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Home > Business > Special

Thiagarajan, world's youngest airline CEO

P R Sanjai | June 22, 2007

M Thiagarajan, CEO, Paramount Airways.
Photograph: Business Standard

Stelios Haji-Ioannou was just 28 when he started EasyJet in UK, thereby earning his place in the Guinness Book of Records for being the youngest chairman of a scheduled airline.

M Thiagarajan, a pilot, was just 27 when he floated Paramount Airways, based out of Madurai, which launched commercial flights on October 19, 2005. This makes Thiagarajan the youngest airline CEO in the world.

But Thiagarajan, who hails from an illustrious family - he is the grandson of Karumuthu Thiagarajan, a pioneer in the field of textiles and founder of the Bank of Madura - is keener on celestial navigation than Guinness records.

"Apart from aviation, his passion is astronavigation," says a close friend. "Thiagarajan can tell you the location by seeing a star. He must think an airplane can take him nearer the stars..."

But stargazer Thiagarajan, who had primarily restricted his aviation activities to south India, is now locating stars of fortune in western and central India for possible acquisitions.

Sources say that Paramount Airways is interested in picking up stake in the Wadia-promoted budget carrier GoAir or Delhi-based low fare airline SpiceJet. Though both airlines have denied any such developments with Paramount Airways, sources confirm that Thiagarajan and team are camping to Mumbai for initiating talks.

"We are talking to airlines in India," Thiagarajan confirms. "We are interested in acquisitions. But specifically, I cannot comment on anyone. We are looking to acquire another airline for gaining access to landing slots and parking bays. That will facilitate our expansion much faster," he adds.

What's the possible synergy with GoAir or SpiceJet? Insiders say GoAir could enable Paramount to enter western India while SpiceJet could be a separate low fare entity.

Funds? "That is not a constraint. We were promoters of Bank of Madura, which later merged in ICICI Bank [Get Quote]. Any acquisitions can be facilitated through internal accruals," Thiagarajan says.

A business management graduate, he entered the family business as a third generation entrepreneur and established his own Paramount Mills before starting the aviation business.

If the low profile entrepreneur has donned an aggressive profile, it is because "We were making the right kind of noise and we are now leaders with 26 per cent market share in the south Indian market," Thiagarajan says, "now it is time to have a presence in western and central India."

Thiagarajan may have eschewed a less-than-flamboyant lifestyle in his personal life, but where Paramount Airways is concerned, he chose a "high value carrier business model targetting the premium segment of customers with a business and first class configuration" using Brazil-made Embraer aircraft. More recently, Delhi-based MDLR Airlines has chosen to follow the model with an exclusive business class configuration.

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