By Elton Gomes
On Wednesday, AirAsia India announced that it will appointing Tata group veteran Sunil Bhaskaran as chief executive officer and managing director, as the no-frills airline looks to expand operations. Bhaskaran’s appointment will be effective from November 15, AirAsia India said in a statement.
The carrier currently has a fleet of 19 planes, and is a joint venture between Tatas and Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad.
Bhaskaran will be the third CEO and MD of the Bengaluru-based AirAsia India. He would “oversee the next phase of expansion and growth of the company”, the release said, PTI reported.
Bhaskaran will be replacing Amar Abrol, who stepped down from the position in June to join the parent company AirAsia in Malaysia. “We are delighted to welcome Bhaskaran as the new CEO and MD of AirAsia India,” AirAsia India Chairman S. Ramadorai said, as per the PTI report.
Who is Sunil Bhaskaran?
Bhaskaran is currently the vice president of corporate services at Tata Steel, which is based in Jamshedpur. He is also the chairman of the board at Jusco and Jamshedpur Football Club.
“With India’s aviation sector growing at a rapid pace, we are confident his extensive experience, ability to drive performance and work seamlessly with all stakeholders will be a great asset for AirAsia India,” Ramadorai said in a late evening statement, the Economic Times reported.
Bhaskaran completed his B.Tech from IIT Delhi in 1985. Thereafter, he completed his post-graduation in management from IIM, Kolkata in 1987. He then joined Tata Steel in the same year and subsequently completed his GMP from Cedep at INSEAD, France, in 2000.
“Sunil has been working closely with the government and that would come handy in a regulated sector like aviation that is facing tremendous headwinds at the moment,” an associate told the Economic Times on condition of anonymity. “But with the sector and the airline facing massive turbulence, he will have his hands full.”
CBI case against Air Asia India
The changes in AirAsia India come in the backdrop of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raiding AirAsia India’s offices on May 29. The CBI conducted the raid after filling a complaint against AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes and others on May 28.
The complaint lodged against Fernandes alleged that AirAsia India had indulged in lobbying the government for overseas flight permits and violating rules that prevent foreign airlines from controlling Indian operators.
The CBI’s first information report (FIR) said that the violations occurred from 2013 to 2016, which was before the government eased restrictions on Indian airlines starting overseas flights. However, AirAsia India denied any wrongdoing and said it is ready to co-operate with all regulators and agencies.
AirAsia India, which began operations in June 2014, has 19 aircraft in its fleet and is currently planning to begin international operations soon. The airline also has proposed to add up to 70 aircraft to its fleet over the next four to five years as it looks to expand aggressively.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius