By Alex Hawkes
If rumours about the country's air cargo industry prove true, they could be marking the brink of a cargo revolution.
If a number of the confirmed or proposed mergers and projects that rose to prominence in India this month prove to be fruitful, the dynamics of the country's air cargo industry could change out of recognition.
We've been hearing rumours for a while about Indian Post's interest in entering the private express industry by launching a dedicated freighter service. The postal company has entered discussions with the national carrier Indian Airlines to lease up to three Boeing 737-200 aircraft. Starting with a single aircraft, Indian Post would become capable of carrying couriers and parcels between the four metros of the North East regions.
The likelihood of further air express links throughout India is sharply supported by the freighter ambitions of Indian Airlines. It has been suggested the carrier has long toyed with the idea of converting its ageing fleet of 11 Boeing 737-200 into freighters. More poignantly, the company is also expected to iron out the legal niggles of its merger with rival Air India and begin the combining of operations in the coming months. Part of the vision of both companies is apparently to launch a freighter service.
Such ambition is unlikely to be delved into without indepth market research of potential demand. Indeed, if reports prove to be grounded, several leading regional logistics players have already confirmed avid interest in the project. Meanwhile, it seems of little coincidence that cargo operators Blue Dart plans to add six aircraft over the next five years to its freighter fleet.
Adding a different shade to the scene, the news from the Air Deccan camp about plans to replicate its ‘no-frills' air travel concept by offering a low cost cargo service is evidence that competition is well and truly warming up. Industry experts have continuously pointed to the low cost business model as the definitive means of progressing the sector. Lessons of how to operate on a cheaper, more efficient and flexible basis is found in the concept, which has yet to crossover and find its roots in the current global airfreight landscape.
This flurry of activity has certainly kept our editorial team on their toes this month, and it confirms the promise that India holds for the industry. The sheer scale of the country's terrain means the development of efficient and extensive airfreight links has often been hindered. With this level of interest now evident, the brink of change seems near.