An Ospree takes flight amid some InDelhible memories

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Back to Hong Kong after four weeks away

An enthralling few days in Delhi at a generally excellent APTRA India Conference taught me many things. Primary among them perhaps, that I need to spend more time in India.

Until the damned pandemic came along I was a regular visitor to the country. But even during the subsequent hiatus I and we have focused relentlessly on it. We have featured a dedicated India section on our website for many years and over our more than two-decade history we have given more coverage to India’s travel retail market (from airport duty free to specialist retail, advertising and food & beverage) than all our rivals combined.

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost 17 years since I embarked on an amazing tour of some of India’s most exciting airport development projects, all then at construction stage.

In a magical few days in July 2007, I visited what were then greenfield airports still in the making in Hyderabad and Bangalore; witnessed the hugely ambitious redevelopments of Delhi and Mumbai airports; and was charmed by the beautifully localised theming of Cochin International Airport.

That month on this very Blog I wrote, “Indian aviation is constantly hitting new heights and smashing growth records. A ground-to-air revolution is being played out here and everyone wants a part of the action.”

Hitting new heights: A flashback to July 2007 as I visited the under-construction Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru, viewing developments while suspended in a wire cage ascending the 60-metre-high aviation control tower that was being built
And this was me the same month at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, now a thriving international gateway

So very much has happened since. Apart from the horrendous COVID-19 crisis – which began with India’s first confirmed case on 30 January 2020 followed soon after by a 21-day nationwide lockdown on 24 March – progress has been startling. India is not the next big thing anymore. It has arrived. All the projects I mentioned are long since completed. Many more are taking shape as I write.

In her keynote conference address, Director General Tourism for the Government of India Manisha Saxena noted that 78 new airports had been built in the past decade. Each one of them, whether big or small, bringing travel retail opportunities. The project development pipeline is full to overflowing.

After the APTRA India Conference closed, I joined a photoshoot with (left to right) Delhi Duty Free Services CEO Ashish Chopra, APTRA President and King Power Group (HK) CEO Sunil Tuli and Dubai Duty Free Chief Operating Officer Ramesh Cidambi

Those opportunities – and realities – were spelled out time and again through the APTRA India Conference, notably in the outstanding addresses from Delhi Duty Free Services CEO Ashish Chopra; Bengaluru Airport Vice President Commercial Pravat Paikray; and Noida International Airport Chief Commercial Officer Prashant Gaurav Gupta.

“Two-thirds of the population of 1.4-1.5 billion is below 35 years of age. As India positions itself as a business powerhouse and tourist destination it will also continue to solidify, leading the growth of the airports, duty free and travel retail sectors in this part of the world.” Delhi Duty Free Services CEO Ashish Chopra lit up the APTRA Indian Conference with a stirring day one presentation.
Chopra illustrated the dramatic transformation of retailing standards at Indira Gandhi International Airport by showing these earlier shots from our archives. What a contrast with the world-class offer Delhi Duty Free now provides (below).

Bengaluru Airport Vice President Commercial Pravat Paikray delivered a dazzling presentation on the airport company’s far-sighted commercial vision
Merging Indian warmth and hospitality with Swiss efficiency: Noida International Airport Chief Commercial Officer Prashant Gaurav Gupta painted an exciting picture of the new gateway set to open in late 2024

Most emphatically of all, the rich opportunities ahead were underlined by the big reveal on Tuesday of Ospree, the new name and brand identity of Mumbai Travel Retail Private Limited (the joint venture between Adani Airport Holdings and Flemingo Travel Retail).

Welcoming guests to the event Adani Airport Holdings CEO – Non Aero Harshad Jain said: “The tailwinds that we are seeing behind travel are absolutely unprecedented.”

A brand identity revealed as a new kind of Ospree takes flight

Supporting that claim, he added: “In the next three to four years, India will have over 700 million people who are going to be travelling. That means out of our 1.4 billion population, 50% of the people… will be travelling. And this has a direct impact on what we see in terms of consumption.”

Adani Airport Holdings CEO – Non Aero Harshad Jain: “Within our airports business, non-aero is a critical pillar… the entire revenue stream of the business is actually predicated on the non-aero revenues. And within the various lines of businesses that we run from car parking to lounges to retail, advertising and other lines… the duty-free business is amongst the most strategic and most critical businesses in our entire portfolio.”

Following Jain to the stage, Mumbai Travel Retail Private Limited CEO Avishek Bambii Das said: “We have always been a company that punches way above our weight… and we intend to continue that journey.”

Das hinted at exactly how – and in what guise – that journey would be continued in the form of an anecdote.

An ebullient Avishek Bambii Das gets ready to unleash a new and extremely high-flying travel retail bird

“Let me tell you a story,” he began. “It is the story of a bird – a bird that fascinated me. We are a passionate bunch and we work pretty late into the night… and one night I came across this interesting story about a bird that flies 5,000 miles to come to India and then goes back during migration. 5,000 miles. That’s, say, from Mumbai to London, or Mumbai to Perth – countries that we want to get into.

“That bird is much smaller than an eagle and much smaller than any of the large birds that you would have heard of. But it flies faster than them. It’s an agile bird that flies faster than the biggies, goes 5,000 miles and guess what? It’s among the birds that has the best long-term vision – it sees its prey miles away.

“That sounds a lot like us, right? We fly faster than our competition. We are more aggressive than our competition – in a good way. And we have a long-term vision based on microscopic details that we focus on daily. And today, our new ambition starts with the identity inspired by this bird [the Osprey, from which Ospree takes its name].”

Flying high: The big reveal arrives

I share a lighter moment with Avishek Bambii Das

The reveal came just a day after Eurotunnel appointed newly created Mumbai Travel Retail Private Limited subsidiary Le Marché Duty-Free to manage the duty-free business at Eurotunnel’s French terminal in Coquelles, near Calais – “planting a flag right in Europe” as Das put it.

Make no mistake, this travel retail equivalent of a fast-flying bird of prey will be planting plenty more flags offshore. To change the allusion, I suspect Ospree won’t be punching above its weight much longer but will be very much established within the heavyweight ranks.

The same can be said for Indian aviation and travel retail as a whole. Look at the hugely impressive emergence of Travel Food Services as a tour de force in airport food & beverage and lounge services – I spoke at the company’s launch in Mumbai in May 2009, how time has flown since – for another prime example.

Don’t turn away for a moment, you’re bound to miss something.

India, I had been away too long. My next visit will be a whole lot sooner. I leave with unforgettable memories. InDelhible ones, you might say. ✈

A sublime performance of The Royal Darbar by Manjari Chaturvedi (a famed Indian danseuse committed to protecting Indian cultural heritage) highlighted the Gala Evening held in association with Bacardi. Historically, a Royal Durbar was a grand ceremonial gathering where important announcements were made by the ruling monarch.
Bacardi Global Travel Retail Managing Director Leila Stansfield paid tribute to the performance she had just witnessed. She was welcomed on stage by APTRA President Sunil Tuli (left).

With LVMH Travel Retail Perfumes & Cosmetics Commercial Director Natalia Comer
How’s this for a case of Remi Martin? The Remi in question being Rémy Cointreau Area Director GTR – Africa, Middle-East, India Remy Brabant. The Martin? Well, I guess you recognise this old fellow on the left.
Selfie time for Parfums Christian Dior Retail Training Director Ingrid Pineau and Remi Brabant
Delegates converge at the Welcome Reception, held in association with Diageo
I wouldn’t say we drank the Diageo bar dry during the Welcome Reception but we had a pretty good crack at it, those excellent drams of The Singleton having turned into Doubletons by the end of the evening
At the Gala Dinner with (left to right) Hardeep Sethi from Diageo Travel Retail India; Diageo Head of India Tarek Makdessi; DENIZEN Destination Managing Director Estelle Baumann; and King Power Traveler President Rakhita Jayawardena
APTRA President Sunil Tuli poses alongside Estelle Baumann with the well-received DENIZEN India-themed destination jewellery bracelet given to all delegates
With foodies like this around, thoughts inevitably turn to lunch. Centre is Eric Carlier, Founder of Eric Carlier Travel Retail Consulting (who formerly spent 20 years with French super-premium chocolate house Valrhona) alongside Fabrizio, Founder & CEO of Food Accademia from Italy. Both men have contributed tremendously to the rise of fine food & confectionery in travel retail.
These two gentlemen know a thing or two about brands in travel retail as well. Centre is Rajiv Malhotra, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Singapore-based Lead in Travel Retail. And to his right is Heinemann Asia Pacific Regional Head of Business Development and Operations Victor Chan.
No better moustache is there in travel retail than that belonging to Campari’s Dharmender Parmar (above and below). And no better end to a long day of conferencing is there than an Aperol Spritz.
Photo: Ospree
With Sushanta Das, CEO of tRetail Labs, The Moodie Davitt Report’s partner in an exciting collaboration to create the first Global Airport Food & Beverage Research Study
Time for a parting drink before we all head off to our respective homelands. From left to right are Rakhita Jayawardena; Essential Communications Founder & Managing Director Rowena Holland; Nestlé International Travel Retail Global Head of Category Development Nicola Wells; Kreol Group CEO Lal Arakulath and yours truly
It was very nice to catch up after many years with Cochin International Airport Limited Deputy General Manager Sreejith TK at the Welcome Reception
Dynamic duo: Two youthful veterans of our industry, Rakhita Jayawardena and Lal Arakulath in typically irrepressible mood
With Alpha Kreol India (Cochin Duty Free) Operations Manager Sreenivasan A.S
Global Drinks Limited Founder and Managing Director Harry Kartasis (centre) and Dubai Duty Free Chief Operating Officer Ramesh Cidambi join me for a photo opp
With (from left) Hardeep Sethi, Diageo; Rakhita Jayawardena; Lal Arakulath; and Neeraj Sharma, Kreol Travel Retail
And so, farewell India, from me and Rakhita Jayawardena. I will return soon.