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‘Shortage of manpower, a major hurdle for aerospace sector’

Suresh P. Iyengar
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Sanjay Kumar, MD & CEO, Altran India
Sanjay Kumar, MD & CEO, Altran India

We wanted to employ 750 engineers in India, but could manage only 300. If you are a stress engineer (one who determines the stress and strain in materials subjected to static or dynamic forces) in India, you can right away choose the company, salary and city you wish to work.

With the innovation of Solar Impulse, an airplane that can fly fully on solar energy, it is no surprise that technology solution provider Altran has turned more bullish about the Indian aviation sector. Solar Impulse should be music to the ears for Indian airlines bogged down by ever-rising aviation turbine fuel prices.

Though solar-powered aircraft may not offer immediate succour, Altran has a lot of innovative solutions to bail out various Indian airlines. With its global accounts such as Airbus, Alstom Transportation and Renault already engaged in India, Altran plans to spread its wings in the country.

Sanjay Kumar, Managing Director and CEO, Altran India, said that with an offset clause (making foreign companies source components locally) clearly embedded in Indian defence deals, Altran sees a huge opportunity in aerospace. “We are scaling up our workforce of technology experts to 2,000 over the next two years,” he said in an interview with Business Line.

What makes you so optimistic about the aviation sector when the industry is bleeding?

The Indian aerospace industry is expected to be the next sunshine sector of India with an estimated investment of $50 billion over the next five years. I do not foresee the problem of land acquisition hampering investments as the sky is the limit when it comes to aviation. Of the total planned investment, civil aviation will constitute 55 per cent. With such huge investment, the demand for ancillary services in the sector will skyrocket. Besides our global accounts, we are also in talks with Hindustan Aeronautics for weight reduction of a few military aircraftmanufactured by the PSU. Altran and the Indian aerospace industry will forge a symbiotic relationship to revolutionise the way innovative products are being developed.

What are challenges you see in India?

Critical shortage of manpower with requisite technical capabilities is going to be a major hurdle. We wanted to employ 750 engineers in India, but could manage only 300. If you are a stress engineer (one who determines the stress and strain in materials subjected to static or dynamic forces) in India, you can right away choose the company, salary and city you wish to work. But I bet there cannot be a better place than Altran. Our attrition in India has dipped to 18 per cent from over 30 per cent a year ago. This was largely due to the quality of work packages being delivered by us.

What are cost savings for airlines?

For the first time in the world, a new technology for providing wi-fi cabin connectivity without using Iridium is being developed by Altran and our partner Flight Focus for deployment in premium airlines. This helps to improve the communication between the aircraft and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO). The staff at MRO will assess the repair work that needs to done and keep themselves equipped even before the flight lands. This will substantially reduce the turnaround time of flights from the MRO and help cash register ring for airlines.

Has your technology been tested out?

Air China benefited substantially from our ‘all-in-one package’ with security management solutions. The hosting of an on-board technology with connectivity to the base centre reduced communication time by over 90 per cent and helped reduce cost on each flight. The synergistic effect of the operational efficiency resulted in saving fuel cost, which was as high as five per cent on annual basis. Besides, it helped the airline add new air services and operate flawlessly. Altran India now plans to launch this offer in India and remains immensely optimistic on the opportunities that will emerge in the Indian aerospace industry

You need to have a high-tech MRO also, is it not?

Absolutely. We did a project in association with Al Habtoor Trading and ADPI (a subsidiary of the Group Aéroports de Paris) to create the world’s most advanced MRO ‘The Wings Valley’ in Dubai. It is dedicated to business jets and helicopters. As the developer of the concept, Altran contributed pooling its expertise in the aeronautics, aircraft engineering and IT industries to create a cutting-edge global solution. With a maintenance capacity of 60 business jets and 40 helicopters a month, Dubai MRO calls for focus on mastering traffic and repair control within environmental constraints and offering a customised service to aircraft owners and crews. With India preparing to launch its first MRO, Altran can replicate its experience.

suresh.iyengar@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 7, 2013)
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