Friday, October 12, 2018

With a new CEO, AirAsia India hopes to have turned a new page

A steel industry veteran at the helm of an airline may come across as strange, but the appointment of Sunil Bhaskaran as the AirAsia India chief is more than just that. It signals a change in control at the company, from Tony Fernandes and his AirAsia, to the Tatas.

And with that change, shareholders would hope that AirAsia's so-far-controversial stint in India, since it started operating here in 2014, will be a thing of the past.

While the airline may now have a slightly higher market share than rival Vistara – the joint venture between the Tata Group and Singapore Airlines that was launched in 2015 – its losses have increased in the first half of 2018.

By appointing Bhaskaran, the airline has followed its tradition of appointing a non-aviation professional to run its operations. Mittu Chandilya, AirAsia India's first CEO, previously headed the services practices for Asia Pacific at advisory firm Egon Zehnder International.

It didn't turn out to be a memorable stint for Chandilya, who was embroiled in a controversy over the appointment of a lobbyist to get an aviation rule modified, which would enable AirAsia India to begin international operations. The controversy boiled over when Tata Trusts trustee Venkatramanan got drawn into it.

Earlier this year, CBI registered a case against Fernandes, and AirAsia's offices in India were raided.
11/10/18 Prince Mathews Thomas/Moneycontrol
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