Let's AirGo to 40,000 feet with comfort


Lets AirGo to 40,000 feet with comfort
Two seat designs from AirGo could help save the airline industry billions of dollars in fuel.

Published: Mon 10 Apr 2017, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 10 Apr 2017, 10:32 PM

The author's shorthand for Happiness Index, Infrastructure, Talent, Regulations, Access and Capital. The six pillars that make UAE a great place for a startup. This week, the focus is on the Capital available in the UAE.
It is often said that the fastest way to make a million dollars is to invest a billion in an airline. Perhaps no other industry embodies inherent contradiction as much as the airline industry. Despite its RoI challenges, some of the world's most celebrated entrepreneurs have invested in airlines. It is cutting edge technology spliced with massive romanticism.
The high cost of operations, wafer-thin margins, massive competition, strong regulations and operating envelopes have made airlines the most brutally efficient business machines. A quick look at statista.com shows that commercial airlines carried more that 3.5 billion passengers and generated a revenue of $518 billion in 2015.
According to Boeing's report 'Long-term market: Current market outlook 2016-35, the number of jet airplanes in service in 2015 was 22,510. It is expected to double over the next 20 years to 45,240 airplanes.
That's the thing about the airline industry. It envelopes and engages the left-brain and right-brain in equal measure. Jump on the airliners.net and you are immediately in a candy store full of statistics and the most amazing pictures possible.
Of course, if you want to enter the manufacturing side of the business, you need to be in a niche. Either become a segment challenger like Embraer or a specialist in critical components. Part of the reason for the actual manufacture of aircraft being concentrated in the West is that the accepted aircraft certification bodies, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) are in the US and Europe, respectively. However, there is tremendous opportunity for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) including component manufacturing in Asia. It makes sense because Asia's share of commercial aviation is now upwards of 40 per cent.
DP World's Turn8 knows well about investing in infrastructure. The parent organisation thinks very big and is great at spotting opportunities at the right time. Enter a company that Turn8 has invested in - AirGo (www.airgodesign.com). A company that specialises in the most important experience of flying in a commercial plane - the seat. It is amazing that when you enter most aircraft today, the seats are visually indistinguishable from what they looked like 60 years ago. With the odd exception of adding on a small display unit on the back of the head-rest and you are lucky if you have an in-built USB charging socket.
Dr Ali Jahanshahi is COO of AirGo, a company that is set to change the status-quo. Two revolutionary seat designs from AirGo - Draco for short-haul and Orion for long-haul, could help save the massive airline industry billions of dollars in fuel, paving the way for lighter and greener air-travel.
Multiple patents and industry award winners, AirGo is based out of Singapore. The key focus of AirGo is on ergonomics and massive weight reduction. When it comes to comfort AirGo uses multi-density foam to address the variations in pressure, the seats have a 12 per cent wider backrest and are capable of a 30 per cent recline within the standard 32-inch pitch. To improve the passenger experience, the AirGo team uses VR simulation to create a life-like cabin situation to test the seats with volunteers.
The company was established in 2013 by Ali and Maziar Jahanshahi, Alireza Yaghoubi and Mikko Alanko. The company is tapping in to the $8.74 billion (2016) annual aircraft seat industry volume, which projected to reach $16.94 billion by 2021 (CAGR of 14.15 per cent during the forecast period), according to Marketsandmarkets analysis. Till date, AirGo has showcased the seats at AIX Asia 2016 in Singapore and LIMA 2017 in Malaysia.
Jahanshahi is a Swedish national of Middle Eastern origin and holds a PhD degree from University of Oxford. While teaching at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, he came in to touch with Yaghoubi, a brilliant undergraduate student who had come up with an impressive innovative design concept a.k.a. AirGo for economy class passenger seats. The design had received the James Dyson Award Malaysia in 2012. They decided to start a company based on the concept and brought on-board Alanko and the elder Jahanshahi brother, Maziar. The elder Jahanshahi brother had recently sold his former company Scalado to Nokia. This startup experience from inception to exit, has really helped the company take-off with minimum turbulence. Shortly thereafter, Jere Tala, an experienced management level aviation expert from Qatar Airways and Finnair joined the team.
The future is extremely interesting. India is the fastest growing aviation market at 14 per cent year-on-year growth. China is a little slower 11 per cent growth. China is likely to order over 6,800 planes over next 20 years. This is reflected in AirGo's pipeline. It has an LoI from a low-cost Chinese carrier. This is for retrofitting their aircraft. Retrofitting is essentially replacing old components with new. There is also serious interest for the AirGo seats from one of India's largest low-cost carriers. This is for a line-fit i.e. fitting the aircraft with the new seats at the manufacturing stage.
The next time you board a plane and see a completely new seat design, it could well be from AirGo.
The writer is a director at Vyashara. He's a digital banking and digital financial services evangelist, practitioner, advisor and consultant. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy. He can be reached at ves@vyashara.com.

 Sanjiv Purushotham
 Value Mining

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