Tata group will make Air India financially fit, upgrade aircraft, bring in a new fleet and make it the most technologically advanced airline globally, Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran said on Wednesday. Virtually addressing employees of Air India across the globe, he said for the airline to be the best again there will be an organisational redesign, and it will “require a huge transformation, probably the largest transformation and the change all of you would ever go through”.
The carrier will expand its “outreach both domestically and internationally” and it has the desire to connect India with every part of the globe, he added. For Tata group, Chandrasekaran said the joining of Air India in its fold will help the conglomerate with the opportunity to represent the aspirations of 130 crore Indians, having already touched the lives of 60 crore Indians through its various brands, including Taj hotels, Tanishq, Tata Salt and Jaguar Land Rover.
He identified four core areas on which Air India will focus under the new management. These are providing best-in-class customer service, making it the most technologically advanced airline in the world, upgrading and modernising the fleet and hospitality, both in-flight and off-flight.
On fleet modernisation, Chandrasekaran said, “We will upgrade our fleet. We will bring modernity to our fleet. We will bring a new fleet, we will expand our outreach.” “We will not only increase the number of aircraft that we will have, wide-body and narrow body, (but) we will fly to many destinations,” he said.
However, Chandrasekaran said, “… in terms of fleet, we know we have work to do and when I talked to the management team, the commercial director and the engineering leadership, I know we have work to do. We will address it with most urgency… we will move with utmost urgency and speed in the coming months.”
Air India, Air India Express and AI-SATS together have around 15,000 employees. Air India has 12,000 employees and out of them, 8,000 are permanent ones. According to an airline official, around 10,000 employees attended the meeting on Wednesday.
On making Air India the most technologically advanced airline globally, Chandrasekaran said, “We will do that by ensuring that we bring in the best of technology in every aspect of Air India — be it in terms of apps, website, mobile channel, social media, Tata NEU app, whatever may be digital reach that we will have to provide for consumers to access Air India, or in our front office systems or back-office systems.”
The carrier will use modern cloud infrastructure and deploy the best of artificial intelligence, machine learning algorithms and mine data “to be able to get intelligence on a real-time basis and offer the most personalised experience any airline passenger can have”, he added.
On consumer experience, Chandrasekaran laid down the expectation from Air India of what the country and the consumers have come to expect from Tata group for many things for over a century, such as trust, quality, reliability, and consistency.
“In the context of Air India, if I may say so, we must start with ensuring that we are on time, every time,” he said. Further, he said, “If we can complement that with a terrific experience in terms of seamless booking, airport experience, boarding experience, lounge experience, all of it, then we will automatically end up providing customer service that the customers want to experience rather, we would exceed that.”
Chandrasekaran also reiterated that the past glory of the “Maharaja Hospitality” of Air India that defined the Indian hospitality to the global world would be brought back.
Reflecting on the past, he said, “At a time when the world was full of many similar airlines with similar services Air India differentiated itself and stood out with its peerless model of customer experience.” While laying down the roadmap, Chandrasekaran also drew the attention of the employees to the need for a strong financial discipline.
“All of this, whether it is the customer service, the hospitality, the technology deployment or expansion of the network, fleet modernity, we will achieve all of this with strong financial discipline,” he said.
Reiterating that any success can come only “when we are financially fit”, he said, “We are not only committed to all the things I say that we are equally committed to make Air India a very strong airline financially. I know this is a very ambitious goal. I know the task is huge but I also know this is probably the most exciting journey that is there not only in India but globally.”
Air India had a total debt of Rs 61,562 crore as of August 31, 2021. Of the total amount, Tata group took over Rs 15,300 crore and the rest 75 percent or around Rs 46,000 crore was transferred to a special purpose vehicle, AI Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL).
For Air India to achieve its goals under the new management, Chandrasekaran told the employees that it will “require a huge transformation, probably the largest transformation and the change all of you would ever go through.” In order to do this, he said, “We will embark upon many changes, organisational redesign, process changes, digitising of all our processes and many other changes in individual departments and teams.”
Stating that targets will be set at individual, departmental and company levels so that everyone knows what needs to be done, he said, “… and all our goals will come together to achieve the bigger purpose. I’m pretty sure we will pull this off in the coming months.” He said the transformation of Air India is part of a larger transformation that the Tata group is going through at its various companies in order to be future-ready.
Asking Air India employees to join in the new journey, Chandrasekaran said, “We have the entire nation wanting us to succeed. I know Air India has what it takes to succeed. We just need the inspiration to be able to come together and put our best to embark on this journey… And I’m counting all of you.”