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'SpiceJet to be McDonald's of the sky'
P R Sanjai | December 15, 2006
He may be setting a new benchmark in low cost airline operations with SpiceJet but it is Avani, his 10-year-old daughter, who ends up dictating terms to its 40-year-old director. It was she who had him shave off his moustache two years ago, and old-timers still remember the late Pramod Mahajan's close ally with a moustache, and not without it.
That's because Ajay Singh mostly stays away from the usual Page 3 socialising. "He is an out-and-out family man," says one of Singh's closest friends. Endorses Singh himself, " I try my best to keep my weekends free to spend with my family."
At a time when most airlines are bleeding, SpiceJet has attracted $118 million as investment proposals from the country's second-largest conglomerate, the Tata Group, the world's largest aviation financing firm Texas, private equity major Istithmar PJSC, and renowned invesment banker Goldman Sachs.
A technology graduate from Indian Institute of Technology - Delhi who studied law from the University of Delhi and did his MBA from Cornell University, Singh might wonder how he ended up as a director with a low cost airline.
"Life is all about learning new things, new businesses", he avers. So, he wound up with a career spanning companies such as SpaceAge Internet (where he was CEO) and Cranes Software International (a company listed on BSE, on which, as director, he advised on strategic issues).
Yet, it was his proximity to Mahajan that propelled him into the limelight. With Mahajan, he served the government in various capacities - as director of the Delhi Transport Corporation, and as consultant to the ministries of information technology, and information and broadcasting.
"I learnt a lot from Mahajan. It was a delight to work with him. He was a great human being with unlimited dynamism," Singh recollects.
From politics to private airlines, it seems nothing can stop Singh from delivering his best. "We selected successful low cost models like RyanAir and EasyJet. SpiceJet is the result of the right team, the right brand and the right execution," he points out.
Any mistakes? "The only mistake," he smiles, "could be not raising money when the stock market was at its peak 12 months ago." SpiceJet raised $80 million of the $118 million investment proposals during the second week of December 2006.
Singh sees SpiceJet as the largest, most dominant of the low cost carriers over the next five years. This dominance comes with profitability. He explains, "Our cost is 15 per cent less than budget carrier Air Deccan and 45 per cent less than full service carrier Jet Airways."
His positioning is extremely focused. "In the next five years, SpiceJet will be the McDonald's of aviation. That's how we want to position SpiceJet, as a great flying experience available at cheaper prices."His one indulgence apart from Avani and SpiceJet is Bollywood and Hollywood cinema. "I've seen Dhoom 2, Baabul and the James Bond movie. I'm waiting for Kabul Express now," says Singh, boarding the SpiceJet for another busy day in Delhi.