New Delhi: Air India operates nearly 350 flights a day to more than 26 international and 64 local destinations and reported a revenue of about Rs 16,000 crore in the year ended 31 March. In the past decade, it has started non-stop flights to New York and will be inducted into the Star Alliance grouping this year. Air India, which scored a surprisingly third rank in the Penn Schoen Berland survey, is currently in the midst of a government-backed revival programme and has been buffeted by departures of senior executives.
Chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav said in an email interview that Australia is the carrier’s new destination. Edited excerpts:
On overseas expansion plans:
Air India has already announced its plan to commence operations to Melbourne this year. Additional flights to Paris, the US and Canada are in the pipeline. The arrival of the Dreamliners (Boeing Co.’s 787s) later this year will further boost Air India’s overseas plans.
On branding challenges:
Air India has been an international brand right from its inception in 1932, in fact, India’s first hugely successful and recognized global brand. Over the last seven decades, it has been the brand ambassador of Indian aviation and India. Air India has set benchmarks in the service standards in aviation all through its journey and as such has become a brand, easily identifiable by all. The Maharajah, Air India’s mascot, has become a symbol of hospitality and warmth, the world over.
On overcoming stereotypes related to poor quality:
Fortunately, we don’t fall in this category. Air India is associated with warmth, service, hospitality and performance. Air India’s founder J.R.D. Tata said:?“A?modest effort launched by me, in a spirit of adventure years ago, to create a new chapter in India’s history grew in a few years into an enterprise, which attained international repute and prestige.” As such, the service levels in Air India, were setting benchmarks for the industry around the world. Airlines world over emulated Air India’s practices. The present top management is committed to strength this image of Air India.
On being Indian:
Indian corporates have a distinct identity of having very solid foundations. The Indian economy is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The Indian corporate is contributing to achieve this goal. The values that are attached to Indian corporates is clearly visible in terms of many multinationals entering into collaborations with them to launch their business houses here. There is a huge reservoir of resources—natural as well as human—in this country.
On the status of aviation:
You would be aware that Air India has recently invested huge amounts to upgrade its IT system/network—be it the state-of-the-art Passenger Service System, MRO-IT, SAP etc. Due to these strong fundamentals, aviation stood the test of time even during the economic meltdown. Though traffic dwindled, revenues shrank and profits were hit, the aviation sector in India could bounce back when the revival took place. Today, the recovery has been good and the aviation industry is registering robust growth.
On market studies:
Air India does a thorough marketing study before launching a new service, including the passenger profile, traffic profile, operational parameters, etc. Our operations to Melbourne are also a fallout of such a study.
On corporate governance:
As a government-owned firm, Air India has a very high level of corporate governance, transparency and accountability. (There are) checks and balances in place on all the activities carried out by the organization through governmental bodies like Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Chief Vigilance Commission, the ministry, regulatory authorities and the government.