Connected Aviation Today regularly spotlights executives in the aviation industry to highlight how they joined the industry, what they are passionate about, and how they see the industry evolving. This month’s Executive Spotlight features the CEO of flybig, an Indian start-up that is facing the challenges of the global pandemic, yet optimistic about the aviation opportunities in the Asia region.
Srinivas Rao is the CEO of flybig and an avid aviator. Rao’s deep history in aviation started at the age of 17. Outside of his personal interests in flying and securing a pilot’s license at the age of 19, opening the doors to the world of aviation, he also pursued a degree in Aviation Management and secured a Masters in Aviation while working with various airlines among others during his 35+ year career.
During these experiences, Rao had the opportunity to “think outside of the box and leverage technology” that addressed everything from “fuel efficiency, performance and payload optimization, to aircraft evaluation and route profitability solutions,” he told us. Having been associated with a bio-fuel project in aviation, he feels that hybrid-electric and electric propulsion are the future alternative solutions as compared to aircraft using fossil fuel. He also saw first-hand the importance of data analytics from an airline perspective. According to Rao, “These analytics impact everything from the internal business processes in an airline that bring in efficiency in managing the workforce, to line maintenance management process efficiency, to reduction of layover days for scheduled maintenance.”
Most recently, Rao was tapped for an opportunity with flybig and he “took the plunge.”
He expressed his excitement for the aviation opportunities ahead. “India is a country where a lot of people still aspire to fly and it holds great potential for domestic travel. flybig is looking to connect people and places in the regional space. The pandemic will provide impetus to domestic travel and holidays, which earlier could have resulted in a trip and holiday abroad,” he said.
Learn more about Rao’s career and how he sees the industry evolving in this Q&A below:
Connected Aviation Today (CAT) Editors: What have been a few defining moments in your career?
Srinivas Rao: There have been many defining moments throughout my career. Making it to an airline pilot selection at the age of 19 is definitely one of them. It opened the doors to the enchanting world of aviation. The transition from a Cessna cockpit to a jet aircraft cockpit is a big leap and defining, and it is still a cherished moment after many years in this industry.
On the academic front, doing a research thesis on decision making by airline pilots under time pressure not only honed my research skills, but provided me a perspective on timely decision making in everything we do.
From a management team perspective, I’d highlight my time at Kingfisher Airlines. During that time, I was able to incorporate technology to implement efficiencies in an airline operation. flybig is at the forefront by leveraging technology to help usher in efficiency in its operations. I also value the opportunity to motivate the workforce and encourage them to elevate themselves within the company.
Launching an airline start-up currently is no doubt challenging and will surely offer some defining moments in my career moving forward.
CAT Editors: At this point in your career, what excites you about your role or the industry?
Rao: What excites me is the limitless opportunities in aviation in India. Education is the single-minded pursuit of all Indian middle class. To understand why it is so, we need to reflect on the stories of successful entrepreneurs and software professionals. These people emerged from villages and small cities and through education and sheer hard work and became billionaires. Hence, this dream of upward mobility for the middle class coming from small towns is what flybig would like to commit to by providing wings to their dreams.
Growth in India in the future is in tier-2 and tier-3 cities and flybig wants to be a part of this story. My role is not only to give wings to people’s aspiration to fly but be a catalyst and spur development through connectivity. In other words, be the development platform for the places we connect.
CAT Editors: The industry is facing so many changes – what is your future outlook on where it is going and how to manage this new normal?
Rao: Napoleon once said, “In every adversity lies the seed of an equal or greater opportunity.” In order to look for opportunities actively, we must erase from our minds what is normal and what is not. I say this because when we could not with all collective wisdom predict this pandemic, how could we ascribe the current situation being a new normal?
In my opinion, drawing an analogy to the post-SARS scenario and recovery, as humans we have fundamentally demonstrated resilience and the ability to make adjustments in the short-term and fall back into old habits once the risk is passed. The aviation industry for that matter will limp back to normalcy. Domestic travel and travelling closer to home will be the adjustments people will make. Domestic tourism will gain a boost as opposed to travelling abroad, and this will be the adjustment we all will make to the current situation.
Of course, it goes without saying that operating efficiently and being more economical will need to be an integral part of our operating mantra. We believe that we are better placed to make these adjustments with our offering and be a part of growth that will ensue in the post-COVID period.