‘SAHCOL will be the preferred handling company in Africa’ – Rizwan Kadri

In the interview with African Travel News Assistant Head, Friday Nwosu, Mr. Rizwan Kadri, the Managing Director and CEO of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL), which isa foremost grand handling company in the aviation industry in Nigeria; he shares with him the growth metamorphosed of the company which was formerly Skypower Aviation but now Skyway Aviation. Mr. Kadiri unveiled the giant strides SAHCOL has taken in establishing itself as the preferred handling company in the aviation sector through the acquisition of modern equipment and the addition of ultramodern warehouse to its facility, as he insisted that the company is looking at the larger aviation market in Africa. Excerpt:

Since you resumed office as the MD what is your impression about SAHCOL, what has inspired you and what is motivating you now?

Well, SAHCOL has a big potential; it is one of the leading ground handling agencies in Nigeria. Since I came, it has been a good 5 months. I would say I have been fortunate enough; the previous Managing Director left a platform for me, as far as infrastructure is concerned. So for me now, it is more of processes that need to be put into place. Yes, we have a lot of potentials, we are growing, we are not stagnating and that is the beauty of it. So the changes which are coming, we are only going to get better. So I am looking forward to more successes for SAHCOL as we move along.

SAHCOL has made some investment in a new cargo warehouse to boost its operation. So far, has this project enhanced your operation?

When you do something it is always for the future. When we invest, we don’t expect to recover anything in a year or two, this is a long target project. So, it was good that our Chairman looked at the future and invested the money for us to be able to move forward in our operation. Today, for example, if he had not invested in a lot of equipment, looking at the dollar rate today, we could not have probably afforded it now. So it is good that it was predetermined by looking at the future. And as we move along, fortunately and unfortunately, the situation in the country went up and down. Globally, there was a meltdown; and it did affect the business. If business has been good, we could have had our warehouse full; but again that is the good part of it, the loads are now picking up. So we have seen the lows and the highs as well, and if you have to see the high then you have to see the low also. And if you want to see the low you have to make your move faster. You want more ideas, more of your thoughts getting together to move the business forward. So, in a way you can’t stop it because it was destined to happen. But I think despite the setbacks the investment was very good and well placed. We have some of the finest investment in terms of equipment, warehousing; the freezers that we have are top notch. So all that investment is not going to be wasted; people are looking at it, the airlines are looking at it, and as we move forward, every day we get new enquiries, new businesses proposals are coming in. So, hopefully, I think in the next three to six months we will be rocking.

Concerning global certification and training of SAHCOL staff, what are your plans towards that since you have upgraded your infrastructure?
As we move along, aviation is a much regulated field; be it cargo, or handling, everything is regulated by NCAA, IATA or ICAO. There are certain restrictions always, and there are certifications that are required for everything, every person who is doing a job has to be certified to a certain level. So, that is a no go situation. So, whether we do well or we don’t do well, this part of it cannot be ignored. SAHCOL staffs are always trained well. We also have our own certified training Centre; so all our staff right from the people on the ramp, cargo to even the normal cleaner who is cleaning to the security is all trained to the certified international standards. Above that, all the airlines that we work with, some are America, some are European; they have their own certification processes, they have their audits. So that gives us a chance to be always on our feet. We are certified by TSE, USA, and all these people coming with their team international bodies come to look at it and they audit the place and they certify it. Along with that, we have the IATA, ISAGO certification as well. We presently have more staffs that have the requirements; the staffs are all trained in what they are supposed to be doing. On the regular upgrade on their training, we do it always as well as the airlines themselves. So this is an ongoing process.

Does it mean that SAHCOL is not having any challenges with regards to operational rules and procedures?

Like I said there is always space for improvement. When I came in, I looked at the procedures from my own point of view. Everybody runs the show differently and there is set standards. But the ease of doing business is that everybody looks at in a way they visualize things. So there are systems and processes in place, I am here to only enhance the processes. The processes that are here are all right, it was not wrong but I am only here to enhance the processes and once you enhance the processes, the airlines like it, they love it, they come up with their own suggestions, so change is continuous.

What are your plans towards the issue of security at your cargo warehouse?

In aviation, safety and security is zero tolerance. The infrastructure which is the airport is run by FAAN in this country. Now, they have a set standard given by ICAO, and ICAO recently had an audit of the airport and they assessed the security alertness of the airport. So Lagos airport has been cleared by ICAO and it has been cleared also in terms of the standard of security. Now that is the airport, but we are within that airport, the perimeter outside is the responsibility of the agency in the airport, that is FAAN. Now under FAAN, SAHCOL and all the airlines come in; but within SAHCOL, we have got a huge warehouse and we have our own security team in place. We have guards in place, we have CCTV camera coverage all that is internal as well as safety and security processes, indirectly or directly affects the FAAN security as well. Somewhere down the line it is a team work, they work on their own and we work on our own but there is an integration of all parties together. That is how we can only have a real safe environment. Yes, there could be breaches here and there, if there is nothing happening people would tend to relax and be sleeping. But if there is some action, people get up and there is a movement. This has always been a case study in aviation as well, we can have the tightest of security but there are people who are always planning to breach it and we have to move ahead of them. So it is a process and it is like a cat and mouse game but know that safety and security really works.

The previous SAHCOL management was working on getting SAHCOL quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange; what is the update on that process?

The processes are still on. And like I said, there is a certain change in the scenario in the last two months. The plan is still in place and soon we should be moving into that angle. But I can’t give you a fix date but soon we will get there.

There are allegations that grand handling companies are under-staffed and they do not give commensurate remunerations to the workers. Does this affect SAHCOL in anyway?

The thing is who decides whether the company is over-staffed or under-staffed? For example, when you have a team of workers playing on a level ground, today if I am working at an airport in Dubai, Europe of somewhere in Asia, to handle a particular job I require 10 people, but with the same number you need 15 people here at times because of lack of infrastructure. Today, you have one equipment or machine breaking down and the same happens every other day. So the working conditions are not so very good. So at times, you have to push in more people. There are no flights here at night; so, the staff who is at the airport at 12 o’clock in the midnight cannot go back home because of the security reasons outside. Now if all those staff decides to stay at the airport and sleep, there are certain things that are out of our hands but we try to put in staff bus solace for late night shift and early morning shift. So once I handle that automatically I have got more manpower in the day to handle operations. I am going to look at it from my angle which I always do. I am going to ensure that I fill up all the areas in the right way, which is when we can come to a conclusion to say whether we are under-staffed or over-staffed. At the moment, we are working on those lines where staffing level, salaries are concerned; this is an area which is always very critical for everybody. And today when people are looking at reducing staff, reducing salaries, in fact we are even going ahead and looking at some increments for the staff in this month.

Do you have a plan in place of expanding your operations outside the shores of Nigeria?

Of course, we are working towards expanding our operations, we are already in talks in two places at the moment. So hopefully when the time is right, when we manage to get things moving, we will definitely want to make that announcement.

As the new MD, what will you want to do differently?

For me, I would like to have a change of vision for the company. Internally, I would say we want to be the best and we want to be the grand handling company of choice in the whole of Africa, at least. So, we should come up with our standards; that is what I am working on, to bring up SAHCOL to a level of such standards that anybody who wishes to come to Nigeria or any airline wants to come to where we are placed without any doubt they should be able to say okay we have SAHCOL there, let’s go to SAHCOL. So once we achieved that, I would say alright it is time for me, I have brought this company to where I want. I have fulfilled the vision of my chairman; I have fulfilled the vision of my country, now it is time to move ahead and move to another place.

Few years back, SAHCOL was in the biggest trade exhibition in Africa, what are your plans towards being at the next edition?

Like I said, let me have my platform well positioned; and so when I go outside to showcase I should have that product as well. We are good but I want to be the best and once I am the best I will probably take half the area of that program and sponsor it myself.

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