmost importance. 

“The pandemic taught us that we need to constantly upgrade and update our workforce with new skill sets. It also taught us that we are a resilient lot. But why are we still talking about what we learnt during the pandemic and how to apply that? I think we have all changed in some manner or the other, and our efforts now should be on not going back to anything that is pre-pandemic. We need to build on what we learnt during the pandemic.”

Samir Shah, Partner at JBS Group of Companies


Speakers – 

  • Glyn Hughes (Moderator) (Director General of TIACA)
  • Sanjeev Gadhia (Founder & CEO of Astral Aviation Ltd)
  • Vikram Singh (Founder & CEO of TechEagle)

It was disturbing to know that just because of the absence of appropriate connectivity, India’s far flung areas are subject to severe lack of basic healthcare and pharma services. And not just healthcare, but a lot of different categories of goods are unable to reach distant places due to lack of logistics infrastructure. With that in mind, the speakers of this session discussed the regulatory challenges of the drone sector in India, while using anecdotes to highlight how drones are the the next big thing in India’s air cargo community, especially for transporting healthcare and perishables to and from difficult to reach regions in India. The conversation also included using drones for cross border cargo movement on the back of standardised drone policies and processes. 

“When you look at some of the challenges noticed in India, they’re similar to what we experience in Africa i.e. lack of infrastructure, lack of connectivity, lack of accessibility and lack of reachability. TechEagle offers connectivity to remote locations with drone technology, with lower costs and more reliable logistics. What we’re really trying to look at is how we can use this technology to bridge the gap because our problems are the same. What is holding us back is the pace of regulations.”

Sanjeev Gadhia (Founder & CEO of Astral Aviation Ltd)


Speakers – 

  • Libin Chacko Kurian (Moderator) (Principal Correspondent at STAT Media Group)
  • Vivek Chopra (Senior Director – Airfreight India and Indian Subcontinent of DB Schenker)
  • Saurabh Kumar (Chief Executive Officer at GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo)
  • Bharat Bhushan Rathi (Head of Logistics at Mankind Pharma)
  • Satish Lakkaraju (Senior Vice President and Global Head – Air Freight & Pharma at WIZ Freight)

When India is the world’s leading pharma manufacturer, it becomes all the more critical to ensure that the conditions of transporting these goods via air are met as per what is prescribed. The speakers discussed the shortcomings as well as opportunities in the existing cold chain air cargo infrastructure in the country, while also deliberating around how it can be made better with new and upcoming facilities. The airports and the government was conferred to have an equivalent role in creating world class air cargo infrastructure for moving pharmaceuticals across the country and beyond domestic borders. 

“We don’t have visibility once the cargo is handed to the airport, even the vendor doesn’t have frequent updates. If we as a shipper can get that clarity, then we can get more insight into it and commit better to the customer. I want to know what is happening to my shipment. We want a seamless operation on a set procedure and auto generated data with no human intervention. Nobody should be able to play with the SOPs.”

Bharat Bhushan Rathi (Head of Logistics at Mankind Pharma)

Digital Innovation

Speakers – 

  • Kunal Bhatt (Moderator) (Cargo Transformation at Air India)
  • Ashish Agrawal (Managing Director of Freightos India Pvt Ltd,. at WebCargo)
  • Gautam Mandal (Director – Products of Cargoflash Infotech Pvt Ltd)
  • Sabari Ramnath (Senior Manager at Unisys Corporation)
  • Suneet Gupta (Vice President – Sales at Kale Logistics Solutions)

The industry experts in this panel discussed how to use technology and innovation to enhance industry efficiency and service offerings to meet the sophisticated demands of shippers for fast, effective, predictable and transparent solutions. The speakers made interesting pointers about using technology for easing out the payment processing ecosystem between different industry stakeholders. Another point of discussion was the cyber threats that are a result of highly complex technology risks that are prevalent in the supply chain industry. Air cargo operations are seamless, standardized and intuitive, rather than being complex and time taking, thanks to modern technology, which also makes conducting business easier and mitigating risks.

“In my opinion, the B2B experience has in a lot of ways shifted to becoming a B2C experience. If I were to look at the traditional onboarding process, I’d say it was a very complex and time taking process. In today’s world, I don’t think anyone has hit the nail when it comes to making the entire experience seamless and intuitive. The future for tech enablement in logistics is more standardized and something that can be done in a few minutes.”

Ashish Agrawal (Managing Director of Freightos India Pvt Ltd,. at WebCargo)

Ground Handling

Speakers –

  • P ‘Bala’ Balasubramanian (Moderator) (Founder and CEO of ACCIS, Air Cargo Consultancy International Services)
  • Saurabh Kumar (CEO at GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo)
  • Anuj Thapiyal (Chief Executive Officer at GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo)
  • Surendra Bharadwaj (Head of Operations at Delhi CSC)

This session witnessed the speakers discuss the need to bring and comply with change, while constantly delivering efficient results. Agreeing that change is the only constant, the speakers highlighted that ensuring safe and sound transportation of the air cargo requires collaboration, digitisation, and of course people. They also addressed the challenges around turn around time, people, bringing in technology etc., and also what could be the possible solutions.

“While the industry has recognized the need to upskill, and is making efforts in doing so. It is facing challenges. People are taking time to learn and adapt to the upcoming technologies. In order to address this challenge, companies require to be consistent with skilling and upskilling of its people.” 

Saurabh Kumar (CEO at GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo)


Speakers – 

  • Sanjiv Edward (Head of Cargo – Commercial at Delhi International Airport Limited)
  • Joeri Aulman (Director BD & Airport Planner of NACO, a company of Royal HaskoningDHV)

Sustainability is maybe the most important and ‘happening’ topic going around across the world right now, and same with the supply chain industry. India’s supply chain fraternity has also been investing towards making their operations more in sync with the Paris Agreement targets. In that direction, reflecting on the sustainability aspect of the industry, the session witnessed the speakers talk about the air cargo industry’s need to go green and reduce emissions. They discussed the sustainability goals set by the industry, what has been achieved so far, what is yet to be achieved and what will be the outcome and results of going sustainable. Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) was also a part of the contemplation on challenges posing against the supply chain industry.

Airport: Conducting the Orchestra 

Speakers – 

  • Steven Polmans (VP Business Development at Abu Dhabi Airport Company)
  • Tushar Jani (Tushar Jani (Group Chairman at Cargo Service Center, India)
  • Chandrakala Bobba (Director of Bobba Group)
  • Zaheer Bakshi (Vice President – Head of Cargo at IGI Delhi International Airport Limited)

During the panel, the speakers agreed on air cargo being a ‘Relay Game’, with many different stakeholders playing their respective parts. The speakers got into a healthy debate on the government being one of the conductors of the orchestra that air cargo is. While the government’s role and efforts in uplifting the industry were acknowledged, a question on whether they are fit to be the conductor rather than it being one of the stakeholders, was a point of discussion. The speakers also discussed the lack of collaboration amongst the stakeholders, highlighting that the industry needs to break away from the traditional ways of working in silos. The panelist touched upon the success they have made so far, and highlighted that the efforts continue as now stakeholders are actively coming forward to work together. 

“The collaborative approach of all the stakeholders’ is what is happening and taking the industry forward. A close relationship with the airport operator has been the reason behind our success at Bobba Group for the last 15 years”

Chandrakala Bobba (Director of Bobba Group)


Speakers – 

  • Glyn Hughes (Moderator) (Director General of TIACA)
  • Ramesh Mamidala (Head Cargo Commercial at Air India)
  • P ‘Bala’ Balasubramanian (Founder and CEO of ACCIS, Air Cargo Consultancy International Services)
  • Sanjeev Choudhary (CEO of sKart Global Express Pvt Ltd)

E-commerce sales in India are projected to grow 25% in 2022, which means that with a young, affluent and tech connected consumer base, it is one of the major drivers of the air cargo industry. In the past few years, it has grown tremendously, and this panel, acknowledging the growing e-commerce market, highlighted the challenges that they have faced with this growing market, namely – infra, integrating technology and complete visibility of operations. Looking to address the challenges and serve this growing market, the speakers discussed the benefits and opportunities e-commerce propels towards the air cargo industry, and the need to capitalize on this opportunity before road and rail. 

“If every e-commerce company comes to use air cargo only upto 15% I think there is enough opportunity for us. With so much belly space coming in the market and more efficiency coming in I can see the cost of transporting via air be around Rs. 10 per kilo. I also expect the cost across the logistics transportation to go up with inflation, fuel cost etc. And the air cargo cost will be at the same level as others. Air cargo will become efficient and competitive. Looking at the market size at which ecommerce is growing i think there is an opportunity for air cargo”

Ramesh Mamidala (Head Cargo Commercial at Air India)

General Sales Agents and Service Agents 

Speakers – 

  • Glyn Hughes (Moderator) (Director General of TIACA)
  • Kritika Chaudhary (Head – Business Development & Marketing at Allied Aviation)
  • Prithviraj Chug (Chief Executive Officer at Group Concorde)
  • Abhishek Goyal (Executive Director of Aeroprime Group)

As airlines seek to expand global distribution networks and channels whilst managing overall costs of expansion, today’s GSSAs play an extremely important role in supporting industry growth – they are much more than just a sales agent. The panel saw a set of young leaders deliberate and address the challenges of the air cargo industry, their changing needs and the evolution of the GSA’s to GSSA’s. The panelist also talked about the impact of COVID on the industry and discussed how close is the industry to reach the 10 mn metric tonnes goal by 2030. 

“GSA’s have to have additional service to be competitive in this market. The traditional unilateral GSA just selling distribution is not the game anymore. It has definitely moved up to be a GSSA. And, I feel like moving forward it’s just going to increase the acronym. So, it is evolving just like the airline’s are evolving.”

Kritika Chaudhary (Head – Business Development & Marketing at Allied Aviation)

Perishable Cargo, New Growth 

Speakers –  

  • Reji John (Editor at STAT Media Group)
  • Keku Bumi Gazdar (MD & CEO of Aviapro Logistic Services Private Limited)
  • Kamesh Peri (CEO of Çelebi Delhi Cargo)
  • Raveen Pinto (Vice President at Bengaluru International Airport)
  • Mark Sutch (Chief Commercial Officer Cargo – International at IndiGo)

India is the 4th largest producer of perishables in the world. The panelists discussing – Perishable Cargo and New Growth – touched upon the lack of cold chain infrastructure, the lack of capacity to handle perishables, the efforts made by the air cargo industry to introduce new markets for the domestic producers, and the growth opportunities. 

“India produces 100mt tonnes of fruits, 200mt tonnes of vegetables along with other perishables including meat, flowers etc. but the amount exported out of the country is only 4.2 mn tonnes.The gap between what is produced and exported is huge. And, air accounts for only 200000 tonnes, and of this Kerala, karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil nadu accounts for 85% of these exports, whereas Delhi- with the highest air cargo export, handles only 7% of air cargo export for perishables. In terms of growth there is a tremendous opportunity for the air cargo industry.”  

Kamesh Peri (CEO of Çelebi Delhi Cargo)

Outcomes and Takeaways

Speakers –     

  • Yashpal Sharma (Managing Director of Skyways Group)
  • Sunil Arora (Regional Head- Air Freight India Sub continent Asia Shipping International Transport Pvt Ltd)
  • Steve Polmans (VP Business Development at Abu Dhabi Airport Company)

Concluding the two day event, the industry experts acknowledged the brainstorming sessions conducted in the last two days. They quickly took us through ‘things to remember’ from each and every panel discussion, and bid farewell with valuable takeaways. 

“There was ambition, passion, vision and opportunity in this room, leaving no doubt that there is a huge opportunity for growth in India. The only concern is that there are still a lot of stakeholders working in silos, aligning and streamlining industry efforts is going to be crucial in breaking through these silos.”

Steve Polmans (VP Business Development at Abu Dhabi Airport Company)

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