Chinese companies may have made significant inroads into several sectors in India. Relatively unknown, however, has been their growing role in the Indian aviation industry.
About 20 percent of the aircraft operated by Indian carriers have been leased from Chinese lessors, who have made their presence felt in less than a decade in a market that was otherwise dominated by leasing companies from Ireland and the US.
Nearly all Indian airlines, including IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir, Vistara and AirAsia India have leased planes from Chinese players. Only national carrier Air India is not on the list.
Of the 480 aircraft that are operated by Indian carriers, 96 are leased from Chinese lessors. In total, about 650 aircraft are currently operational in India. Apart from the commercial airlines, the rest of the planes belong to the 'general aviation' category, including charter service providers.
Who are these Chinese lessors?
Not surprisingly, most of the Chinese leasing companies are either backed or owned by local banks, giving them easy access to capital. For instance, CDB Leasing Company, which has leased out 30 planes to Indian carriers, is majority-owned by China Development Bank.
Similarly, Bank of China owns BOC Aviation, which has leased out 24 aircraft to Indian carriers. Other Chinese leasing companies active in India are - ICBC Leasing, China Aircraft Leasing Company Ltd, CMB Financial Leasing and Minsheng Financial Leasing.
Overall, there are over 20 leasing companies from China.
Interestingly, the Rupee Raftaar report released by the government in 2019, asks the local aviation industry to take inspiration from the Chinese counterpart!
The report noted that nearly Rs 10,000 crore is spent yearly by Indian airlines in lease rentals. To ensure that business remains in India, the report suggests providing tax incentives to develop a domestic leasing industry. "At present," notes Sarin, "It's 48 percent more expensive to lease from India."
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