Strengthening ground handling by investing in technology

UDAN and 100% FDI in ground handling services stimulate market expansion, attracting domestic and foreign investors. As a result, the demand for handling services is poised to increase substantially in the coming years, says Kamesh Peri, CEO, Celebi Cargo Terminal Management India.

CT Bureau

What is the status of ground handling market in India? How is the business shaping up at Celebi in this scenario?

The ground handling market in India is experiencing growth fuelled by increasing freight traffic, air capacity surge, alongside modernisation efforts in airport infrastructure. Government schemes, such as UDAN and 100 per cent FDI in ground handling services further stimulate market expansion, attracting domestic as well as foreign investors. As a result, the demand for ground handling services is poised to increase substantially in the coming years, driven by burgeoning airline fleets, e-commerce, and rising per capita income.

We are positioned to capitalise on emerging opportunities and contribute to the evolution of ground handling market in India. We are expanding our presence in the Indian market, leveraging our expertise, innovative solutions, and customer-centric approach to meet the evolving needs of the airlines and airports across the country.

Through partnerships, investments in advanced technology, and a focus on sustainability, we are prepared to navigate the challenges and issues of the industry and capitalise on the growth prospects in the ground handling sector.

How much planning and investment has gone into improving ground handling and transportation at Celebi?

Our focus lies in identifying and seizing suitable investment prospects that align with our vision of providing exceptional cargo handling support to both established and emerging airports. We have built a resilient ground handling infrastructure in Delhi and continue to improve. We are actively looking for opportunities to invest in similar projects to help the sector grow. We have prioritised technological advancements to strengthen our operations. Enhancements to the warehouse management system coupled with heightened security measures, demonstrate our commitment to data safety and integrity. Substituting manual security declarations with electronic counterparts and introducing WhatsApp Chatbot for international cargo tracking are steps towards seamless digital integration.

We strive to stay ahead of market dynamics by introducing innovative solutions for handling air cargo such as pharmaceuticals, e-commerce, perishables, temperature-controlled shipments, and transhipment cargo. Our solutions cater to the unique demands of e-commerce shipments, ensuring seamless and efficient handling of full freighter loads.

With the surge in volumes, how do you ensure 100% capacity utilisation at Celebi? Do you have enough capacity to handle huge volumes?

We have implemented operational initiatives and invested in cutting-edge technologies to enhance efficiency and productivity across our facilities. By monitoring market trends and forecasting demand patterns, we proactively adjust our resources and workflows to match the evolving needs of our customers, thereby maximising our capacity utilisation. Celebi has invested in enhancing our infrastructure and capabilities to accommodate the growing volumes of cargo traffic. With a dedicated team of skilled professionals, we are well-prepared to handle significant volumes, efficiently and effectively.

Could you share with us the cargo volumes handled by Celebi in the last financial year?

In FY23-24, Celebi Delhi Cargo Terminal had handled 465,000 metric tonnes of international and domestic cargo and is poised to handle more than half a million tonnes in current financial year.

What are the expectations airports and airlines have from their ground handling partners?

The airlines and airports expect continuity, reliability, efficiency, and safety from their ground handling partners. They look for seamless all-round processes, handling, and adherence to safety protocols to maintain operational excellence.

At Celebi, we understand these expectations and prioritise delivering quality services that align with our partners’ needs. To assist the airlines and airports in fulfilling their requirements, we invest in cutting-edge technology, rigorous training programmes, and operational procedures. By leveraging advanced ground handling systems and equipment, implementing best practices, and adhering to stringent safety standards, we strive to exceed expectations at every step. Our dedicated team of professionals provides personalised solutions tailored to the requirements of each partner, ensuring smooth operations, optimal resource utilisation, and exceptional service delivery.

As a ground handler, what are the bottlenecks you would like to highlight?

Firstly, enhancing airport infrastructure and optimising integrated cargo handling processes to streamline operations and enhancing service quality is the need of the hour. Secondly, navigating the complex regulatory landscape poses a challenge for handlers in India. Cumbersome regulatory approvals, intricate procedures and documentation requirements impede operational efficiency. Simplifying regulatory processes and fostering collaboration between industry stakeholders and regulatory bodies are essential to facilitate smoother operations. Lastly, intense competition within the handling sector necessitates continuous innovation to maintain competitiveness. Collaborative efforts among cargo industry players to standardise processes, share best practices, and explore innovative solutions are crucial for driving growth and sustaining competitiveness. By proactively addressing these bottlenecks through concerted efforts and initiatives, we can overcome challenges and unlock the potential of the Indian handling industry.

With transhipment cargo volumes coming in via Bangladesh and Vietnam, how do you ensure speedy cargo handling operations?

With the recent policy changes in India, including the liberalisation of air cargo traffic rights, we are seeing an increased flow of transhipment cargo, particularly from Bangladesh. To ensure speedy and resilient cargo handling operations, we focus on three core areas—technological integration, robust infrastructure, and streamlined processes. Here, infrastructure plays a crucial role. At Celebi, we have invested in enhancing our infrastructure at key transit points to handle increased volumes. This includes expanding our warehousing capacities and adjusting our handling equipment to ensure smooth loading and unloading. Our location at the largest cargo airport allows us to minimise transit times, critical for maintaining the integrity of time-sensitive shipments.

We leverage technology, including automated systems for cargo tracking and handling, which facilitates real-time visibility and efficient management of cargo flows. Here technological integration is paramount. This not only speeds up the process but also minimises errors and enhances security checks without causing delays.  Last but not the least, streamlined processes, achieved through rigorous training of our staff and collaboration with airport authorities and airlines, ensures that transhipment cargo is handled swiftly and with care. We work closely with customs and other regulatory bodies to ensure that all requirements are met promptly, crucial for avoiding unnecessary delays.

What is your vision for the air cargo industry? Is it ready to achieve 10 MMT by 2030?

We envision an air cargo handling industry that is not only prepared but is also thriving, capable of meeting and exceeding the target of handling 10 million metric tonnes (MMT) by 2030. This target represents a milestone for Indian logistics sector and underscores the potential and opportunities that lie ahead. To achieve this vision, it is imperative for the industry to adopt a comprehensive approach focusing on infrastructure development, process improvements, technology integration, digital initiatives, policy reforms, and collaborative initiatives.  Firstly, we recognise the importance of infrastructure development, including the modernisation of existing airports and the establishment of dedicated cargo terminals at strategic locations across
India. These investments will not only enhance ground handling capacity but also improve efficiency and operational resilience. Secondly, technology will play a pivotal role in driving growth and innovation within the air cargo industry. From digital platforms for e-Booking and real-time tracking to automation in cargo handling processes, embracing technological advancements will streamline operations and reduce turnaround times.

Policy reforms and PPPs will be instrumental in creating an enabling environment for the air cargo industry to flourish. Simplifying customs procedures, reducing paperwork, and incentivising investments in infrastructure and technology will catalyse growth and competitiveness. Considering the collective efforts underway across stakeholders, including government bodies, industry players, and trade associations, we are confident the handling industry is positioned to achieve the 10 MMT target by 2030. With a focus on infrastructure enhancement, technological innovation, and policy support, we can unleash the full potential of air cargo ecosystem and set ourselves up as a global leader in logistics and trade facilitation.