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Disruptive Technology: Accelerating Paradigm Changes

January, 2017

CFO Insights on Infrastructure & Utilities

Disruptive Technology: Accelerating Paradigm Changes

CFO Insights in conversation with Sidharath Kapur, President, Finance and Business Development, GMR Airports Limited, on how his organization is maintaining leadership position by adopting disruptive technologies

With digital interventions, businesses are seeing improvement in customer experience, productivity and turnaround time. Being associated with aviation and airport services, what is your strategic focus – disrupting with new technology or improving existing technology for competitive advantage?

As an organization, GMR Airports has always been focused on three pillars viz. people, process and technology to improve the customer experience. Technology is a significant enabler for not just making airports more efficient but also for improving passenger experiences, enhancing revenues and extracting more from the same capital asset. This is a challenging job given the multiple stakeholders and multi-dimensional interfaces in an airport. To ensure we meet our objectives of providing airport services - that are value added and cutting edge - with customer delight, one will need to embrace technology by not just technology interfacing seamlessly into operations but also at times providing cutting edge disruptive technologies that provides a paradigm change. Providing technology based operations that blend seamlessly into operational framework is an essential requirement today. However leadership can be maintained by bringing disruptive technologies. Disruptive technologies provide accelerated paradigm changes in way of doing business. Continuous focus on improving technology is like running a marathon. However during running a marathon one needs to run a sharp 100 metre dash by disruptive technologies. Both are enablers of value added business operations with leadership positioning.

Delhi and Hyderabad International Airports have won several awards, both nationally and globally. How do you see digital technology contributing to this service excellence and enabling GMR Group to win wide acclaim?

Delhi Airport has been ranking as number one airport in the last two years and Hyderabad Airport been constantly ranking among the top 3 Airports in ACI Ranking in their respective categories. With both the Airports facing exponential growth, maintaining service standards has been crucial for us. Today’s passengers interact with Airport through multiple channels. Every touchpoint of passenger travel has the potential to improve passenger experience. Digital channels, social media and self-service solutions are a given. However, future Airports need to be based on Customized, Responsive, Interactive, Social and Personalized (CRISP) service experience. This direct connection with the individual passenger and the subsequent convenience and empowerment for the passenger will make the digital airport their airport of choice. With Airports having access to rich data and information, service excellence can reach new heights by providing customized services by adjusting to cultural, time of day or demography.

How is technology facilitating environment friendly and energy efficient operations in airports?

Airports are guzzlers of electricity and water. Reduction of power and water consumption coupled with environment friendly power and water consumption is a mantra for a modern airport. At GMR Airports we rely on technology to achieve these objectives.

Energy management :

Commissioned environment friendly solar power plant within the airport premises catering to 40% of the needs

Replaced conventional CFL & Other lights to energy efficient LED (Light Emitting Diode ) lighting to improve efficiency

Implemented Building Automation System to effectively monitor & utilize Lighting, Elevators, Escalators, Ground Field Lighting etc

Optimization of air conditioning units according to ambient temperature and weather conditions

Vehicular fuel consumption reduction by relying on GPS based Tracking and monitoring of vehicles within the Airport premises

Water management :

Installation of water efficient devices

Installation of sensors to control water flow

Sensor enabled water taps, W.C.s outflow for optimum use

Optimization of water usage by monitoring & control

Further, we have initiated Silent Airport concept at the Delhi airport to reduce Noise Pollution at the terminal. At the Hyderabad airport, we have deployed an Automated Announcement System to regulate the announcements. The system has eliminated manual announcements and in the process reduced noise pollution levels by 60%.

What are the technology-enabled innovations in cargo operations and logistics that have been rolled out in airports managed by GMR Group?

Cargo operations is critical and a significant component of airport operations. Like any other part of airport business, technology interface that seamlessly integrates into operations is a critical pre-requisite to enhance efficiency, reduce time and cost, enhance customer delight and provide competitive edge. At GMR Airports, the following are some of the technology enabled innovations in cargo operations and logistics:

Complete elimination of all papers for all terminal handling processes at the Cargo

Fully automated real time interface with airlines, agents, Customs and other stakeholders for exchange of flight and shipment data using industry standard messages

Real time and milestone driven status update messages on flights and shipments to the airlines and agents

Online credit management and payments for all shipment (agents) and flight (airlines) transactions

Online tracking and monitoring of shipments and flights

Online city-side truck dock slot booking

Mobile application to enquire, pay, online truck dock slot booking and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) functions

Fully automated conveyors with in-line volume measurement, weighing, barcode reading and X-raying, for acceptance of export cargo

Real time data capture of all warehouse transactions, using HHTs (Hand Held Devices) by cargo handling staff and forklift operators

Hyderabad and Delhi Airports were the first in India to implement several IT enabled systems for passenger operations. Please elaborate on them and their impact on your business.

The airport passenger today is technology savvy, wants better experience through technology based platforms and is ready to embrace technology that not just saves time and cost but also leads to revenue enhancement. Our airports have been at the forefront of enhancing technology based operations and also bringing disruptive technologies to meet these ends. However, one has to be cognizant of the fact that technology adopted blindly can fail. It has to be tailored to meet our specific requirements of compliances, safety and security requirements. Some of examples in our airports are: 

E-Boarding

The E-Boarding Project has been conceptualized with the primary objective of enhancing PAX experience by enabling Mobile based E-Boarding in addition to optimizing process times at various touch points of the passenger air travel. The other objectives of the project are minimizing the human intervention in the passenger flow right from the entry of the passenger into the terminal building all through to boarding the flight and thereby ensuring passenger delight.

The unique feature of this solution is it is integrated with Aadhaar Card and Biometrics for Passenger Identity, yet allows the traditional passenger without Aadhaar Card also to be processed through the system. It can also authenticate the passenger travel by integrating with the Airlines’ DCS Systems at the entry point itself and can enforce entry rules thereby enhancing existing security levels.

ACDM

Airport CDM is a concept which aims at improving operational efficiency at airports by reducing delays, improving the predictability of events during the progress of a flight, optimizing the utilization of resources, and also reducing Ground Movements costs.

Mobile Tablets

Terminal Operations, Customer Facility, Service Quality, Airside Operation Teams are given tablets in lieu of the Manual Checklists to avoid cumbersome and ineffective data entry system. This system has enhanced the accuracy and efficiency of the outcome and helped the staff to focus on the core deliverables in addition to providing the MIS to the top management on time.

Video Walls

Giant Video walls are deployed across the terminals to telecast LIVE Sports, NEWS & other channels to entertain PAX during their transit

Mobile App

Deployed to help PAX with latest Flight updates, Offers on all Retail & F&B, Airport Facilities, Navigation & Loyalty Programs etc.

PAX Tracking Solution

Monitor congestion at Touch Points (Main Entry, Security, Boarding etc.) and automatically alert concerned Operations team. In addition, will help Operations team to proactively plan on resource allocation well in advance based on the historic data.

Self-Bag Drop

Completed the Trails and currently progressing on deploying Self Bag drops to augment existing Baggage drop facility. The move is to encourage PAX to do Mobile & Web Check-in Boarding.

Major Indian airports are projected to reach their passenger handling capacity limit. How do you see the role of technology to help airports better manage passenger traffic with existing capacity? 

India is the world’s fastest growing aviation market. Currently, passenger traffic in India is growing at a rate of 20% and is expected to continue this momentum for next few years. In my view, to meet this growth we have no choice but to, among other things, focus on technology to meet this huge growth requirements. With existing airports already capacity constrained, such high growth rates further put stress on passenger handling. As passengers flow through the terminal, five key areas are critical for smoother passenger handling viz. gate holding area, security, retail, baggage handling and immigration. The common pain points for the passenger has always been long waiting queues, insufficient information or boarding time update and difficulty in finding way. However, the problem can be solved by better embracing technology. For example, e-boarding facility enables faster processing of passengers with same infrastructure. However, introduction of this meant implementing technology that not just improves processing time but also meets the strict safety and security compliance norms in India. With passenger tracking, guided by advanced analytics and collaborative decision making, airports can track how the passenger moves — resulting in better customer service and leaner operations. Digital solutions can be used to build a unified interconnect between all parties to improve information sharing in order to take critical decisions for smooth airport operations. Mobile phones are continuously evolving, from being just a passenger communication channel, to interaction and transaction driven interface for the passenger. This would help to reduce the time constraint and increase passenger’s ability to make informed decision and hence airports better manage passenger traffic.

GMR Airports operates in a highly capital and technology intensive sector. In your opinion, what are the policy enablers to accelerate the adoption of digitally enabled global best practices by Indian airports?

In India, PPP airports operate in dual system where safety, security and air traffic control are run and maintained by government and airport operations are run by private players. Hence introduction of new technology needs to meet the requirements of the sovereign agencies working in airports. For e.g. e-boarding solution implemented by Hyderabad Airport required protracted engagement and interface with security authorities before it was finally accepted. ATC operations are another area where we have worked with sovereign agencies to improve airside capacity through more efficient management of airspace based on international standards. While there are many instances like these, a more holistic approach is needed. Having a Standing Technology Committee under the aegis of Ministry of Civil Aviation which constantly evaluates technology innovations and ensures it interacts with various sovereign bodies for a well-rounded and accelerated implementation will go a long way in providing cutting edge technology based approach to Indian Aviation.

 

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