Mumbai: Air India’s chiefs all have a singular ambition when they take charge—turn the carrier into a viable business.
So too with Rohit Nandan, who took over as chairman and managing director of the state-run airline in August. Not the easiest of tasks, given that it has about Rs. 42,570 crore of debt, is expected to make a loss of about Rs. 7,000 crore this financial year and is battling for passengers at home and abroad amid a slowing economy. The recent history of Air India is replete with leaders who have failed in their bid to turn it around. Will Nandan’s fate be any different?
“I certainly don’t have a magic wand...but I am doing all basic things to attain operational efficiency and financial freedom,” Nandan, 54, said in an interview. “I have met at least 200 employees in the last few weeks and they are fairly positive about the airline.”
The Indian Administrative Service officer is reworking the winter schedule, reconfiguring aircraft, outsourcing non-core functions and meeting employees every week to boost morale.
Predecessor Arvind Jadhav, too, sought to achieve this through meetings and a series of letters explaining his vision for the airline that has at least Rs. 22,000 crore in accumulated losses. But he had to leave after alienating both employees and the government.
The government’s propensity to put bureaucrats in charge of the airline adds to the scepticism in some quarters.
“You need a qualified turnaround specialist to revive Air India,” said Hormuz P. Mama, an independent aerospace analyst. “You need rigorous cost-cutting measures to save Air India. With this bloated workforce (30,000 workers), it is difficult to turn around Air India.”
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