Friday, October 01, 2021

Tatas’ tryst with Indian aviation: The timeline of events

Looks like life is set to come full circle for India's one of the most valuable business houses - THE TATA GROUP. Media reports suggest that the Tata Group may have emerged as the frontrunner to revive national carrier Air India. Well, the love affair of Tatas with the skies is as historic as the company itself! 

It all started with JRD Tata, the group chairman before Ratan Tata who became India's first qualified pilot in 1929. JRD got his pilot's A-licence in India and that too in the shortest number of hours. He flew solo after just three-and-a-half hours in the air with an instructor. 

JRD founded Tata Air Services in the year 1932 with an investment of Rs 2 lakh from Tata Sons. In 1938, the company was rechristened to Tata Airlines with initial operations from Bombay to Trivandrum, Delhi and Colombo.

In 1946 after World War II, Tata Airlines went public and became a joint-stock company & that's when it got its name Air India. It was after Independence the government acquired 49% of airline and in 1953 took the majority stake from Tata Sons making it India's first state-run aviation company and JRD TATA was the chairman for the next 25 years. 

Even after this, the group did not lose sight of Air India, Ratan Tata a trained pilot himself & also once a chairman of Air India sought to buy airline in the year 2000 in alliance with Singapore Airlines in a privatisation process, but aborted the plans. But the group's tryst with aviation did not end there. 

In 2013, a year after India liberalised foreign direct investment in aviation, Tata returned, almost 60 years after its first airline was nationalised, but this time in joint ventures with international carriers, first with AirAsia Berhad they started AirAsia India headquartered in Bengaluru and In 2015, Vistara - a joint venture between Tata Sons & Singapore Airlines started operations with New Delhi as hub.

Six years after reentering the market with two joint ventures, Tata Sons showed its interest in reviving Jet Airways. Ultimately, a consortium of investors led by Murari Lal Jalan and Kalrock Capital won the bid for Naresh Goyal's beleaguered airline. 

Cut to 2021, Tatas have emerged as frontrunners amongst bidders making an attempt to get into the cockpit of national carrier Air India.

01/10/21 Dimple Sharma/

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