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Kuwait 2016 | TRANSPORT & LOGISTICS | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hassan El-Houry, CEO of National Aviation Services (NAS), on expanding market share, facilitating business development in emerging economies, and leveraging an accumulated reputation for quality.

Hassan El-Houry
BIOGRAPHY
Hassan El-Houry is the Group Chief Executive Officer of NAS. Hassan El-Houry transformed NAS from a local ground handling company into a leading regional airport and aviation services provider. In 2012, he was appointed Chairman of UPAC and its subsidiary Royal Aviation, which owns the Sheikh Saad Terminal in Kuwait. In 2014, El-Houry was honored by the World Economic Forum in Davos as a Young Global Leader for his contributions to aviation and airport services. He holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut.

What was the key to taking NAS from one airline client in Kuwait to its current position in emerging markets across the MENA region?

To build a company you have to focus on delivering value to your customer. We did that by providing a high quality of service and being disciplined in regards to our costs. We have been able to meet our clients' targets at reasonable prices. In 2003 we started business in Kuwait with one customer, KLM. We were focused initially on passenger services, and then expanded into route services with cargo, lounges, meet and assist, an aviation training center, aviation security, and finally, terminal management. Geographically, Kuwait was our base, and in 2008, we expanded to India with a ground handling company and eight airports. In 2009 we launched operations in Bombay, at one of the largest airports in Asia, in partnership with Celebi, a Turkish ground handling company. In 2009, we started in Kigali. In 2012, we added Sharm El Sheikh and expanded to Abu Dhabi, and in 2013 we started managing the Sheikh Saad terminal. In 2014 we won a tender in Afghanistan, and also opened a VIP terminal in Abu Dhabi. This year we are hoping to launch operations in Côte d'Ivoire. We have been aggressive in our approach to expansion to meet a fast-growing demand.

What role does NAS play in facilitating business and economic development in emerging economies?

Aviation plays a crucial role in the economy, and there are two sides to what we do; the passenger side and the cargo side. The passenger side is designed for airlines that need services based on safety, security, and cost effectiveness. Business travel supports local businesses expand and locate overseas customers or suppliers. The reverse is also true with international companies that want to do business in emerging markets. On the cargo side we are supporting emerging markets, farmers, and producers by providing efficient importing and exporting.

NAS was named Best Ground Handler in emerging markets three times. How did you achieve this, and what is the significance of this recognition for the company?

Quality is key. Airlines know NAS to be a reliable partner whom they can trust to provide the best quality of service in the country. The award has boosted morale in the company over the years because it recognizes the hard, and often repetitive work that people do within their defined, specific areas of expertise. It is rare that people appreciate the job that these people do, and our employees appreciate the positive reinforcement.

What new heights are you aiming to reach in the future, and what are your targets for 2016 specifically?

Our vision is to become the aviation service provider of choice in emerging markets. We will continue our aggressive growth primarily in Africa, and to a large extent in the Middle East and Central Asia as well. We aspire to have one to two big wins and three to four small wins every year. In 2016 we will continue our focus on quality, safety, and security. We will continue our investment growth and continue to hire qualified individuals.