Ratan Tata named chief advisor of AirAsia India

Company finalizes top management.

By R. Chandrasekaran

CHENNAI: AirAsia has finalized the names of the top management for its Indian operations, AirAsia India. Former Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata is its chief advisor, while former Tata Consultancy Services chief executive officer S. Ramadorai is the chairman.

A day after convincing Ratan Tata to come on board to advise the management, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted that with Ramadorai’s appointment, the process of top management building has been completed.

After several aborted attempts of the Tatas to enter the aviation sector, they have joined hands with AirAsia with a 30 percent stake in AirAsia India. Arun Bhatia of Telestra Tradeplace Pvt. Ltd will hold 21 percent stake, while AirAsia retaining the 49 percent stake.

Malaysia-based AirAsia’s proposal came after the government approved foreign direct investment in the aviation sector. Last month, its proposal for investing Rs.809.8 million in Indian aviation business was cleared.

The board consists of Ramadorai, R. Venkatraman, Bharat Vasani, Bhatia, and Fernandes. Venkatraman was a former executive assistant to Ratan Tata. Vasani serves as Tata Group’s chief legal counsel. Management consultant Mittu Chandilya is the CEO of AirAsia’s Indian operations, which is being based in Chennai.

The Indian operations are expected to commence later this year, with focus on tier-2 and tier-3 cities. AirAsia, which operates as a low-cost airline company in Malaysia, wants to replicate its success in India.

Indian skies had witnessed low cost carriers earlier, too, with airlines such as NEPC Skyline, Air Deccan and Vayudoot taking off in the early 1990s after the government opened the sky to private airliners. While Air Deccan has merged its airline with King Fisher Airlines others have gone into oblivion.

Captain Gopinath, who launched Air Deccan in the early 2000s, wants to re-enter the aviation business and is trying to get license for it. However, State Bank of India is lobbying against it citing unpaid loans by one of his companies.

It will be interesting to see how AirAsia is going to handle the Indian market given its volatility.

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