Interviews

Mofizur Rahman, Managing Director, NOVOAIR

Group Captain Mofizur Rahman (retd.) is a unique personality known for his checkered twenty-five years long career with Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) as a pilot. His years of service in the apex position of various levels of Air Force command enabled him to learn the management, operation, and administration of large-scale entities. He also served in deputation as Chief Logistics Officer in Mozambique, United Nations and an aviation commander in Kuwait. Mofizur Rahman is a graduate of the Defense Services Command and Staff College and the National Defense College.
He is a graduate of the University of Dhaka and achieved a Master’s Degree from National University. He has also obtained a higher degree in Management from the University of Cranfield, UK. He is both a commercial pilot and aviation management professional. He upholds a dynamic understanding of his field of work. Since the beginning of NOVOAIR, Mofizur Rahman has been devoted to promoting aviation in Bangladesh. Apart from NOVOAIR, he also acts as the Managing Director of NovoHolidays Ltd, NovoSky Ltd. Actively involved in various trade bodies, namely Aviation Operators Association, Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh, Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh and different social clubs.

NOVOAIR is regarded as both luxurious and an affordable airline at the same time. What helped you acquire this image in a market that has seen such rapid fluctuation in demand in the past one decade?
The mindset of people living in the economy in which we operate plays a major role when it comes to understanding their demands. Investment in both legacy carriers and budget carriers is equal to the maintenance and cost of operation. The only difference you can make is the services offered. Here we can provide services at nominal cost in comparison to western countries. Thus we offer a carefully tailored product which offers both comfort and affordability at the same time for our passengers.

The aviation industry is also closely related to the tourism sector, and with better services, you are also assisting in growing the tourism sector. What are some of the facilities you are offering to these customers?
Firstly, if you look at it from the world’s perspective, the airline’s industry across the globe injects a tremendous input into the tourism sector. In the global tourism sector, the contribution of the airlines industry is 54%, which makes it a $549 billion contribution to the industry. Even though we are yet to reach such contribution to the global level, indirectly we are contributing to the tourism sector as well where one airline job simultaneously creates 11 tourism jobs. This dynamic helps to facilitate businesses, government travels, meeting friends and relatives. There are many areas where airlines contribute significantly to avail certain facilities to make this service available to the common mass.
We have a range of products for helping tourism in the country to grow. Providing EMI (Equal Monthly Instalments) to customers for six months on specific credit cards without interest can be one of ways to promote it. On the other hand, making these services available on a broader range can also help to facilitate the people who do not have access to credit cards. We also have arrangements with mobile operators such as Robi Axiata Limited that allows us to offer 10-12% discount on ticket prices.

As the economy prospers further, do you feel that more people from middle-income classes will choose to travel by air now?
If we look 5 years back from now, traveling by air was referred to elitist travel, whereas presently it is graduating to become a vehicle for the mass. Half a decade ago, it was only a white-collar opportunity, but now people who did not even travel using easy public transport now prefer traveling by air. With rising middle-income group in the country, we see more and more travelers choose air over other modes of transportation.

You had started ten years back, and now your company has established its brand name. Which international destinations are you planning to target next?
What we have identified is that there is a tremendous capacity gap in the domestic market and it is growing very fast. Two years back, there were no flights from Saidpur, but today there are as many as 6 to 7 flights a day. On the contrary, in the sub-regional area like Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, the foreign carriers, as well as the domestic ones are increasing the capacity, where domestic demand is rising, and road conditions are deteriorating. Simultaneously, this has made people more inclined to travel by air which helps them save time and ensure safety. Currently, we are focusing on the domestic routes to cater the domestic demand by keeping the sub-regional areas aside. However, in very near future, we expect to connect those destinations.

As we know your airlines is a people-oriented company, what measures have you taken to develop the skills of your human resources?
It is not only a people-oriented company we rather say that it is the peoples’ company. To run an organization specifically an airline you need to have very specialized human resources. In our country, we have too many people, but hardly you can term them as the human resource. During the time of recruitment, we usually look into the quality and then we provide in-house training to mold them. In this way, we gradually expand our operation. We discourage the idea of expansion with unskilled forces, instead do the intake and train our employees to take the responsibilities before going for development. We also welcome innovative ideas from an employee regardless his/her position.

The operators in the airline industry are facing a cut-throat competition price war recently. How are you maintaining it?
There is vigorous competition in the market these days. Everyone is focusing on gaining market share, which is not a sustainable way by itself. For a model to be viable, it has to be rational in helping the industry to survive. We are gradually moving into a phase where everybody will understand that a fare war and race to the bottom is not a viable option. To maintain rationality the industry needs to rise above the current price level, upscale the fare to a certain amount. Then only the industry will be sustainable. I think we are gradually moving in that direction and all the players are getting an essence of what needs to be done next.

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