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Want to cut airfares 25-30%: AirAsia CEO

Last updated on: July 17, 2013 19:26 IST

Want to cut airfares 25-30%: AirAsia CEO

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Sudipto Dey in New Delhi


H
is looks and fitness regime might have attracted more attention than his credentials for running an airline, but Mittu Chandilya, the 33-year-old chief executive of AirAsia India, isn’t letting that distract him from the task at hand.

He has promised himself and AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes that through the next four-five years, India operations would be the largest among those of AirAsia subsidiaries.

In an interview with Business Standard, he talks about why his non-airline background could turn out to be an advantage.

Click NEXT to read edited excerpts:


Image: An Airbus A340 AirAsia X passenger jet arrives on its inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Paris.
Photographs: Charles Platiau/Reuters

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After the tour of Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi earlier this month, many in the industry say, ‘Tony will call the shots; Mittu will execute.’ How fair is this assessment?

It’s not fair at all.

Tony is there to give us guidance.

He is an industry veteran; if he shares some of his own experiences, we will surely try to make the most of it.

But he has made it clear -- ‘It is your show’.

All decisions have to be taken here (locally).

On our board, we have other shareholders; we will learn from their experiences, too.

If you can’t learn, you don’t last in this job.

In fact, several top executives in other AirAsia subsidiaries come from non-airline backgrounds.

Tony’s idea has always been to bring in disruptive innovations.

Click NEXT to read further. . .


Image: Women walk past an AirAsia billboard in Kuala Lumpur.
Photographs: Zainal Abd Halim/Reuters

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So, you don’t consider your non-airline background a disadvantage?

The non-airline background is an advantage.

I am a start-up and turnaround person; being disruptive is my strength.

I started an fast-moving consumer goods business early in my career and sold it, managed the P&L account for the Asia-Pacific region for an MNC; many airlines were my clients during my stint in the human resources and recruitment industry.

Airlines are a people business, and I am emotionally close to it.

As a kid, I wanted to be a pilot in the Indian Air Force.

Tony has opened up the organisation to me.

In May and June, I virtually lived out of a suitcase while camping at Kuala Lumpur to get an inside view of AirAsia’s operations.

I spent time on the unloading ramp and even served meals along with the in-flight crew. I sat through revenue management meetings and flew down to other AirAsia subsidiaries.

Chief executives at AirAsia are a combination of chief operating officer and chief executive officer.

Every CEO here needs to have a hand on the organisation and focus on the details.

The culture is that of a start-up. I want to create a transparent organisation that is fast-moving and entrepreneurial. I expect people to challenge me.

I have promised myself in the next four-five years, India will be the largest of AirAsia subsidiaries.

Click NEXT to read further. . .


Image: AirAsia staff greet passengers.
Photographs: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters

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Want to cut airfares 25-30%: AirAsia CEO

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How much time have you given yourself to replicate in India the benchmarks set by other Air Asia operations?

From day one, whenever our first flight takes off.

On-time and service would be hygiene factors.

Passengers should expect to get more than what they are used to now.

Pricing and connectivity would be the key differentiators.

We want to bring fares down 25-30 per cent.

We will add 11 aircraft every year and the average age of each aircraft would be a year. To start with, we might have 80-100 employees per aircraft (similar to that of IndiGo), but reduce it to 60-65 in a year.

Even as we pull costs down and drive revenues up, we have to get the balance right.

I want an office right at the airport and see our planes fly out; see what our passengers and employees go through every day.

Click NEXT to read further. . .

 


Image: Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes.
Photographs: Daniel Munoz/Reuters

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Did you have a chance to fly with your peers?

Yes, I have flown with almost all of them.

Whenever I travel, I try to pick a different airline.

Has the India launch taken a toll on your fitness regime?

I sleep well and get time for family and training. I carry my running shoes whenever I travel.

I run three kilometres every day and do weight training. You have to have balance in life.


Image: Tony Fernandes.
Photographs: Tim Chong/Reuters
Tags: CEO , India

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