Thursday, April 22, 2010
Taking off into the blue skies
COLUMN: AT THE HELM
Dr. C. G. Krishnadas Nair, the MD of the Cochin International Airport Limited, is on an expansion drive. Some projects have moved forward with speed, while others await private investors
By Shevlin Sebastian
Dr. C.G. Krishnadas Nair, the managing director of the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), has an unusual hobby. At 6.30 a.m., on some days, he rows a boat on the Periyar river, near his home at Nedumbasserry. Sometimes, his wife, Tara, accompanies him. “It is a good form of exercise,” he says.
He also has a stint of meditation. “When I close my eyes, I can visualise the majesty of the Universe, with its billions of galaxies,” says Nair. “I feel humbled. Yet I am also happy that I am part of the divine force that animates the Universe. I can draw upon it. The purpose of the meditation is to destroy the ego.”
Nair reaches the CIAL office at Nedumbasserry by 9 a.m. After replying to e-mails, and reviewing work done by various departments, the day is spent in meetings. So Nair will meet MPs and MLAs, employees with grievances, union leaders, businessmen, airline representatives, officials from state and central government undertakings, as well as the Airports Authority of India Limited.
He returns home at 6.30 p.m., works on ideas for new projects, or writes articles for various professional journals. He calls it a day at 11 p.m.
Nair, who was appointed on May 5, 2008, has a list of achievements to his name. One was the modification of the international terminal. “There were not enough check-in and immigration counters,” says Nair.
On most days, there would be a huge queue in front of the counters. Some people filed complaints with the State Human Rights Commission because they had to wait for more than two hours. Now, 37 counters have been set up. There are separate queues for senior citizens, families, ladies, Indian and foreign passport holders.
“It takes only about 20 to 30 minutes to get through immigration now,” says Nair. However, seasoned international traveller, Joseph Antony, the managing director of Galilee Travels, says, “Yes, the situation has improved, but it can become even better.”
The second major project was the upgradation of the runway. “The ten-year-old runway was in very bad shape,” says Nair. “There were a lot of cracks, because it was built on paddy fields, and pilots were finding it difficult to use it.” The three-month long effort which took place last year, cost Rs 60 crore. Remarkably, this was done without cancelling any flights.
Nair has also set up the CIAL Academy in September, 2009, which offers courses like Aviation Business Management, Airport Operations, and Ramp Handling. There are 60 MBA students, and 90 certificate and diploma holder students.
A nine-hole golf course will be inaugurated on May 2. Buildings cannot be constructed on the land, since it is in the flight path. “So we felt that a golf course would be the best way to utilise the vacant area and generate an income,” says Nair. Despite a fee of Rs 2 lakh, 800 people availed of the Early Bird Scheme to join the club.
Nair is also hoping to establish an Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR) system soon, which will allow for faster and safer landing of the aircraft. “Today, it takes about 12 minutes for the aircraft to land,” says Nair. But that time will be reduced to three minutes once the Rs 50 crore ASR is set up.
However, not everything is moving forward smoothly. The Rs 160 crore hotel and convention centre, as well as a shopping mall, multiplexes, and amusement parks are on hold because of the lack of investors. “I am hoping things will change once the economy picks up steam,” he says.
Nair is also hoping for a change in the mind-set of the unions across all industries in Kerala. “Most of the unions have external leaders, with party affiliations,” he says. “This results in political rivalry and mud slinging, which causes disharmony. If a union has internal leaders, the management is able to develop a working relationship with them.”
Nevertheless, Nair says he has no problems with the CIAL union and that is why he is busy with implementing his vision. His future plans include trying to make the airport an international hub, like Dubai and Singapore, and improve the attractiveness of the airport.
“We need to market the airport to tourists, exporters, airlines, and passengers,” says Nair. For that, he has set up a marketing and public relations department.
Still, Nair -- who has won the Prime Minister’s award for Best CEO among Public Sector Enterprises in 2001 -- has plenty to smile about. The profit for last year was Rs 102 crore, while passenger traffic increased by 15 per cent. “However, in these competitive times, there is no room for complacency,” says this Padma Shri winner of 2001.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)