Fast 5: India's GMR Ponders Several Capability Additions
Ashok Gopinath, CEO of GMR Aero Technic, which specializes in airframe maintenance, shares his insights on the Indian MRO market and the company’s plans to expand its capabilities.
What challenges did the company face during the COVID-19 pandemic? How did the company overcome those challenges?
The pandemic had a drastic impact on the MRO market. The last two years have been the most challenging time for the industry. Most of the airlines grounded their aircraft, which resulted in a major cut back in the number of C checks. Several airlines started to return their aircraft to the lessors, which resulted in the C checks getting converted to end-of-lease (EOL) checks. Thus, we adapted to the changing situation and enhanced our capability quickly to take EOL checks. We took a strategic approach at that time and supported our customers in handing over their aircraft seamlessly. During the fiscal year 2021, we successfully completed more than 12 EOL checks. This also helped us to maintain our top and bottom line.
What trends have you observed in the Indian MRO market over the past couple of years? How has the company been positioned to respond to these trends?
When we started operations in 2011, the Indian airline operators used to send their aircraft abroad for airframe checks. Most of the aircraft for C checks were sent to Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Jordan and Turkey, to name a few. However, in the past five years, Indian operators have conducted most of their airframe checks within the country. Indian MROs are self-sufficient to take care of airframe maintenance checks within India. With the developed capabilities and high-quality infrastructure, the Indian MRO market is now catching up with its international counterparts. The market now attracts international airlines from the Middle East and South East Asia for airframe checks and other services. GMR Aero Technic has actively looked at helping reverse the trend in India.
What are the company’s plans for expanding its business?
In the past 10 years, we have undertaken more than 700 fully-fledged C checks and around 1,000 ad-hoc checks on different types of aircraft, both domestically and internationally. Today, GMR Aero Technic is an established name, not just in India but also globally. We have worked with Flynas, Oman Air, Jazeera Airways, Salam Air, flydubai, SmartLynx Airlines, Biman Bangla and Durk Air, to name a few of our customers. We have already established our footprint in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and we are now focusing on Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Apart from airframe maintenance, we are also working on establishing airframe-related component capabilities, including de-icer boot maintenance and nacelle repair. We have already signed an agreement with Spirit Aero for establishing repair capabilities for nacelle components and radomes in India. We are also exploring strategic partnerships to facilitate landing gear repair, so we can offer a one-stop solution to our customers.
As the widebody market has started growing in India, we are contemplating working on establishing widebody airframe maintenance capability in the coming years. Additionally, we have recently signed an agreement with Boeing to establish a new Boeing 737 freighter conversion line at our facility in Hyderabad.
What initiatives has the company taken to reduce the environmental footprint of its aircraft maintenance operations?
We have been focusing on several green initiatives and sustainability solutions to reduce the carbon footprint. Some of them are: installation of sensor-operated lighting for the corridors, replacing electrical street lighting with solar street lights and using biodiesel for all our diesel operated vehicles.
We are exploring alternative power generation and paperless initiatives across all departments. We have implemented robotic process automation technology to automate and digitalize the day-to-day processes across all the departments. We are also working toward an end-to-end digitization process for all our maintenance tasks by enhancing the utilization of our enterprise resource planning system. We have provided iPads to our certifying staff for the digital certification.
Additionally, we have launched a radio frequency identification program for tool tracking, which is currently under trial. We have phased out the diesel operated tow tug and replaced it with an electric tow tug and we will continue this initiative until all tugs are electric.
What future market challenges do you anticipate for India?
The future of the MRO industry looks promising and bright. As the third fastest growing aviation market, the Indian aviation industry is scaling up to build robust MRO capabilities that can cater to the changing demands and growing global markets. We are focusing on developing capabilities for widebody, components and line replaceable units and limited engine capability to meet the growing domestic market requirements. In addition, the industry is currently facing a shortage of specialized talents. Therefore, to cater the needs of the industry and solve the skill shortage issue, we are planning to build an aviation school in near future.