AVIATION INTERVIEW WITH MOHD ASIF ABD TALIB
Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pos Aviation Sdn Bhd
Mohamad Asif’s love for airplanes has drawn him into the aviation industry. He holds a degree in aerospace engineering and has over 20 years of experience with various industry portfolios under his belt. He joined Pos Aviation in December 2020 as Chief Operating Officer and was appointed as Acting CEO on 1 January 2021 following the retirement of former Pos Aviation CEO Woo Kam Weng.
What are some of the milestones in your career path leading to your current position?
My career started in leading the Malaysia Airline System’s (MAS) ground support equipment before moving up to ground handling management, where I was tasked in purchasing and selling ground equipment to various airlines. Following which, an overseas assignment in Beijing as a business analyst developed my decision-making abilities, where skills in decision making based on data analysis were acquired. This skill has been very useful during my career especially at the management level.
As I progressed as the national carrier’s vice president of Restructuring Management Office, I was involved in the restructuring and transition of MAS to Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB). I was then appointed as the Head of Aircraft Services for MAB’s subsidiary, which specialised in ground handling services. My subsequent exposure to the airline’s operations has changed my logical and structural thinking as an engineer, thus equipping me with the ability to strategise beyond engineering at any given situation.
Under your leadership, how do you plan to steer Pos Aviation as it navigates through this unprecedented novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic?
The pandemic has driven us to review our operations and explore alternative measures to conduct the business in this new environment and to cater to evolving customer needs and marketplace. The way forward is total efficiency and productivity while focusing on excellent customer service as the catalyst for further business growth.
Since the onset of the pandemic, we have been constantly monitoring and evolving the business to adapt to the current changes such as the shift in consumer behaviour, enabling us to tap into the growing demand of ecommerce through offering ecommerce solutions within the country and the Asia Pacific region. The services include providing our expertise in warehouse management to e-commerce players and offering our warehouses as their regional distribution hub. We are also increasing efficiency and proficiency through upskilling of our employees, including those from the ground handling services.
Digital transformation is said to be Pos Aviation’s new norm. Please elaborate.
Pos Aviation will leverage on automation to swiftly resolve or eliminate issues to facilitate a smooth flying experience for airlines, couriers and travellers alike. Examples include web check-in and baggage drops. Automation has improved our operational processes by reducing risks, minimising errors and expediting transactions via proximity sensors that minimises physical touch.
Furthermore, the use of tracking devices optimises resource allocation and robotics technology helps us to enhance loading capabilities. Thanks to resilient teamwork shown by our employees, customer service remains our winning point. Although technology has enhanced our above the wing processes and made them efficient, there is always room for improvement. For instance, we are also looking at investing in technology for below the wing services, especially ground support services.
As an independent ground handling company, how many commercial airlines does it currently serves?
We serve 56 airlines, including chartered flights. Our services include ground handling, cargo handling, aircraft maintenance and engineering, inflight catering, ecommerce and more.
What was the total cargo handled in 2020 and its contribution to the company’s total business revenue?
The pandemic has been a push factor for cargo movements, resulting in much higher tonnage handling systemwide last year compared to 2019. Our cargo division contributed 44% to our total revenue in 2020.
How do you view the rather resilient cargo handling business amidst the pandemic?
With the increasing focus on aviation cargo, we intend to build a strong team that could quickly adapt to the changing business landscape. As airlines convert their passenger aircraft to carry more cargo, the processes inside cargo warehouses will require a quick turnaround time. Hence, we are currently exploring ways in training our staff to support this efficiently.
How has Pos Aviation’s inflight meals production been disrupted by Covid-19 with so many flight services grounded over the past year?
Our inflight meal delivery to KL International Airport last year dropped more than 70% compared to 2019 due to the closure of international borders. However, we managed to source for new contracts to provide crew meals to freighters and repatriation flights. We are also looking at penetrating sectors previously dominated by our competitors via strategic partnerships and promoting new products like eat-before-you fly and pre- sealed snack bags for passengers. Besides re- evaluating our processes, we will also explore alternative markets beyond the aviation industry.
Pos Aviation entered into a strategic alliance last year with SIA Engineering Co Ltd (SIAEC) to strengthen its maintenance, repair and overhaul services. Kindly update its progress.
The progress is going well. We have recently reinitiated our discussion with SIAEC, which has a proven track record and a large customer base, which would enable access to new markets and growth beyond Malaysia. Our engineers and technicians will also benefit from the exchange of knowledge and technology.
Logistics represents an important component of Pos Aviation, which is part of the Pos Malaysia Group. What are the synergistic benefits? The synergy offers integrated logistics support for both Malaysia and the region, making us a strong force in air cargo logistics, enabling us to grow e-commerce through our collaboration with Alibaba’s subsidiary Lazada, Shopee Singapore and Thai-owned Pomelo Malaysia.
As a cargo terminal operator, we facilitate ground handling and customs clearance by leveraging on our group’s Pos ACE, Pos Logistics and Pos Malaysia for the last mile delivery. With the tremendous growth potential, our 486,000 sq ft KACT1 warehouse, would provide us the advantage to develop another warehouse at our present 150,000 sq ft car park.
What is Pos Aviation’s current staff force?
We have 2,352 employees across nine airports nationwide: Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Ipoh, Kota Bahru, Kuantan and Miri. They are ready and equipped with multiple skills to meet the needs of our customers, especially when flight movements are gradually restored.
Work apart, how do you unwind?
I like to spend an hour on certain mornings for a quick round of tennis or a few laps in the swimming pool. I also indulged in a massage chair recently to help me relax. Apart from that, I also believe in taking short breaks or power naps for a quick recharge.