Chandrasekaran takes charge as the chief of Air India
The big question over who will head Tata Air India is finally over. It has been confirmed that N Chandrasekharan, Ratan Tata’s man for all seasons, will take charge at the helm of Tata Air India.
Apart from his overall role as the head of Tata Sons (the group holding company), Chandra will also have the executive responsibility of handling operation of recently acquired Air India as its chief executive. Air India really couldn’t have hoped for better.
However, Chandra has been given the title of Interim CEO. He will have the full authority to take the final call on all matters relating to putting Air India on its feet and make it a profitable airline. However, the search process to get a full time CEO for the company is still on.
However, till that new person takes over the role, Chandra will not only provide guidance but also be a hands-on CEO of Tata Air India.
It may be recollected that about a month back, Tata Air India had announced that Ilker Ayci would be the CEO of Tata Air India. Ilker Ayci was formerly the chief of Turkish Airlines, and had largely been the face of the makeover that Turkish had gone through in the last few years.
Today Turkish Airlines is among the preferred airlines in the world. Ilker Ayci opted out after the Swadeshi Jagran Manch raised security issues since Ayci was the advisor to Turkish president Erdogan, a close ally of Pakistan.
The fact that Tatas have given the top job at Air India to Chandra shows that the aviation segment is one of their big priorities in the Indian market. Currently, the Tatas already have Vistara Airlines and Air Asia under their banner.
With the addition of Air India to the Tata aviation fold, it becomes the second biggest player in India with a market share of over 25% of the Indian aviation market. Chandra is not on the board of Vistara or of Air Asia.
There are some very senior and renowned names that have also been appointed to the board of Tata Air India. This includes the redoubtable Sanjiv Mehta, CMD of Hindustan Unilever, and Alice Vaidyan, former CMD of General Insurance Corporation.
They will be independent non-executive directors. The idea of appointing Chandra was that getting another expatriate manager would take a long time for clearances and due diligence.
In a way, the Tatas did not have much of a choice in the appointment of CEO. Many of the stakeholders in Air India were getting jittery about the absence of leadership.
Tatas were supposed to bring in a more private sector approach to Air India. Now the appointment of Chandra shows a sense of urgency. Hopefully the creditors and other stakeholders of Tata Air India should be breathe easier now.
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