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Entrepreneurs are the face of change, and it requires no example or justification to understand their role in an economy. They contribute to innovative product development, unveiling new opportunities, addressing recurring challenges, and even revamping solutions and strategies. Amongst the various segments, entrepreneurs foray, the aviation industry, particularly aviation consultancy is a leading field with rewarding opportunities. In India, the civil aviation space is emerging as one of the rapidly mushrooming industries.

The aviation sector has undergone significant changes over the past few years. Partly because of technology and the way people choose from a variety of input and pricing structures in the form of on-demand charters, along with fractional shares, subscription plans, and direct ownership. As the demand for these solutions grows exponentially, asset owners and investors are focusing on maintaining the operational efficiency and profitability of their holdings.

The increasing users of air transport have increased the relative capacity at airports. This makes asset owners, airports and investors focus on maximizing asset values through professional and independent advisory.  Identifying and implementing proper aviation practices that streamline operations with organizational goals is necessary to alleviate complications and deliver solutions that multiply value for owners. The need of the hour is adept aviation consultants who can excavate and address the underlying needs through effective solutions. In that vein, we are pleased to present Caladrius Aero Consulting.

Recently, Mr. Rohit Tomar, Managing Partner of Caladrius Aero Consulting, had a dialogue exchange with Business Connect Magazine. In the conversation that followed, Mr. Tomar shed light on his entrepreneurial journey and what makes his firm a suitable consultant for India’s emerging aviation industry.

Mr. Tomar’s entrepreneurial inception wasn’t spontaneous, but a well-defined one. The Indian Aviation space is projecting to become the 3rd largest aviation market worldwide by 2024. The growth is stimulated by healthy competition amongst low-cost carriers, infrastructure build-up, and the supportive policy framework. Against these prospects, Mr. Tomar wanted to imbibe a value-added approach. As an aviation veteran, he has seen the highs and lows, but what caught his sight was the lack of a customer-centric approach. Aviation-related solutions were more project-based than value-based.

Mr. Tomar sought to change this. He has over 15 years of experience in aviation consulting, with strong techno-commercial knowledge, experience in mentoring cross-cultural teams, and a penchant for solving complex business problems. He envisioned a consulting firm specializing in techno-commercial intervention with solutions based on R&D and deep insights. With a clear thought, he commenced Caladrius Aero Consulting in 2020.

While it wasn’t easy, since aviation is one of the extensively afflicted segments, Mr. Tomar still showed his prowess. He even assembled a team of aviation maestros with multifarious experience. With a savant team and seasoned leadership, the firm is set to revamp the industry with a more holistic approach. Its mission is to be a value-adding ecosystem for clients, as well as employees.

Mr. Tomar’s understanding of ‘adding value’ encapsulates providing value to customers, projects and the firm’s employees. Although a small team, their USP is to provide consulting strategies, not just strategic advice. “We move away from the traditional consulting methodologies and focus more on addressable issues,” asserts Mr. Tomar. The aviation space is still in turbulence due to emerging COVID-19 cases, and at the same time, India is projecting to become an Aviation Hub by 2030.

The challenge is that the Indian aviation space is very capital intensive. And while it has multiple wings, India still has a traditional aviation setting. On the other hand, with a growing number of consulting firms in India, clients often face a lack of clarity in defining project success and mechanisms for the same. The progress across different verticals is a direct repercussion of quantifying investor confidence.

Mr. Tomar sees this as both a challenge and an opportunity. The very reason Caladrius Aero Consulting works as a Consultant Management Office (CMO). It assumes itself as part of the client’s project and ensures the entire requirement and deliverables meets maximum value. In a broad sense, projects are first defined on scope and goals, followed by RPF responses & EOI from consulting firms. A total project cost is set from analysing financial quotes from consulting firms.

Each project is treated uniquely with assorted tools to ensure success. Working on an analytical model, Caladrius Aero Consulting creates a supportive ecosystem that addresses challenges and raises the bar of quality. The firm also works with the Govt. on certain policy decisions by enacting the area that needs to be responded to improve its position in the global aviation market.

In a short span, Caladrius Aero Consulting has created a diverse clientele. It’s working with conglomerates like GMR Group and Adani Group. Alongside, it has worked briefly with Aircraft leasing companies, airlines currently located outside India, and charter airlines. It’s working closely with them with a particular strategy to grow their aviation investments. In addition to this, the firm emphasizes the tech-commercial review of airline engineering contracts.

Mr. Tomar explains that these contracts across Asia-Pacific airlines require risk management approach by airlines rather than existing methodology of rate-based modelling. Caladrius Aero Consulting is committed to identify not only the dollar line in the contract, but also how the risk-adjusted dollar value will change throughout the period of the contract.  Currently, the firm is working with two airlines on such large contracts. It also works with the government bodies like the MRO Association of India, financial regulators, etc., to develop better airspace development policies.

While its solutions are research-based, Caladrius Aero Consulting focuses on PMP (Project Management Professional), being a consulting firm. “We focus more on professional development since there are larger consultants invested in R&D,” says Mr. Tomar. He continues, “We believe that the true value that the industry offers, along with its tremendous potential, comes from people, and we want to strengthen it.” 

Professionals in junior manager levels, managerial levels come with exposure in risk assessment, identifying new ways of doing conventional tasks. The Firm capitalizes on these qualities. Similarly, for new talent, it offers guidance either through mentorship programs or internship programs. The internal development also helps provide an overview of the industry, with cash flow mechanics and value demand in the aviation space.

Although Caladrius Aero Consulting is a young firm, its focus surrounds the aviation space, setting it apart from its peers. The Indian consulting space is primarily dominated by the Big 4 firms. However, their competency is diversified, and they wear a lot of hats. Mr. Tomar believes consulting for aviation requires a niche specialization and exposure to understand and address the underlying issues.

The existing Big 4 consulting firms are well-networked and the many RFP’s in aviation space in India weigh heavily towards turnovers of consulting firms rather than the knowledge base and depth of the consulting team, and this often becomes a challenge in gaining projects and clients within India. On the other hand, India has a large pool of freelance consultants working on available projects. “India has the potential and talent to create its consulting hub, but a fragmented market creates self-induced lack of scale to develop successful consulting firms in India” explains Mr. Tomar. With Caladrius Aero Consulting, he aims to establish a niche competency in aviation consultancy and bring independent consultants under one umbrella.

The firm is also well-updated with the technical trends of this generation. Aviation Consulting is largely driven by data and value networks. Caladrius Aero Consulting has a dedicated team looking into this. It is also developing in-house machine learning algorithms to identify movements across aviation operations. The firm is also structuring a dedicated legal department to focus on high-value risk aviation contracts and create a more standardized consulting environment.

Mr. Tomar says that they are striving to instil a global mindset and techniques used by global players. He aims to reform aspects like unfair risk transfer of holdings to the end operator or the aviation company. With its legal vertical, Caladrius Aero Consulting will democratize the aviation regulatory space, analyze high-value contracts, and balance the aviation space with its parties by taking a holistic data-centric approach.

There is a saying, “Going independent is not for the faint-hearted, but then again – it’s a one- of-a-kind adventure.”

From leading global aviation firms and a Big 4 subsidiary to becoming an entrepreneur, Mr. Tomar has had quite an adventure. The difference, as an entrepreneur, he is able to create though – is in the lives of people in his team i.e. their approach towards work and life. He believes that helming a startup changes the perspective of leading a company.

“In an organization, you have the professional support, branding and opportunities to access. But in entrepreneurship, it’s very different,” explains Mr. Tomar. Consultancy business demands networking, and Caladrius Aero Consulting was fortunate to have the support of its community. Not only did it help in building a footing, but also paved the way for learning. According to Mr. Tomar, it all comes down to the value that is delivered to the customers and his people.

But, every dedicated leader has seen the trials that put them to the test. Mr. Tomar faced his greatest challenge in 2010 when he started his first stint as an intrapreneur and landed in bank bankruptcy. “Whatever I had, I had to start again from the bottom of the pyramid, which was about seven years of work,” he says. But since then, his understanding and approach towards business changed dramatically. Thankfully, he found good mentors who guided him to the light at the end of the tunnel. While working in Go Air, he found a great mentor in his Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Mr. Girish Nair whose words resonated with Mr. Tomar for long time.

Mr. Tomar’s astounding experience and passion for leadership was his biggest support in building his team. While they are all experienced and authentic to purpose, they are all fun-loving. And these qualities are equally imbibed in all of them, which make them a family. Mr. Tomar is supported by Veena Chawla (Partner) and Ram Shankar (Partner) and has a total of 10 people on board. A notable feature is that they have a decentralized team spread across the country. To ensure engagement and efficiency, the team meets once in 3 months, ensuring everyone is well and committed to life and work.

The infliction of COVID-19 on aviation space is nothing unknown. But, the main impact was on people’s livelihood. Caladrius Aero Consulting, on the other hand, stayed strong and steadfast with its inherent resilience. Its team members are aviation professionals and faced challenges concerning COVID-19 – directly or indirectly. This kept the company from redundancies, lay-offs, and other industrial impediments. The main challenge was the mounting pressure on risk contracts.

“I believe that one of the biggest challenges for airlines amid the COVID-19 pandemic is rethinking and analyzing their responsibilities under various contracts,” asserts Mr. Tomar. The firm helped many international airlines negotiate and renegotiate existing contracts, to transfer risk contracts in a meaningful way, and international airlines, so to speak, have understood this much more receptively. The team went above and beyond to develop solutions for other dedicated causes.

Within a stretch of 12 months, Caladrius Aero Consulting earned many notable feathers on the cap. It started with 3 partners and grew into an employee-centric firm. It’s also the first consultant in India to clock a turnover of INR 1.5 Cr within 12 months. It’s also in the process of establishing a subsidiary consulting firm. Mr. Tomar also throws light on expansion plans. With already presence in India & USA, the company seeks to strengthen its hold in these nations and establish a solid footing with respective govt. bodies.

Furthermore, the firm is launching two new business streams: legal and fundraising. The aviation industry will soon require $700 mn in investments, be it in equity or money. The capital will liquidate to unveil 60 to 70,000 high-paying jobs. For that to happen in Asia, there is a need to build confidence in the investor pool towards aviation. Mr. Tomar aims to promulgate Caladrius Aero Consulting as a holistic platform to meet these needs. Through his venture, he aims to raise the bar of Indian Aviation to become at par with global standards, making it investment-worthy.

“Don’t give up on your passion and make sure your career is aligned with it. By capitalizing on your passion, not only do you ensure a lucrative career but an undivided commitment as well.” Rohit Tomar

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