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‘We Will Increase Our Headcount In India Soon’

Hani-El-Assaad, President, SITA for Middle East, India and Africa, talks to Ashish Sinha on SITA’s (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques) vision going forward

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Hani-El-Assaad, President, SITA for Middle East, India and Africa, talks to Ashish Sinha on SITA’s (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques) vision going forward.

Edited excerpts:

How do you view the progress made in India for the air travellers? 
I think four or five years ago, we at SITA, had anticipated the kind of double-digit growth in air travellers that will come from India. Our predictions are coming true now. India is a showcase country for us because of the skill set it offers or the kind of growth happening in the aviation sector or for the cutting-edge technology that is available here.
We have some of the biggest knowhow coming from India in terms of software development or R&D. We are working closely with Air India looking after the ticketing and other aspects. We are closely working with AAI. We hope we will soon have Wi-Fi services and GSM in flights, that is an area of interest for us too. We can help India service the growing capacity at its airports. Self-service baggage system is working well for us.

Now, airlines are asking us to monetise and incentivise people carrying lesser load in terms baggage and award them as compared to others who are carrying more baggage for the same priced air tickets.

What that are the newer technology you will bring to India? 

Biometrics and its use in air travel is another dimension that will take over the burden of paper tickets, passport stamping, etc., and help in smooth and hassle-free travel experience. Face recognition is the most popular technology in biometrics development.

Imagine one going through the airport to the plane and forward just using the face as the identity. Adoption of biometrics will be one big enabler for airport authorities going forward. Then advance immigration facilities can be offered here like we do at Abu Dhabi airport for US citizens. The US Immigration and Border Control people sit at Abu Dhabi airport helping clear advance immigration for their nationals even before they enter the US.

We can also offer e-gates or hassle-free journey using biometrics. Airports want people to shop and buy things at the airport rather than stand in a long queue. After all, the non-air travel revenue is a significant contributor to the overall airport revenue.

SITA’s global revenue is at $1.7 billion. Where does India fits in? 
The Middle East, India and Africa is one region for us that contributes the maximum out of the four regions that we operate in. We operate in Asia-Pacific (minus India), Europe and America as the other three regions. So, the Middle East, India and Africa will be contributing 35 per cent or so to the overall revenue with India growing at an impressive 15 per cent growth rate for the last few years. In terms of India’s share, it should be $135 million-140 million revenue in India translating roughly into 8 per cent of overall SITA revenue.

In terms of your manpower in India, what does the future hold?
Since India is growing rapidly, we at SITA will soon be looking at increasing the head count. Currently we have around 485 people directly employed by SITA, which is more than 10 per cent of our global head count of around 4,700. This will further go up with every airport that we sign. Typically, we have to employ 16-20 people per airports (covering all the shifts). Indirectly, there will be more. So, India is a bright spot for us.

Could you expand on your future association with India? 
We are helping the Airport Authority of India across 40-odd airports. Then, we have a full IT solution for the Mumbai Airport and the full turnkey solution for the Bengaluru airport. SITA will also provide its check-in, boarding and baggage tracking technology to Nagpur International Airport. The airport is expected to accommodate up to 14 million passengers once completed in 2035. We are in discussion for Hyderabad so I cannot say much at this juncture. We are hopeful for Delhi airport going forward.

So far, we have been successful everywhere but in Delhi. For Delhi, at this time, it is a wishful thinking. Without going in detail, all I can share is that we prefer to be a full-turnkey solution provider and nothing less.

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Magazine 14 April 2018 Hani-El-Assaad sita technology

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