With digital onboard, Indigo Airlines is soaring to the next level of operational efficiency

With digital onboard, Indigo Airlines is soaring to the next level of operational efficiency

Sourav Sinha, CIO of Indigo Airlines capitalizes on digital to modernize operations and amp up efficiency.

Achieving operational efficiency is, by no means an easy task, and probably many times more exacting when you operate in a notoriously-low margin aviation industry. But Sourav Sinha, CIO of Indigo Airlines has been hard at it for the past couple of months.

The IT leader of India's largest airline with a market share of 47.5%, has a charter to cut through the techno-buzz of flashy new technologies and tailor IT investments that have real business implications in terms of driving operational efficiency. As digital penetrates and permeates every level of business operations at Indigo Airlines, Sinha is delivering process and cost efficiency across the business value chain.

In an exclusive interview with CIO Dialogues, Sourav Sinha, CIO of Indigo Airlines shares instances of how he is capitalizing on digital to modernize operations and amp up efficiency, in the process.

 Aviation turbine fuel is considered to be the highest cost component for an airline and makes up about 40 percent of the operating cost. What technology backed initiatives has Indigo Airlines undertaken to manage fuel costs efficiently?

Precisely. ATF contributes around 30-40% of the total operating cost. So from managing the process of purchase or uplift of fuel to its reconciliation with the invoices from different fuel providers across our domestic and international network is critical and needs to be managed very effectively.

Till sometime back, recording of fuel uplifts at all airports across our network was done manually and thereby the reconciliation as well. Considering over 1450 departures every day this was a mammoth task to be done manually. This is where our enterprise mobility platform came to our rescue.

A new mobile app was developed and deployed on the personal mobile phones of every aircraft engineer. The app integrated with other enterprise systems of the airline to provide several required details so that the data entry by the engineer is kept to minimum, considering several other tasks that he needs to perform before technically certifying the aircraft for the next turnaround. The ease of using the app was very evident as in a span of a couple of months the new digitized process was adapted across all our 79 airports, both domestic and international.

The reconciliation process was also digitized using recent digital technology solutions. The end-to-end process for a month which earlier took over 3.5 months to complete is now closed in about 15 days. Moreover, it provides access to close to real-time information on fuel uplifts and related details from across airports in our network. There has been a saving of over 100 man months of effort annually.

 Outside of fuel cost, crew is the other significant cost constituent to airline operations. Crew planning and scheduling is one of the most challenging and compute intensive tasks for an airline. How do you ensure that new technologies are absorbed into the process to optimize crew utilization?

We are building the framework to leverage IoT and facial recognition technologies to fast track and authenticate the pre and post flight checks for crew.

While IoT will help us in ensuring that the crew is able to check-in and check-out of their roster duty within the pre-defined territory of the “Base” office, the facial recognition helps us to authenticate the crew member identity for all pre and post flight checks. Not only will it greatly reduce the check-in / check-out times but also help in authenticating the identity which is so important from a regulatory point of view.

How is Indigo Airlines creating end to end process digitization to personalize and manage in-flight sales, streamline data management, inventory and electronic payments thereby allowing the cabin crew to focus on providing a satisfying customer service and experience?

Sale of ancillary products to our customers is an integral part of our revenue and meals on-board is a major contributor to the ancillary revenue.

The process of loading different food items on to serving trolleys based on pre-ordered meal choices and the predicted on-board purchase and its transportation to the door of the aircraft is complex and time critical. Any delay can result in a negative impact on the On Time Performance of the flight. Any errors in loading the cart can impact customer satisfaction and inconvenience for the cabin crew. Post flight reconciliation and reporting is equally critical.

At the core of this process lies an all-purpose handheld Point-of-Sale machines. The POS uploads serving trolley inventory, passenger manifest on a real time basis by the caterer and the crew members respectively. The crew uses the m-POS to serve passengers for both pre-booked orders and in-flight sale. Every sale is recorded against the seat no. The POS can accept both cash and credit card payments. At the end of the flight rotation, the sale and other details are uploaded to the core backend system with one-key operation.

This newly re-engineered digitized process has helped us to reduce the time for meal service on board, minimized errors and more time for our cabin crew to add value to the overall service on-board. It has also reduced their post flight time in reporting and reconciling sales.

For the caterer, it has helped them to reduce wastages, effective planning and correct loading. Reconciling sales with remaining quantity in trolleys has also become more efficient.

When it comes to digital initiatives, what according to you, is the barometer of success- being first with the adoption of new technology that has real business implications or being second with a proven technology and adopting it in a cost effective manner, with a foolproof approach? What should organizations focus on- first mover advantage that yields competitive edge or cost effective, risk proof adoption?

Organizations should focus on both on a case to case basis. At Indigo Airlines, our digital strategy is aimed at digitizing end-to-end process with the objective of driving greater efficiency and better productivity.

We focus on business processes that are not efficient due to several factors. One could be that where there is automation of a manual process or partial digitization in an end-to-end process. The team typically focusses on business processes that are multi-disciplinary spanning across several business areas and where it involves a high cost item or an opportunity to drive higher revenue or involves certain components in delivery of our business services to our customers.