BALANCED STRATEGY

Abu Dhabi 2019 | AEROSPACE & DEFENSE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mansoor Janahi, Acting CEO of Turbine Services & Solutions, on the rapidly growing aviation sector in MENA, investing in R&D, and ensuring the sustainable growth of the sector.

Mansoor Janahi
BIOGRAPHY
Mansoor Janahi is the Acting Chief Executive Officer of Turbine Services & Solutions (TS&S), a leading MRO solutions provider for gas turbines and aircraft engines. Prior to joining TS&S, Mansoor was Vice President at Mubadala’s Aerospace, Renewables & ICT (AR&I) platform. He joined Mubadala in 2008 and held essential positions across countless aerospace projects during his tenure. He was also an Asset Manager for Strata Manufacturing PJSC from 2013-2014 and Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies from 2011-2012. He holds a BS in aerospace engineering and a BS in aviation business administration from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, and a CFA level 1 qualification.

What is the driver behind the MoU with Ethiopian Airlines, and what role does Africa play within TS&S's strategy?

Given our strong position in the Middle East, we are bullish about the African market and believe there is no better partner than Ethiopian Airlines to work with in the African continent in the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) business. Ethiopian Airlines has the largest and most modern fleet in Africa, coupled with the ambition to establish MRO capability on the continent, which is still in its nascent stages. As such, we saw an opportunity to enter the African market, whether that is materialized through a physical presence or a hybrid model that takes advantage of Africa's low labor costs and Abu Dhabi's infrastructure for high-end repairs.

How do you expect demand within the MRO industry to evolve in the future, given the growing ambitions of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)?

The MENA region is the second-fastest growing region in terms of aviation activity and the largest region in terms of oil and gas production. This growth and future projections play a massive role in our strategic ambitions and direction setting. Our business has grown threefold since 2014, and the target is to continue on this growth trajectory. As a company focused on turbines, we offer solutions to both the aerospace segment and industrial applications used in the energy and power industries. The industry is witnessing a trend of consolidation and integration of OEMs not just on the aerospace side, but also in the after-market following the sale of equipment, instruments and machine articles. Our strategy is to act as the partner of choice for international OEMs and MROs in the Middle East, such as Siemens, General Electric and Rolls-Royce, especially as the entire focus shifts towards localization underpinned by the growth in the region. Moreover, local turbine operators feel contented having their engines in their sight, not to mention the cost savings that close access to an MRO facility brings to their bottom line given that reduces the transport cost and improves the turnaround time.

How should an investor position itself with regards to the R&D efforts that seek to impact the aerospace manufacturing industry?

All major companies invest significantly in R&D. This does not mean we disregard returns; all investments in technological upgrades need to be based on a balanced strategy. As such, TS&S on the one hand purchases trusted, well-known technologies, and on the other, seeks to grow its R&D efforts with the aim of having a multiplier effect on the underlying performance of the business. These two approaches reflect two different risk-exposures: one that looks at a shorter time frame to collect yields, and another that is catered toward longer-term, strategic investors. Investments in R&D should be aligned with the wider strategic objectives of the industry with measurable outcomes.

What is your assessment of the ecosystem around the MRO industry in Abu Dhabi?

On the research side, local academic institutions such as Khalifa University offer excellent resources. Linking academia with industry leads to benefits on both sides, and Abu Dhabi is encouraging this aspect in a concrete way. Aside from research, the MRO business is rapidly growing here, and we would like to see sustainable growth and healthy competition that will support positioning Abu Dhabi as a regional and global MRO hub. Having more competitors helps to create an environment where TS&S is not the only player, but part of a larger ecosystem that links infrastructure and talent. This would also address the major challenges the industry is facing today, one of which is the shortage of skilled technicians. We are meeting this challenge through a program where we take high school graduates from technical institutions and place them in a two-year program at TS&S, at the end of which they are certified to work on various engine platforms.