Lack of infrastructure hampers India’s air cargo growth

India is regarded as one of the world's fastest growing air cargo markets and a big draw for airlines, airports, forwarders, integrators and aircraft makers. Yet, its infrastructure is wanting and could derail the ambitious growth plans.

India’s Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel recently promised a blueprint for the air industry’s expansion by 2020, including plans for a series of airport upgrades by 2010. A prime project is a cargo centre at Nagpur due for completion next year, which Patel hopes will boost India’s nascent air cargo market.“We hope to see that Nagpur becomes…something like Memphis, a major hubfor cargo in India,” Patel said Tax incentivesare one tool the Indian governmentis using in its efforts to draw investors,including foreign firms, into airportprojects ranging from upgrades to newairports. But in order to fully exploit theeconomic boom that India is currentlyexperiencing, building just airports willnot solve the problems of an outdatedroad infrastructure, not just around theairports but throughout.

In order to capitalise on India’s economic growth potential, billions of dollars will have to be spent to create an efficient and uninterrupted transportation chain on the ground, which will not only include the much-needed road network, but also state-of-the-art warehousing facilities, cargo terminals fitted with modern materials handling equipment. Only then will all sectors of the air cargo industry flourish. Mukesh Ambani, chairman of India’s largest private sector corporation Reliance Industries concurs with the Minister’s plans to boost aviation in a country where the road infrastructure is lagging and rail connections are inadequate.“Aviation has over the years become anindex of a nation’s prosperity. It is nolonger perceived as a luxury. It is partof daily life. The change is probablymost felt in India where the industryhas undergone a sea change”.