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The Rediff Interview/Vasudevan Thulasidas, Air-India CMD

'I want to make Air-India one of the best airlines'

Rumi Dutta in Mumbai | December 29, 2003

V Thulasidas, Air-India CMDVasudevan Thulasidas, the Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Air-India, welcomes competition.

In his first interview after taking charge at A-I last week, Thulasidas makes it clear that he wants to put in place an expansion strategy to meet the growing demand.

Since the fleet acquisition will take time, he plans to lease more aircraft to generate capacity. He also wants to push for a manpower rationalisation. Extracts:

What's will be your mandate at A-I?

My mandate is to make Air-India one of the best airlines in the world. I will act within the given policy framework.

Having met senior officials at Air-India, I have put in place a vision statement. I will focus on quality, profits and employee satisfaction. I plan to work as a team to achieve the goal.

What is the status of the long pending aircraft acquisition plan? Is funding the major issue for the delay?

Funding is not at all an issue. In fact, Air-India does not need any major external support on this front. The primary issue is that we need to design an expansion strategy to meet the growing demand.

Increase in capacity on a consistent basis is a must.

While fleet acquisition will take some time, we have to lease more aircraft to generate capacity in the interim period.

We have added a leased aircraft to our fleet last week and will be adding more in the due course.

Air-India's employee strength appears to be bloated and the aircraft to manpower ratio is high compared with industry standards. How do you plan to deal with this issue?

It cuts both ways. We do have excess staff but at the same time there are certain critical areas where there is a shortage of manpower.

We must also bear in mind that Air-India has not been hiring for quite sometime now and a voluntary retirement scheme is already in place.

What we required is a manpower rationalisation which could be undertaken in an effective manner in the days to come.

You are taking charge at a time when the operational integration of the two national carriers -- Air-India and Indian Airlines -- has gained momentum. How do you plan to take it further?

The co-operation or the integration of the two airlines is only logical as there are synergies between the two carriers.

In fact, there exist synergies between all airlines operating and there is a need to integrate operations of the aviation industry as a whole.

This is the larger picture and may be addressed at the industry level.

At the moment, I am not in a position to comment further. Frankly, the merger of A-I and IA is not in my hands.

What is your take on the much talked about open sky policy?

It will bring in a new era of competition, quite unlike the good old days. I am here to ensure how to make the airline globally competitive.

My aim is to make sure that any amount of competition is only positive for Air-India and does pose a threat.

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