Innovation and talent run in the DNA of the people of India
In conversation with Hicham Bennani - Director, Commercial Air France/ KLM, India
Love for travel, landed Hicham as a trainee with Air France, in 2003. Today he is the Director, Commercial Air France/KLM, India. He hails from Morocco where he completed his engineering and further pursued his MBA in finance from France. We had a good laugh as he admitted that post MBA he was confused as he realized that finance was not really his cup of tea. Not wanting to specialize he interviewed with Air France, got his traineeship and loved his job ever since. He compares the airline industry to a miniature country connected with the whole world. And it happens to be a very interesting business too!
Hicham believes that India will define airline industry standards in the future. The reason is there will be around 50 million Indians travelling by 2020 making most airlines focusing upon the potential Indian market.
Hicham enjoys India though he admits he is still learning about the country and its culture. India is more like a continent and they, as an international airline, have to juggle with various expectations. Everybody knows India is far more complex compared to the European market. India is used to the best service and has high expectations from every single flight. To be successful in India, airlines need to create an inspiring experience and engage clients differently than they do in the West. Within India, they need to cater to various needs depending upon which part of the country is being serviced. One finds drastic cultural differences across the country. Hence, when the head office in Europe comes up with a new strategy Hicham's team needs to innovate and adapt immediately. They become responsible for making it fit for the Indian market.
Hicham and his team are currently focused on three key areas to improve the Air France/KLM experience in India:
  • Quality versus quantity: Radical strategy change, focused on serious engagement with the audience. For example, giving opportunities to fans on their Facebook page, to fly Air France/KLM instead of just liking the page.
  • Shouting campaign: Instead of advertising across media, focus on a strong clear message transmitted through one or two communication channels. This approach on radio, newspapers and relevant events resulted in attracting the right clients.
  • Pushing more leisure traffic: KLM/Air France, till recently has been focusing on corporate traffic flying from India to USA and Europe. Now the strategy is to stimulate leisure travel as well and encourage Indians to travel to affordable European destinations via Air France/ KLM.
Hicham believes in continuous self-development. With a dedicated team of 9 and clear vision on the priorities he could unleash amazing potential from the team leading to great innovations. Innovation and talent he believes run in the DNA of the people of India. You just have to provide your people with the right opportunity and ambience to unleash it. That's what we call leadership!
May 2015