Rajkumar Bhattacharya is the Country Manager of Jet Airways, Bangladesh.
“With Bangladesh emerging as a trading center and business hub in the SAARC region, it is also important to continue to provide a high degree of air connectivity with its neighbors, both in terms of passenger and cargo at its main airports across the country.”
You have extensively worked in the sales and marketing of Jet Airways. Could you elaborate upon the changing flight trends in the regions?
In terms of changing trends in the region, the outlook for Bangladesh aviation is indeed very positive. The number of air travelers and aviation-related jobs in Bangladesh is expected to double in the next 10 years, based on a recent study by International Air Transport Association (IATA). In the past decade, aviation industry’s contribution to Bangladesh’s gross domestic product has expanded by more than 10% annually, and this robust expansion is expected to continue in the years ahead. Bangladesh’s strong economic fundamentals, its fast-expanding middle-class population with rising incomes, are key drivers of growth in the aviation sector. The growth in Bangladesh’s aviation industry has delivered benefits in related sectors such as tourism, retail, and hotel industries. This, in turn, has generated new jobs in the country, particularly in the service and hospitality sectors. Aviation has been a key driver of economic success for this country. However, there is concern that the development of aviation infrastructure in Bangladesh may not be keeping pace with growth in air travel demand. This may derail the potential future economic benefits of aviation if the required investments in infrastructural upgrading are not forthcoming. Therefore, it is imperative for government agencies and local authorities, along with its airline partners and private industry players, to continue investing in infrastructure improvements as well as upgrading of customer service levels in the country.
What has prompted you to expand your services in Dhaka? What future plans do you have in Bangladesh?
Jet Airways celebrates 10 years of operations in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 16th December 2017. This is a milestone achievement for us. The first Jet Airways flight 9W 274 landed at Dhaka International Airport exactly a decade ago. It was a special moment; a celebration for Jet Airways as we were the first privately owned Indian carrier to provide direct air connectivity between the two countries of Bangladesh and India back in 2007. In the span of 10 years, we have witnessed robust growth in passenger and cargo traffic in both directions. On an annualized basis, both passenger and cargo revenue growth has exceeded more than 10% each year, which is a testament to the strong and growing trade and cultural links between our two countries. We started with just one daily flight on Dhaka-Kolkata and Dhaka-Delhi sectors, and over the past decade, has now expanded our operations to 21 weekly services covering three Indian metros of Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata, carrying on average more than 300,000 passengers per annum. The Indian Embassy in Dhaka has taken positive steps in liberalizing the issuance of visas for Bangladeshi nationals, which has led to a surge in visitor numbers into India. Today, Bangladesh has overtaken the USA as India’s number one visitor market. One of the fastest growing segment is that of medical tourism, in particular, Bangladeshis traveling into Chennai for medical treatment. In terms of future expansion plans in Bangladesh, we are studying the possibility of starting direct services between Chennai to Dhaka to serve the growing needs of this segment traveling for medical purposes. We hope to be able to confirm our Chennai-Dhaka flights in the coming weeks, once our feasibility studies are completed.
Jet Airways has an exemplary reputation. How are its products and services unique?
At Jet Airways, our focus has always been on offering our customers a superior passenger experience. We have a strong brand reputation around the globe, has provided the highest level of customer service for over the past two decades. Our superior brand recognition, coupled with our superior flight schedule and network connectivity, have made Jet Airways the airline of choice for many customers here in Bangladesh. As an airline, we are continuously looking at ways to innovate, to provide a differentiated level of service to our customer. Our ability to provide
level of customer service at affordable prices is important, particularly as market conditions get increasingly more competitive with the proliferation of low-cost carriers (LCCs). In terms of recent product innovation, Jet Airways has introduced wireless streaming on its B737 aircraft. JetScreen, the name of our wireless streaming product, offers a wide range of in-flight entertainment options that can be enjoyed on customers’ own personal devices. It’s a simple 3-step process. Customers just have to download the app, connect to JetScreen, our wireless streaming system onboard our aircraft, and then launch the web browser to enjoy the latest movies. We have also introduced Pre-Order Duty-Free products online. Customers can now enjoy the convenience of duty-free shopping from the comforts of the home. In terms of product innovation in Bangladesh, Jet Airways became the first airline to offer a co-branded credit card in partnership with Eastern Bank of Bangladesh (EBL) in 2016. Jet Privilege, our internationally acclaimed award-winning loyalty and rewards programme, has become more accessible to the traveling public through this EBL partnership.
In what ways will greater regional connectivity between neighboring countries improve communication between them? Why do you believe that establishing these relationships are important?
Aviation is indeed a key driver of economic success. The growth in regional connectivity promotes the expansion of two-way traffic flows between Bangladesh and India, boosting tourism numbers, economic and trade ties between the two countries. With Bangladesh emerging as a trading center and business hub in the SAARC region, it is also important to continue to provide a high degree of air connectivity with its neighbors, both in terms of passenger and cargo at its main airports across the country. Regional connectivity between the two countries of Bangladesh and India has certainly grown in recent years. Today, there are currently seven airlines operating between Dhaka and India, offering a total of 28 weekly flights with a total of 10,500 seats per week. The expansion in the number of seats on the Bangladesh-India routes is driven primarily by new private airline start-ups funded by Bangladeshi investors. The additional capacity introduced in recent years has been well received by the market. The overall passenger traffic between Bangladesh and India has grown sufficiently to cater to these new entrants, underpinned by the robust economies of both countries. Jet Airways welcome fresh competition provided by these new startups as it is the traveling public who benefits from having healthy competition in the marketplace.
Could you elaborate on 3 pieces of advice on creating an excellent sales portfolio?
The first is to have a Clear Mission. For me, it is extremely important that every member of my team understands clearly the key commercial objectives. We compete in a difficult competitive environment in Bangladesh, hence, the importance of having every member of a team pulling in the same direction towards one common goal.
The second is Respect. At Jet Airways, respect among employees is of highest priority. Senior management of our team treat all employees with the same level of respect across the entire organization. When employees feel respected by management, they tend to perform better and stay actively engaged in their jobs.
The third is Open Communication. As a Country Manager, I have an open-door communication policy with my team members. For me, this is very important. I believe in having full transparency. By having open communication between employees, we often avoid conflict as employees can work through problems they may have. Companies that are not transparent and do not disseminate information well to everyone may have a hard time staying in business.