Christopher Fordyce, Regional Commercial Manager (South Asia), British Airways feels that India has the potential to be one of the biggest South Asian markets in the world. In an interview to CNBC-TV18’s Shereen Bhan, he said that the company is keen to expand in India to different areas of Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai, he says.
“We are also getting new A380s and 787s into the fleet, which is a part of a bigger investment program”, he added.
Below is the edited transcript of his interview to CNBC-TV18.
Q: It is 84 years for British Airways flying in India this year. What is the outlook looking like? India has been one of your fastest growing markets; second to the United States. Is it looking at exciting? We have seen the growth rates drop quite significantly as far as the broader economy is concerned. From 8 percent we are talking 5.5 percent. Has your outlook changed as well?
A: This is a very exciting place to be and is also a very exciting year as a carrier. We are getting new aircrafts into our fleets. We have got A380s and 787s joining the fleet. They are all part of a big investment program that we have been putting into market since 2011.
This really marks the most visible change in terms of the BA products. We are on different course than some of the other carriers and that is really helping us stay ahead of where the market is going. We are still very excited about India as a place to fly to. We are expanding here.
We are now moving to Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai. It is a very competitive place to fly to. There are a lot of carriers out there that are also really fighting to be in India and really have a position in the market, because it is going to be one of the biggest South Asian markets in the world.
Q: What is the British Airways' strategic positioning going to be as far as the Indian market is concerned?
A: We enjoy competition. Our investment plan is going to keep us ahead. We really focus on investing in onboard products or services of food, lounges and all of this is part of the customer experience that will help customers being more loyal to us.
Q: Isn't everybody else doing that too?
A: Everyone else is going to be trying to do the same thing. We have started on a path a couple of years ago and a lot of that has been starting to really come through. We have been bringing new cabinets to India in economy and world traveller class and in first class.
We also need to keep investing as cabinets can become outdated. The focus is on delivering what the customers want. We have launched the program a couple of years ago called Know Me and that was all about using customer insight to design a service around an individual customer and every point in terms of check-in, onboard.
Having a lot of information about that customer allows you to deliver a much more personalised service. So they are not just another customer. They are customers that you understand and you can give them what they want and that is what we are using to try and attract more customers in this market and the rest of the places that we fly to.
Q: What is the outlook then in terms of market share? The last available data that I have of is of April for 2011-2012. They put British Airways at the 6th spot with about 2.7 percent of the total market share. Emirates is at 13 percent, Jet at 15 percent. Lufthansa at number 4. So what is the strategy going to be in order for you to aggressively up your market share?
A: Our key markets are to UK and to North America and we operate as a premium carrier. We have more premium seats in terms of percentage of our seats than pretty much carrier.
Q: Which means you enjoy higher margins as well?
A: It means that we have larger premium cabins. So we will have larger numbers of premium passengers, which means the volume becomes less in the total aircraft. But it means that we have to really fight for that premium space. So we have to give more in terms of products and in terms of our onboard service than maybe another carrier.
Q: So you are less vulnerable to a dogfight as far as prices go.
A: We are vulnerable to anything. I would not like to think that we are in a different stratosphere than anybody else. I think we have to compete in that space and it really is about investing, it is really about focusing on the customer and giving them what they want and then allowing them to choose us when it is maybe not just about the price. Everyone quotes India is very price sensitive, it is just the cheapest that everyone wanted.
Q: That is not your experience.
A: We are not always the cheapest, but people are so choosing us. So what we are seeing is it is a very value conscious market. They really expect a lot when they spend the money, maybe more than some other markets do in terms of onboard service. They are very demanding, but if you can give it to them they are very loyal and they are willing to spend.
It is about making sure they do not feel that they are not getting a good deal and that is where you try and move out the space with just being about price, because then there is a commodity and in effect we are investing in product and service.
There is no point doing that which is a commoditise product and that is where we really position ourselves not being a commodity, it is about a product that people choose within a price bracket that they can afford.