Arvind Mehra, Executive Director and CEO, Mahindra Aerospace was in Auckland for the INZBC Aviation, Tourism and Technology summit. He conceived and built the aerospace strategy for the $19 billion Indian origin multinational Mahindra group, culminating in the decision to enter utility aircraft and aero structures markets with a globalised focus through a mix of organic and acquisition based growth. Mr Mehra is one of India’s most high profile CEOs with more than 30 years’ experience in senior leadership positions across large reputed organisations including as COO of Airtel, India’s largest telecom company, CEO of a major Private Equity firm and regional Director and CFO of Caltex Chevron Corporation, besides others. He is a Chartered Accountant, a Company Secretary and is a Harvard Business School alumnus. He sits on the boards of several Indian and international industry apex bodies Mr Mehra spoke at length with KiaOra India editor Dev Nadkarni during his visit to Auckland and over email later. Excerpts.
What are your impressions about INZBC’s Aviation, Tourism and Technology themed summit in terms of adding value/insights to the ongoing discourse on these topics in the Australia-New Zealand region? The summit was one of the best I have attended. Very well organised, well coordinated and topics and presenters were relevant to the subject. There are so many similarities on aviation around the world that region-specific ideas at a point lose their relevance and we must learn from each other’s best practises.
Tell us a little about Mahindra Aerospace’s activities in the region, especially NZ and the South Pacific. In Australia we have an aircraft plant that manufactures Airvan 8 and Airvan 10 airplanes. We have our engineering and design teams based in Australia. In NZ we have 17 aircraft flying across various operators and this market requires as much attention as others. We are committed to do so now. We also several of our planes flying in Papua New Guinea.
You shared some impressive statistics about the growth of the aviation sector over next few decades. Knowing well the geographical and economic realities (and constraints) of this region, how do you think New Zealand should place itself to take advantage of these growth trends? These conferences definitely help bring it to attention but a more specific focus to share its advanced thinking on remote connectivity, making it easy for smaller aircraft/helicopters to fly is worth of appreciation. In a country so well known for its natural beauty and remote regions, connectivity is the key and that is where air connectivity has helped.
You said NZ could help Indian regulators with a better understanding of General Aviation. The distinction between commercial and general aviation needs to be properly dealt with in India by regulators. General aviation is well developed in New Zealand with aviation applied in so many different areas of activity. New Zealand could help India in understanding this better.
How could this possibly be done? What sort of framework would you suggest for such information/ technology transfer (especially after your impressions at the summit)? There is well established and existing mechanism of bilateral arrangements and more engagement between the regulators either directly or through businesses in India and New Zealand will help share best practises.
You spoke very pertinently about “aviation as enabler” Would you please elaborate… Aviation means connectivity means more chances of business. Aviation enables and generates many indirect jobs and therefore acts as a catalyst to develop many more ancillary and related industries. In 2010, the Asia Pacific region’s aviation industry overtook the US. By 2034, there will be 44 million jobs in the sector with a six per cent year-on-year growth.
What are your company’s plans in the near future? The market for small planes is huge. The United States believes connectivity can be done better with smaller aircraft. So does New Zealand, where there is a huge population of small aircraft. India is a market waiting to take off and we are well positioned to service that emerging market. Right now in India, the focus is almost entirely on commercial aviation. Few operators are looking seriously at what general aviation has to offer.