© Jayashri V

The air cargo industry in India is drawing in more freighter investors, as last-mile providers look to capitalise on its booming e-commerce demand.

The latest move comes from Chennai-based Afcom Holdings, which has taken delivery of its first freighter – a Boeing 737 – and is primed to start operations soon, tentatively next month.

“This aircraft will support Afcom’s current capacity with its airfreight partners, thus enabling a faster and more reliable delivery service,” said the company.

Afcom has been providing airfreight services for a year through strategic arrangements with established carriers on intra-Asia routes, serving Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei.

The airline start-up will now connect new destinations in the Asean region, notably Hanoi and Bangkok, with “more new services in the pipeline”, it said, noting  that it plans to add two more aircraft to its fleet this year to expand freighter operations out of India.

The forwarder loads some 250 tons a month at present. An official told The Loadstar: “With our own freighters we will be able to push our volumes to about 1,250 tons a month.”

Chairman Deepak Parasuraman said: “We see ourselves not just as a cargo airline but an end-to-end cargo solutions provider.

“Air cargo is today a key enabler of flexibility and speed in global supply chains. We foresee good and rising demand for air cargo and we are fully geared up to infuse the required capacity in the market.”

Afcom is not the only niche Indian forwarder gearing up to build an all-cargo airline presence.  Delhi-based Pradhaan Air Express recently firmed up its entry into the diversified market, securing government approvals and snapping up an A320 converted freighter.

Global express logistics leaders like UPS and DHL are also constantly beefing up services at Indian airports, including second-tier locations, to keep pace with growing airfreight volumes.

And, as online shopping expands, consumer purchases are increasingly based around the speed of parcel delivery – a factor that signifies greater airline network reach. This year, the Indian e-commerce market is forecast to grow by 21.5%, to reach a value of $74.8bn, according to industry estimates.

Additionally, Covid-induced widespread dysfunction on the ocean supply side has converted many traditional seafreight shippers/forwarders to airfreight, which industry stakeholders believe could become a permanent change in some cases.

You can reach the writer at [email protected]

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