A decade and a half in the Indian air force, rising to wing commander, gave Neelu Khatri a rare insight into the country’s aerospace potential. At Honeywell she is putting that understanding into practice.
What sparked your interest in aviation?
I grew up in Jabalpur, a small city in India, and after receiving a master’s degree in English Literature from Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya University, I joined the Indian air force. This is where I discovered my passion for the aerospace industry and found myself completely immersed when friends who were pilots would offer to take me on flights.
Tell us about your career to date
From a young age, I always looked beyond the career paths available to me in Jabalpur. I was offered the chance to be the first female officer as a part of the Indian air force. I spent 15 years there and worked in a variety of roles across project management, procurement and supplies. In 2008, I joined KPMG as the head of defence and security advisory services, where I provided aerospace and defence consultation – very new to India at the time. I joined Honeywell in 2014, in a business and strategy development role, where I worked with businesses to help develop and execute growth initiatives on Honeywell’s offerings in the Indian market. I became president – aerospace of Honeywell India in February 2017.
What have been your highlights and lowlights?
Along with being one of the pioneer women commissioned within the Indian air force, becoming president – aerospace of Honeywell in India was definitely a highlight in my career. I am also a member of the India Executive Council, which is a personal highlight for me. Like anyone else, I’ve had to overcome challenges in order to excel in my career. Over the years, when starting a new job, I always faced the challenge of proving myself to my team and superiors. I learned the importance of always showing my motivation when beginning a new project or job.
What does your new role entail?
I am responsible for providing strategic direction for the India business. I focus on the best ways to develop and grow Honeywell’s services and products for air transport, regional, business aviation and defence, plus space. With footfall in India increasing every day, Honeywell’s investment in the market will only continue to grow and help develop the aerospace landscape in India. I focus on collaborations such as Make in India, and work with businesses to ensure Honeywell can expand within the market and localise products and services to best serve clients.
How important is the Indian market to Honeywell?
Honeywell identifies India as a high-growth region and a key market. Clients here have very unique requirements and we work to provide a tailored service for them. Honeywell Technology Solutions now has centres in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Madurai, helping us meet client requirements more efficiently. We are keen to continue focusing on growth in the region and will work to see how we can continue to lead industry innovation.
What are the major challenges?
India is a unique market and, as an international company, understanding and meeting the needs of our clients here can sometimes be a challenge. However, Honeywell has had a presence in India for over 40 years and we’ve made an investment in the market to meet the requirements of customers, suppliers and research institutes. The team here is strongly positioned to overcome challenges and pre-empt limitations in order to deliver results, plus maintain and build relationships with key customers.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I’m always looking for the next challenge, seeing how I can grow and meet my personal goals. As I’ve recently made the jump to this role, I’m very excited to help Honeywell drive change within India and the aerospace industry. I’ll continue to look for ways to diversify teams and work more internationally, to ensure that we provide the most advanced services and products for clients around the world.