Bangkok: India’s booming aviation sector has prompted the world’s largest airline catering and in-flight solutions provider LSG Sky Chefs to make India its hub and open four new facilities in the country next year. “We are planning new facilities at Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata,” chief operating officer, Asia-Pacific, H.K. Cheung said.
LSG Sky Chefs is the sole independent international airline caterer in India and has a presence at the old airports of Hyderabad and Bangalore. It is building facilities at Hyderabad and Bangalore to replace the existing ones.
“India is a major market where there is a strong demand for top quality in-flight catering services,” Cheung said. The market size is around $100 million (Rs406 crore) and growing, said Cheung, who was in the Thai capital to attend the International Travel Catering Association (Itca) Asia-Pacific conference.
India has a large middle-class, but the number of air travellers is comparatively small, Cheung said. However, the boom in Indian aviation industry is here to stay and the number of air travellers is increasing at a rapid pace, he added. Asked how the firm would take on domestic players in India, Cheung said, “as a global leader, we have developed expertise for various markets and we are bringing a new perspective to India, keeping in mind the rich culture and varied tastes.”
Asia is the driving growth and innovation for LSG Sky Chefs, said its senior vice-president, corporate sales, Erdmann Rauer.
The continent had reported a 5% airline passenger growth in 2006, triggering a high demand for catering and in-flight services. In January, the firm opened a subsidiary in Hong?Kong,?allowing??it??to sou-rce in-flight equipment directly from Asian manufacturers.
It has also entered into a joint venture with Kuehne Nagel, a leading global logistics provider, which will give it access to more than 400 logistics locations in 55 countries through a single source.
LSG Sky Chefs caters to 270 airlines in 47 countries from 190 service centres and produces around 387 million airline meals each year.
In 2006, its group turnover was €2.3 billion (Rs12,880 crore), Rauer said.
The firm recently signed a joint venture contract with China National Aviation to set up a frozen meal facility in Shandong Province of China. This would help meet the growing demand for frozen food supplies in the Asia-Pacific region. The facility would have a production capacity of 35,000 deep-frozen airline meals a day and is slated to open early next year.