Air India picks four directors

Air India picks four directors

Hyderabad / Bangalore: The government has chosen four new independent directors, including Anand Mahindra, vice-chairman and managing director of the Mahindra Group, to join the board of Air India as part of a plan to turn around the loss-making national airline, two people familiar with the development said.

The others named to the board are former Indian Air Force chief Fali H. Major, Ambuja Realty Group chairman Harshavardhan Neotia, and Amit Mitra, secretary-general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an industry lobby group.

The board is being reconstituted after more than a year.

The Prime Minister’s Office cleared the appointments earlier this week and orders will be issued in a few days, a civil aviation ministry official said. “They will be taking part in the next board meeting," he said.

An Air India executive confirmed the development. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mahindra could not be reached on Friday as his company said he was not in the country. Neotia could not be reached either. Major confirmed he is joining the board.

Mitra said the focus of the new board would be on low-cost services, maximizing utilization and improving public perception about the airline.

“If this team cannot bring in change, no team can," he said over the phone from New Delhi.

The board of Air India, run by state-owned National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, is expected to meet later in March to finalize the airline’s cost-cutting strategy so it can get another infusion of equity capital from the government.

The airline plans to reduce the salary of each of its more than 30,000 employees by 15-17%, Mint had reported on 4 March. Air India has sought Rs5,000 crore in equity infusion from the government to boost its debt-raising ability. The government has approved Rs800 crore in two equal tranches and has pegged any future infusion to effective cost cutting by the airline.