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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 21 No. 6
Tuesday February 1, 2022
Will Tata Watch Air India Time?
TATA Takes Over Air India

    N. Chandrasekaran Last Thursday as news of the Tata takeover of Air India surfaced, a strict media lockdown occured allowing only the p/r flaks to put the word out to the public.
     Here we get a glimpse, a first shot at Air India back in the Tata fold from whence it came.
     Tata Group Chairman, N. Chandrasekaran (left) met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assure the deal, including the INR 2,700 crore upfront and the INR 15,300 crore debt and supposedly the several millions Tata is pledging on spending for a desperately needed makeover.
     Later everybody celebrated the Tata Group takeover of the airline, 69 years after it was nationalized, at Airlines House, the Air India headquarters in Delhi.
     “Tata Group completed the transaction for purchase of Air India from the Government of India,” the announcement trumpeted.
     The transaction covers three entities – Air India, Air India Express and AI SATS.
     Chairman N Chandrasekaran:
     “We are excited to have Air India back in the Tata group, and are committed to making this a world-class airline. I warmly welcome all the employees and look forward to working together.
     However Mukund Rajan, a former member of Tata Group’s executive council and now the chairman of an investment advisory firm, had a slightly different tone and was quoted in The Economic Times, saying:
     “There is not current institutional memory within Air India of how the airline operated under the Tata management. Bridging the cultures of the two organizations will therefore presten a major challenge in the short-term and will require patience and extraordinary tact.
     “The major value of the Air India acquisition will be seen when the airline starts to positively influence the brand image of Tatas in global markets.
     Rajan added, “it will take time and will need to be accompanied by huge investments of human and financial capital.”
     Currently, Air India is the largest among all the Indian carriers flying internationally.
     But foreign carriers regularly have a bigger market share and carried more passengers than Air India pre-pandemic.
     The Tatas seem to be focused on making the venture successful.
     Right now more than anything else, for the Tatas, getting hold of Air India is playing like a grand reunion, a rekindled family heritage and hope to bring back the Air India days of glory.
     The stakes are huge, whether Air India can capture international traffic, particularly the India-U.S. route that has been lost during decades of decline, remains to be seen.
     Today, Air India has a fleet of 117 widebody and narrow body aircraft, while Air India Express has a fleet of 24 smaller aircraft.
     In addition, AI controls 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing, and parking slots at airports.
     For air cargo, Air India has its work cut out.
     Though it ended its freighter operations in 2012, the carrier continues to manage bellyhold cargo and serve more than 70 international and 50 domestic destinations.
     But it faces stiff, modern and well-rounded competition by all the usual logistical suspects and will need to revamp its cargo products to woo customers in India.
     On that front Air India Express has been a bright spot.
     Providing yeoman service in the transport of cargo during the pandemic via its B-737-800 fleet, AI Express carries impressive consignments of fruits and vegetables to Singapore, Malaysia and a number of West Asian nations.
     In the last financial year, Air India Express lifted 14,000 tons of cargo of which 95 percent were perishables.
     AI is back at Tata and there is big talk.

JRD Tata and Air India

     Now die-hard Air India romantics wishing for many happy returns down memory lane to an era when people set their watches to the time an Air India flight flew over their city may be lost in our digital go-go world.
     But Air India once was the airline that Singapore scrutinized very closely when it decided to go global with its carrier Singapore Airlines.
     Can lightening strike twice? Will the Maharajah stage a comeback?
     Somewhere JRD Tata, a true and legendary aviation pioneer, who founded and operated AI, is smiling.
Tirthankar Ghosh

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