As AirAsia India struggles to find a firm foothold in the competitive domestic aviation space, Tatas are gaining upper hand in steering the no-frills carrier with executives from the conglomerate helming most senior positions, according to a source.
A joint venture, majority-owned by Tatas, the airline’s other shareholder is Malaysia’s AirAsia group. The carrier, which commenced flights nearly six years ago, flew 878,000 passengers garnering 6.8 per cent domestic market share in November.
Over the years, there have been concerns raised in certain quarters about alleged role of the Malaysian partner having a bigger say in various matters related to AirAsia India.
“Tata Sons has now an upper hand in the management of AirAsia India as against earlier when AirAsia group will call the shots in the matter of key appointments. At present, most of top positions at the carrier including the MD & CEO and CFO have people who have been closely associated with the Tata Group,” a source told PTI.
In the formative years of the airline, it was AirAsia Group which had a major say in the selection of people for all top positions, including that of the CEO and CFO, the source said.
The carrier’s MD and CEO Sunil Bhaskaran and head of marketing Siddhartha Butalia are Tata Group veterans.
To a query seeking comments on the issue, AirAsia Group said that “AirAsia India will be in a better position to look into this request”, while a query sent to AirAsia India did not yield any response.
Tata Sons declined to offer any comments.
Former CEOs — Mittu Chandilya and Amar Abrol — as well as many other senior level executives at the airline were in a way AirAsia Group’s appointees, the source claimed.
AirAsia India started operations in June 2013 and flies to 21 destinations. While Tatas have 51 per cent stake, the remaining shares in the airline are with AirAsia Investment Ltd, the investment arm of AirAsia Group.
Sunil Bhaskaran joined the carrier as its Managing Director and Chief Executive in November last year from Tata Steel. Besides, Chief Financial Officer Vikas Agarwal served Titan for one year before moving to AirAsia India in November this year.
Agarwal’s predecessor Deepak Mahindra, who chose to leave the airline after completing his five-months extension in August, was formerly from Tata Power.
Similarly, Butalia is formerly from Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris, where he worked for over nine years in various capacities. He joined the carrier in July this year.
Ranganath R, the advisor to AirAsia India CEO, has worked with Tata Group for six years, serving as a director at Tata Steel Thailand, among other roles, before joining AirAsia India in June this year.
Source: Business Standard