Interview with Rupen Philloura founder of Airport Groupe. Business Clarity at 37,000 Feet.
Airport Groupe was founded in late 2017 by Rupen Philloura, who, after twenty years in the airport sector and with an already successful business set-up behind him, wanted to do his part to improve the industry he’d spent so many years working in.
A man of many interests, Rupen’s first business, after leaving Tampa International Airport where he had been for 15 years, was MeSpoke; a powerful consumer software technology aimed at the fashion industry, which made him into a well-known and respected entrepreneurial name. I caught up with him to discuss his latest innovation and how it will change the way that airports operate.
A SIGN FROM ABOVE.
Donnie Rust: After 20 years of experience in the aviation industry, it’s worth asking if it was always your plan to be a part of it?
“No, actually I was destined to become a doctor, but when I was 16 something special happened. I had just finished 10th grade in India and my father gave me the option of going to US to seek my future. Needless to say, I grabbed the opportunity and moved.
“I have spent my whole life travelling and have always been fascinated with airports, but it was actually while I was finishing high school in New York that I was approached by a soccer scout who advised me of three colleges in Florida where I could potentially go and play. All I remember is reading about Embry Riddle Aeronautical University aka The Harvard of the Skies. It was right off the golden beaches of Florida and it couldn’t have been a more profound sign from above. I immediately signed-up to begin my profession in Aviation.”
Donnie Rust: What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen over the last two decades?
“The biggest change I saw was in Aviation Security, post 9/11. Almost immediately, things became intensely security orientated; 100% bag screening, only ticketed passengers beyond screening checkpoints and various no-fly lists to sift through before any passenger could be cleared to board. The Aviation industry really stepped up its game for the protection of all passengers.”
“Secondly, every aspect of the industry has been adapting to the digital age. Some of us grew up doing all the paperwork manually and now we let computers do all the work, so it’s been a transition. Thirdly; airports have realised that they need to develop their spaces into high-end shopping centres. The airports are providing a plethora of amenities, great shopping and eating experiences and an enhanced physical space with digital touch-points throughout the journey.”
Rupen adds that Airports have become driving forces of economies and now the industry is beginning to see “Aerotropolis’” being developed. “These are basically huge airports at the centre and cities built all around them, sustaining the economic boom. This is definitely the way forward for travel, transportation and trade.”
Formed in November 2017, Airport Groupe (www.airportgroupe.com) employs an active executive team of eight advisors, all of whom are experts in specific subject matters. Rupen explains that the team is spread over North America, the Middle East and Asia and that they will soon be bringing on an advisor from South Africa.
Donnie Rust: What is your vision behind Airport Groupe and how it will benefit your customers?
“After spending 20 years working in various leadership roles in Airport Operations from many airports, I decided to translate my skills to help other airports by developing a business with the primary objective of optimising airport operations.”
Donnie Rust: What is the current state of airport operations and how will Airport Groupe improve them?
“The airport operations department comprises of a group of very dynamic individuals who are extremely knowledgeable about running the day-to-day operation of an airport. They represent the Executive Committee at all times, hence wearing many hats throughout the day while they mitigate numerous challenges. My goal is to bring all my experience and help other airports across the globe develop their teams with the best tools, technologies, practices and processes. Because aviation is a global phenomenon and we are all affected by its ups and downs, I advocate that the airport operations department should have uniform skillsets which are on par with any airport whether in a developed or developing nation. Not only do staff of airport operations benefit but this also translates into a safer and more efficient airport for customers.”
Donnie Rust: And what are the first steps to achieving this?
“My short term vision is to partner-up with various airport IT solution providers and bundle them with my services. Then I’ll pitch my services to some airports in developing countries in the Middle East, North Africa and remote Asia. Presently we are in negotiations with some airports, which due to clauses, I am unable to divulge currently.”
“Long-term, I see ourselves as the voice of airport operations and helping to pave a universal way forward in terms of operating and conducting airport operation business.”
Donnie Rust: How has 2018 been so far for the business?
“It’s been good. We’ve been able to attract a strong team of advisors who are accomplished professionals from various large corporations and we will be making an announcement within the next month or two as to very big industry players who will be coming in as partners.”
Donnie Rust: You do a lot of travelling and often combine work and pleasure together with seamless ease.
“My mantra: business and pleasure go hand n hand. I always make time for pleasure during business and like to find potential business even when I am on vacation. You just never know. It’s a balancing act. I would never visit a place for business and not explore what it has to offer. It would be a grave injustice.”
Donnie Rust: And finally, what are the five must-have items to travel with?
“One. Bose noise cancelling wireless headphones. Two. Raybans. Three. Jo Malone cologne. Four. Universal plug adaptor. Five. A dapper sports coat. Six. A good flask.”