“Srini” Rao, Indian regional director for UK-based sales and consultancy company Aura Aviation, says that with some help from the regulators in New Delhi, nation’s aerospace sector is set for rapid growth.
What attracted you to aviation?
Aviation has fascinated me since my school days. I was surrounded by friends with connections to the industry. One was a Boeing 747 captain’s son. To us kids, airline pilots were like gods, and I really caught the bug when I was invited at 17 to participate in a training flight on a 707.
I was able to sit in the cockpit jump seat and ask all the questions I wanted. Another friend’s sister was an air hostess, which was hugely glamorous in those days. Trips to London, Paris, Rome or New York were something we could only dream of. All this convinced me that this was the environment I wanted to work in.
How does your week normally pan out?
The week starts with a conference call at 09:00 UK time every Monday morning with the whole team. We review the previous week’s progress in terms of closing business, current prospects and forecasts. As far as the rest of the week is concerned, no two days are the same due to the pace and variety of the assignments.
It generally involves following up on existing prospects, generating new prospects, preparation and closing of mandates, face-to-face meetings with clients as well as aircraft inspections. I also attend industry events including the two major air shows in India – Aero India and India Aviation.
“Getting all board members together to vote on such a decision can take months to organise”
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Selling aircraft in India requires a huge amount of patience and a calm personality. The market is not as mature as Western Europe and North America; it still has a long way to go in terms of following good practice and building lasting relationships. For example, local brokers often move locations in the middle of deals without informing me or the client. It is also difficult to do business at a decent margin.
It can be difficult to gain clients’ confidence and get them to make timely decisions. Purchasing an aircraft is a major capital outlay that requires a joint decision by a company’s board. Getting all board members together to vote on such a decision is very difficult and meetings can take months to organise.
What do you particularly enjoy?
The most enjoyable part of my job is being involved in an industry that has so much potential. The business aviation sector in India is on the cusp of a rapid upswing due to robust economic growth, a strategically important geographical location and favourable demographics resulting from massive socioeconomic change across the country.
What is the single most important factor in the growth of India’s business aviation sector, and how can you affect that?
Located between Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as the East Asian region, India’s location offers a lucrative opportunity for growth in both general and non-scheduled aviation, as demand rises from the growing volume of high-net-worth individuals and businesses based in the country.
Crucial to the growth of India’s business aviation sector is the response of regulators to the needs of private operators. It is not currently as easy as it could be to operate. This should be at the top of the government’s agenda across all sectors of industry.
An example of a small change that could make a big difference is if the aviation regulator were available on weekends; this would mean that overnight approvals made on a Friday would not take three days. A chief executive who needs to be in Dubai on a Monday morning is not going to take the risk and will bypass India, despite the additional flying time involved.
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