Region VII: Middle East / Asia

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Studies Point to Business Aviation Potential In India

April 25, 2011

Two recent reports point to remarkable growth in business aviation in India.

One report, published by the Firestone Management Group, noted a growth rate of 46 percent over the past 36 months, with 43 new aircraft joining the 136 already in India. A report from NetJets shows similar findings, logging 47 new aircraft that increased the number based in India to 146, or a growth of about 40 percent.

The Firestone report puts Hawker Beechcraft as the leading supplier with 35 aircraft, followed by Cessna (31), Bombardier (24), Dassault Falcon (17), Gulfstream (15) and Embraer (9).

According to Annette Brawley of Bombardier, the Indian economy has remained strong, with a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 8.2 percent in 2010.

Dan Keady, VP of Hawker Beechcraft for India/South Pacific, concurs, saying "One of the biggest reasons is that the Reserve Bank of India has very tight control on money in and out of the country so, overall, India was not as deeply affected by the global financial crisis."

Shorbani Roy of Embraer notes that "As a BRIC country (Brazil, Russia, India and China), India has much potential for further growth and consequently business needs which include the greater use of business jets as 'tools of trade'."

According to Justin Firestone, whose business jet advisory business is focused on multinational companies penetrating the emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region, some of the key factors he sees in the growth of business aviation have been an increased number of field service representatives from the major builders, spare parts being warehoused on site in India, and efforts by the Indian government, along with private contractors, to improve FBO services.

"The days of supporting an aircraft in India from North America or Europe are over," says Firestone. "When a company's aircraft needs a part in India, employees are not waiting for people in the U.S. to get up in the morning, anymore. The solid growth in expatriate personnel in sales and service, plus spares, shows me that the OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers] are prepared for a continuing up-tick."

Says Keady, "Hawker Beechcraft has enough confidence in the Indian market going forward that we have split sales for the product range between Hawker and Beechcraft, assigning a product line to individual sales managers to allow increased focus on each line. We are also adding field service representatives and logistics people for increased support."

Embraer's Roy says the company is prepared for steady growth in India as "the bizjet culture develops in this part of the world." He notes that, over the past two years, "Embraer has significantly grown its structure in Asia, bringing in more talents from the market and from our headquarters." He adds: "We are also continuously looking at opportunities to partner with established and successful organizations to enhance our efforts in certain locations." As this story went to press, Embraer announced that Air Works of Mumbai (VIDP) would be an authorized service center for Phenoms, with bases in Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.

Brawley of Bombardier also points to governmental support for the industry, saying "Improvements to infrastructure, such as the Airports Authority of India's plan to add new airports and modernize existing metro airports, will further enable growth of India’s business jet market."

For Firestone, a clear indicator of growth is the state of FBOs in India. "A good example", he says, "is Universal Weather – Aviation, which recently opened a new facility in Mumbai (VIDP) that includes a Western-style FBO."

Any attempt to determine a reason for the popularity of one aircraft over another is fruitless since, as Alexander of Hawker Beechcraft points out, "the product mix is mission oriented." Short strip operations are a necessity for smaller airports at one end of the scale, while long-range requirements for trans-oceanic flights are at the other.

Either way, India clearly represents an emerging market for business aviation. "The growth opportunity for private jet manufacturers to deliver their products into India is tremendous," says Firestone. He adds: "As the world's largest democracy, the second-most populous country, and one of the fastest-growing major economies, India is clearly embracing the need for safe and efficient business jet travel."