ACASS India: ‘We’ve been here through thick and thin, and we’re here to stay”
ACASS, the Canadian business jet company, is optimistic about India. In February it joined with Invision Air, a Mumbai operator, to create ACASS India.
Vinit Phatak is India president with Jayant Nadkarni vice-president. “Collaborating with ACASS is a natural fit for us,” said Phatak. “We share similar core values and compatible business cultures. ACASS India takes our complementary customer-centric service offerings, processes, and safety standards and creates a whole even greater than its parts.”
Andre Khury, CEO of ACASS, and Frank Ercolanese, president, will represent the company internationally.
Corporate Jet Investor spoke with Khury about the new business.
Corporate Jet Investor: How excited are you by the launch of ACASS India?
Andre Khury: Launching ACASS India is a particularly proud moment for us.We’ve poured a great deal of time, effort, and heart into serving the Indian business aviation market over the past 10 years, and now we’re putting a stake in the ground and saying: We’ve been here through thick and thin, and we’re here to stay.
Corporate Jet Investor: It has always been hard for foreign companies to get non-scheduled operator’s permit (NSOP) in India. How have you managed to do it?
Andre Khury: It is still very difficult for foreign companies to obtain an NSOP in India. That is one of the reasons ACASS partnered with Invision Air, which is based in Mumbai and has an NSOP. But that’s not to say it was a marriage of convenience. ACASS has had a very strong business aviation support presence in India for over a decade and our business philosophy, capabilities, and goals mesh extremely well with those of Invision.
ACASS India is part of an ACASS strategy to increase the accessibility and depth of its aircraft sales and support offerings in India and surrounding regions, leveraging Invision Air’s in-country presence, experience, reputation, and capabilities
Corporate Jet Investor: How long did it take to set ACASS India up?
Andre Khury: In a sense, it took over 10 years. That’s how long ACASS has been doing business in and supporting the aviation community in India. Invision Air was founded in 2007, and they brought a new standard of professionalism and safety to business aviation in India. So, both companies that led to the formation of ACASS India have been at this for a while! But, more strictly speaking, ACASS and Invision Air first started discussing what would eventually become ACASS India in 2015.
Corporate Jet Investor: How big do you think ACASS India could become?
Andre Khury: We see significant market potential in the region for our portfolio of services, including aircraft sales and acquisitions, flight crew staffing, aircraft management, and entry into service, as well as maintenance and technical oversight support.
But our focus is not so much how big we can grow as much as it is on providing the best service possible to the fleet that exists today. We want ACASS India to be the go-to resource and a trusted partner for the region’s business aviation community, advising and supporting clients through the myriad challenges they encounter in corporate aviation today.
Corporate Jet Investor: Do owners like having their own NSOP?
Andre Khury: Our experience suggests that the answer is no, particularly for individual aircraft owners or those with only one or two aircraft. For many, the romance of having your own operating company tends to wane significantly when faced with the multitude of regulatory and compliance requirements and rules, maintenance, manpower, salaries, parts, insurance, ground handling and flight planning responsibilities – among others – tied to such an operation.
We see an immediate need in India for a professionally run aircraft operating company with global expertise in aircraft management. ACASS has been supporting a worldwide fleet of managed aircraft for over a decade, with an IS-BAO-certified turnkey management program that offers uncompromising safety, lower operational costs, and efficient asset management. Many owners are in search of a just such a solution, which allows them to focus on other priorities and better enjoy the experience and benefits of owning business aircraft.
Corporate Jet Investor: Many financiers have been put off financing aircraft on the Indian register because of the lack of third party managers. Do you see this as a big opportunity?
Andre Khury: Absolutely. ACASS India is bringing North American standards to the Indian market while remaining sensitive to Indian culture. We would be hard pressed to understand why any financial institution would not value the availability the caliber of business aviation support services we offer in India as part of a comprehensive risk and asset management strategy.
Corporate Jet Investor: Is lack of legal protection the biggest problem for financiers?
Andre Khury: You can’t really attribute the trepidation to any one thing. A variety of factors, of course, always drive decision making. Being prepared and providing asset protection is key. Beyond that, each potential transaction is assessed based on its own unique merits and risk factors.
Corporate Jet Investor: India’s business aviation market has often disappointed, how optimistic are you for the next 10 years?
Andre Khury: From a fleet growth perspective, our research and experience point to a growth of about three to four percent per annum for the next 10 years. Inherent in this suggestion is an expectation of a certain degree of consolidation during the period as the market continues to evolve and become more accepting of concepts like third-party aircraft management. So, we are quite optimistic about the market potential for ACASS India over the longer term.
Corporate Jet Investor: How big do you think India’s business aviation market could grow?
Andre Khury: Our analysis shows India currently having around 487 aircraft: 142 business jets, 100 turboprops, and around 245 helicopters. Industry projections suggest that by 2020 the total number of both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft in India will rise to 550 aircraft: 160 business jets, 120 turboprops and 270 helicopters. And by 2025 will reach 670 aircraft: 180 business jets, 140 turboprops, and 350 helicopters. These projections are based primarily on analysis done by our team in India, which combines research completed by the Indian BAOA (Business Aviation Operators Association) with our own industry assessments.
Corporate Jet Investor: Is infrastructure – particularly airports – the biggest issue for owners?
Andre Khury: Not sure if it is the “biggest” issue. Taxation and barriers to NSOP certainly play major roles in limiting growth. But overall infrastructure, or the lack thereof, is definitely among the larger issues facing business aviation in India. While there is infrastructure available and a lot more planned, for now the private aviation community continues to struggle with insufficient ramp/parking space, a shortage of airport operation and watch hours, as well as basic aircraft servicing capabilities. Stakeholders are active in looking to affect necessary efficiency and capability improvements in all of these areas.