Celebrating 25 years since HAE Group opened its door to the air cargo industry, the company has seen the sector move through some major changes that have forced it to adapt and rise to the moment.
Having witnessed many cycles of insourcing and outsourcing cargo sales, HAE Group has learnt that, to thrive in the competitive General Sales and Service Agents (GSSA) business, you have to be able to meet the demands of all of your partners. “The demands of our airline partners are different from pure sales, to TCM, through to hybrid models and even some where we are a cargo service partner,” Neville Karai, HAE Group’s CEO said.
“From being manual in our processes and doing everything in country to offshoring and embracing digitalisation,” HAE looks for opportunities to keep moving forward. That’s why they are still proudly representing many of the same airline partners and companies that they started with. he added.
Having originated in the UK, this willingness to evolve has seen HAE Group branch out into other countries, now operating 25 offices from the Americas through the Middle East and into Africa.
Acting as the sales representatives of an airline, GSSAs work to commercialise airfreight capacity and supervise complex local operations. As such, it’s crucial for them to be at the forefront of developments that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their services.
“We are more diverse than we have ever been and you can see this coming through in the ideas and opportunities our team bring to the table. We have also adapted our own business model where we take risk and commitments on our carriers and resell the capacity to give our carriers security. We have also expanded our portfolio to our forwarding, logistics and e-commerce customers who ask us to do more than the standard GSA sale,” Karai stated.
Over the past 18-24 months in particular, the airline sector has seen an increased focus on digitalisation, as companies embrace the benefits of technology in streamlining operations. With the market being more competitive than it has ever been, airlines and forwarders are keener than ever to build connectivity for service and cost reasons. This is particularly important in a post-Covid world, where working from home is the norm and business practices have evolved.
“Digitalisation is inevitable and we have em- braced it, as, for us, it allows a medium sized group be competitive and have an edge of our competitors,” Karai said. “Of course, with hindsight, we should have embraced digitalisation sooner, but the third party costs of many of the systems and customisation have been prohibitive for companies to adopt them.”
Read more: HAE Group: set to embrace the market
Listen and learn
Standing out in a crowded GSSA market requires a customer-focused approach. “We spend a lot of time listening to our airline partners, trying to find out what we can do for them and can we do more as their networks rejuvenate,” Karai stated.
Conferences and exhibitions play a key role in that now they are returning following the pandemic, improving marketing, both social and traditional. “We have to keep our customers informed and we are in a human business.”
“Our centralised and localised marketing means that we can provide information directly to certain customers on social media platforms to keep awareness up or ‘hit the phones’ as the case may be,” he said.
Utilising new technology to improve communication with customers saw HAE Group develop its own real selling model on the market (QMS), which can interface with airline and customer systems. It also allows them to track productivity and effectiveness for airlines and customers. “In addition, from a sales process standpoint, every quote we do is measured on whether we won the business and if not why not.”
“We are working hard on our latest project to allow our customers to get their own quotes on our services, via a customer portal on the QMS system. The current market means in our experience the quicker you quote the more likely you are to win the business. Our carriers and our customers benefit from this and it’s having its soft launch now,” Karai highlighted.
The UK still presents opportunities
Since 2016, the market in the UK has gone through a series of challenges that have presented concerns for businesses. Brexit, inflationary pressure and changes in political leadership have raised questions over whether Britain is still the most desirable location for companies to operate in. However, for HAE Group, which calls East Midlands Airport (EMA) home, they still have confidence in the UK.
While finding solutions to the disruption HAE Group has faced wasn’t easy, they managed to ensure continuous employment for its staff during the pandemic, showing them the loyalty that they showed the company.
“The UK is a mature market but still retains opportunities. Apart from the labour challenges in handling that we have grappled with, being based at EMA has meant that the members of our team are less transient and on our 25th birthday we still have a number of the team who were our first employees” Karai said.
Read more: La dolce vita for HAE Group
Always room to grow
The last few years might have been challenging for the industry but the difficulties experienced have provided learning opportunities that can be applied to future crises and disruption to ensure smooth operations.
“Schedules and frequencies have been affected, as has the change of fleet and even the carriers operating. We have won new business with our ability to retain trade lanes and provide service where others have gone offline. We have also spend a lot of time with our handling and trucking partners to build capability that wasn’t there before to satisfy demand,” Karai stated.
GSSAs are no longer just go betweens for airlines and forwarders. They have evolved into service providers in their own right, helping to connect the supply and demand on both sides of the transaction. The solutions developed by HAE Group have allowed them to adapt and give the customer what they need and provide the airlines with the cargo they require, keeping the process commercially viable for all.
Having already spread across multiple regions, HAE Group has identified a number of regions as targets for potential growth, including the Middle East and North Africa, with a number of projects underway.
Marking the occasion
In recognition of HAE’s 25th birthday, the company has been engaged in charitable activities to mark the occasion. Employees took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge to raise money for cancer research.
“I am very proud of the HAE team when it comes to their social conscience and what’s important to them. The first nine months of this year has been about what they can do to mark the occasion through monthly challenges where others benefit,” Karai said. “This particular charity for this challenge was voted for by the management as a number of families have been affected by this relentless disease. Our target for the UK Team is £3,000 and we are half way there – every little helps.”