With air travel flying out of the pandemic blues, India’s largest IT services provider TCS finds multiple opportunities opening up in the aviation space, including customer experience, cloud, and airport services, said a senior executive.
When the pandemic struck in 2020, travel was one of the worst-affected sectors as countries went into lockdown restricting travel. However, recent times have seen travel resuming.
Girish Ramachandran, President of TCS Asia Pacific, in a recent interaction said that going by the industry estimates, global air travel will reach 88 percent of its pre-COVID levels in 2022. “We don’t know whether much of it is true because of what is happening on the Omicron front but you know we expect that if at least people have started travelling around.”
However, this means that the airlines and airports have to reimagine how people travel. Ramachandran explained that with the pandemic, needs of customers have changed, and the current way of customer experience, which involves multiple partners in the airline and airport ecosystem, has been a threat.
This is opening up opportunities for IT companies in the aviation sector. A case-in-point is the multi-million-dollar deal the company has signed with the Hong Kong-based Plaza Premium Group (PPG), which is in the airport services space, to transform the airport experience.
Through this partnership, TCS will develop an end-to-end digital platform, Passenger Services Technology for PPG, to improve customer experience and operational excellence at its 70 airport locations that serve 20 million passengers annually. The idea is also to reimagine the end-to-end airport travel experience across three core areas of customer experience, employee experience, and operational excellence.
TCS is piloting this in the Bengaluru airport across 32 services. Over a period of time, this service will be expanded to other parts of the world, he added. Apart from airport services, the company is also looking at opportunities in customer experience, and cloudification in aviation.
Air India could provide opportunities as well in terms of digitisation. The Tata group won the Air India bid for Rs 18,000 crore on October 8. It has been like a homecoming moment for the salt-to-software conglomerate, which founded Air India, but gave control to the government 68 years ago.
Commenting on opportunities particularly from Air India, Ramachandran said, “I cannot speak a lot about Air India because it will come on to the Tata Group only in January. But, all of us are very, very nostalgic about Air India. All of us know the brand and the loyalty that all of the Air India commands over many of us who’ve been flying it across from India and we also know that as Rajesh would have mentioned, we work with a lot of airlines around the world and we understand the art of possible especially with respect to digitisation and that is an area where we definitely think Air India will invest in over a period of time.”
For PPG, which runs airports across India in cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai, the opportunities are huge.
Ali Bora Isbulan, Chief Commercial Officer, Plaza Premium Group, pointed out that India itself could be a huge potential for the firm. With the Airports Authority of India opening up in terms of the regulations to encourage the PPG projects along with the semi-owned private ownership of the airport and air traffic in India increasing, PPG sees more opportunities.
“We have been in India for more than 10 years in major airports. With 2021 and beyond, we are going to make a lot of investments into the airport, not only in Bangaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad, but I’m sure we're going to be in Mumbai soon,” Isbulan said.