Air India moves IT to cloud; looks to upgrade technology

Air India, India's National Airline, is beginning to move its IT to the cloud and is exploring the use of iPads for work, as it looks to upgrade its technology to keep up with competition.  Air India invests far less in technology than its private rivals and hasn't hired anyone for internal IT department in over a decade. But experts say competition and a far more tech-friendly government at the Centre has loosened the purse strings for IT investments. 

"Air India has initiated a strategic move to use Cloud as a platform for creating IT infrastructure to avail the benefit of opex and payper-use models. E-file (paper less files) launched in January '15 is first Cloud adoption in Indian Data Center by AI," Mukesh Sareen, Deputy General Manager of IT at the airline told ET. "AI is looking at migrating more applications to the cloud. Migration will largely depend on expiry of support on internal IT infrastructure."
Mr Sareen said that in the past themovement to the cloud had been slowed by security concerns and the lack of data centres in India, adding that now the ecosystem for Cloud Deployment had improved.

IT spend at Air India is roughly 3% of operating costs, whereas other private Airlines spend between 5 and 8%. The national carrier has been constrained because of its constant need to be bailed out by the government, experts have said. Also, a bureaucratic set up and the need for multiple approvals within the company and then the government make new business ideas difficult to implement.

"They lag their private sector rivals in technology. But now, with the new government's pro-tech thinking, the idea is that investing in IT systems will help the Airline compete with the private sector. You cannot offer new types of loyalty programmes with outdated technology," Sanchit Vir Gogia, CEO and chief analyst at Greyhound Research, told ET. Gogia expects more public sector organizations to follow Air India down the path of technology upgradation.

Air India is also exploring the use of iPads on its flights to help the pilots and crew, especially to remove the bulky cockpit crew manuals from the planes to reduce weight.

"AI is evaluating these options for its effective use in Indian context, keeping regulatory requirements in focus. AI is collecting field feedback from other Airlines that have already moved on this environment," Sareen said.

The airline currently has a tender to buy technology to help the Airline centralise IT governance and keep a greater control over the programmes being run on its network.

"AI had partial central control over all 7,000 devices plugged into its network. Implementing the active directory will enable AI to have central control which is more of a necessity for managing the IT infrastructure," Sareen said. 

Eesha Rohida [ MBA Mktg ]
Aviation News Editor