INTERVIEW with Sajit T.C., Chief Human Resources Officer, BIAL

 Special Articles

HR should create less bureaucratic and more agile people processes

Sajit T.C.

Designation : -   Chief Human Resource Officer

Organization : -  Bengaluru International Airport

01-Dec-2017

HR should create less bureaucratic and more agile people processes

How do you critically evaluate the HR practices in your sector?
A. The Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru (BLR Airport) was the first greenfield airport to be built on the Public-Private Partnership model in India. Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) is the operating company. In a sense, BIAL is the mother ship that holds the entire operation of the BLR Airport together.
The nature of an airport is such that the business is a combination of Aviation, Infrastructure, Retail and Hospitality sectors, and therefore, talent across the BLR Airport has been sourced various sectors, including the public sector as well as other industries. Managing operations and customer service in real time, and expanding the airport infrastructure to manage the fast growth of the sector are critical imperatives for all airports in India today. Therefore, HR practices are also geared towards facilitating this. Experienced Airport Operations and Airport Development talent is scarce and airports need to grow most of the talent internally and acquire external talent on need basis. Also we need to compete globally for talent as other larger airports outside India also have an eye on the same talent pool. Indian Airports - especially the PPP airports - have over the past decade, been able to build a sizeable talent pool that has enabled the airport sector growth to such an extent that Indian airports are today looking opportunities in managing international airport assets. Coming to HR practices, Indian PPP airports have been able as a whole to be in line with the general industry HR processes and practices. Considering that we have very few PPP airports in India, growth opportunities for the talent as a whole can increase only if more airports come to be privately managed.
While the acquisition and retention of talent is a critical aspect on the one hand, training, learning & development are also a critical part of the HR function at an airport. As in other sectors skills must be developed and upgraded to keep with the latest trends. To this end training in airport - specific functions, customer management, etc. must be an ongoing process.
Do you also feel the skill shortage in your industry? How you plan to overcome and meet challenges?
A. Skill shortage is definitely seen in certain core operational positions, which require niche skill sets and are governed by regulatory requirements. However, at present it is a largely manageable scenario, as we are able to build internal talent or acquire external talent, as the case may be. As airport assets grow due to expansion, certain pockets will have skill shortages that need to be prudently managed. We are in the process of partnering with sector skill development councils and educational institutions to ensure adequate skill availability. 
In the current business environment, what are some of the growing challenges in HR Domain specifically for service sector like yours?
A. Managing a multi - generation workforce with different expectations and aspirations; ensuring availability of competent talent that can design and implement futuristic airports; building a talent pipeline at all levels, are some of the growing challenges that we face. The BLR Airport is today among the fastest growing in the world and is, currently, among the most aspirational airports to work at. Our Airport today attracts talent from across the globe.
Any HR practices of your company which make you distinct and innovative, you would like to share?
A. In a 24x7 operational airport, managing work - life balance and ensuring a healthy workforce is critical and at BIAL we have implemented various processes and initiatives that facilitate this outcome. Our focus is on enhancing customer centricity, collaboration and innovation. We have set up the BIAL Innovation Lab that is partnering with Accenture on a roadmap for digital transformation and future ready airport - many projects/initiatives are in the pipeline with employee involvement at all levels. We have designed and delivered Project UTSAHA, which focuses on capability building for customer - facing roles at the airport to enable seamless and natural easy customer experience. This has involved personnel from airlines, government agencies, concessionaires and partners at the airport.
How does your work culture at the workplace help the company achieve its strategy of growth and innovation, efficiency and talent management?
A. As an airport operator, most of our work involves cross - functional and inter - agency collaboration and therefore requires transparency in communication, camaraderie and engagement with different stakeholders. We strive to establish a work culture of openness and collaboration between the various departments and units. We have pioneered the Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM) concept in Indian airports that brings together various stakeholders to drive operational efficiency and key projects.
What kind of initiatives you take to ensure a culture of diversity and inclusion?
A. The Aviation sector is one that has traditionally been dominated by males. At BIAL, we consciously endeavour to improve gender diversity though focused hiring interventions. We also drive inclusion of the local community during hiring, enabling the lives of the communities that live in the vicinity of the BLR Airport. In addition, we are in the process of partnering with NGOs and groups focusing on hiring/exposure of specially - abled people in the aviation industry. We have enabled our infrastructure and people to be able to cater to special access requirements.
What kind of leader you are? 
What blows you up at work place?
A. I believe in collaboration. To this end, I work with members of my team to enable joint decision making that ensures we meet the larger goal of the department and thereby the organisation. My team is empowered to make intelligent decisions, based on their understanding. I also encourage my team to participate in discussions that allow us to utilise the experience of the group. 
Personally, I enjoy the challenge of working in a fast - paced sector like Indian Aviation. The dynamic nature of the industry makes it imperative that I am constantly placed in a learning and problem - solving environment. 
What are the opportunities and threats emerging in Indian HR function?
A. The Indian economy is viewed as a high growth economy, with business vying to have a presence in the Country. As an enabler of business and economy, the Indian aviation sector will be the backbone as India grows to become one of the top 3 economies of the world. There is a tremendous opportunity for the Indian HR function to innovatively manage talent, skill people and work with institutions at the grassroots level to create the kind of talent that will be of value. Conversely, high growth also means that the war for talent will become more pronounced, posing a challenge for both business and HR.
Any three things which you want HR should do to re-position among internal and external stakeholders?
A. Indian HR should work towards becoming a strategic business partner, providing innovative solutions to talent management and change management at the workplace. The creation of a less bureaucratic, more agile/responsive people processes and practices will enable a culture of openness and transparency, while simultaneous encouraging a culture of ethics and inclusion. HR must also drive efficiency and productivity through automation and simpler processes.